“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” ~Pablo Picasso
Life is art, and each of us has extensive experience in this art form – it is a lifelong endeavor, after all.
However, most of us would probably not consider ourselves to be artists.
This is rather unfortunate.
As children, many of us probably enjoyed creating art, even those of us who today apologize for not being very artistic or creative (often before we even try). Is this because all children are inherently more creative, or is it more about how a child approaches life?
What is it that we lose over time that takes this away from us?
Of course, not everyone can be an artist by profession, nor does everyone have talent in the arts. That’s okay. Living like an artist has nothing to do with talent, anyway. It is about self-expression, authenticity, imagination, and awareness.
Whether we know it or not, we are all working on a masterpiece. Living itself is our most important life’s work.
Whether you are artistic or not, here are six ways to approach your life like an artist.
How To Live Life Like An Artist
1. Use your imagination.
“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” – Henry David Thoreau
Have you ever noticed how children can create anything they want to? A stick becomes a gleaming sword, a tree a ferocious dragon, or a towel a majestic cape.
Children are never bored when they are left with their imagination. In fact, imaginative play is an essential component of our development.
Somewhere along the way to adulthood, we forget this. We think there is often little time in our lives for imagination, especially imagination for imagination’s sake alone. For many of us, this is a greatly underused skill.
Like great art, the good life is imaginative. Imagination is not only a trait of the artistic. We’ve all used our imaginations.
In life, there are so many more possibilities available than we take, and we open the door to them when we use our imagination.
Imagination helps you express yourself, solve problems, create, find inspiration, and cultivate hope. It wakes up your brain, and you begin to see beyond the obvious. This contributes to a far more enriched life.
Using your imagination also requires no preparation and no materials. All you need is your mind. Try watching people and making up stories about where they are going. Daydream about a made-up world, much as you might have done as a child. Step outside, close your eyes, and listen as you imagine the scenery around you.
2. Don’t be afraid to make a mess.
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Scott Adams
Doing something new can sometimes make a mess, but if we are afraid of the mess we might not even try. Nothing stifles creativity and growth more than fear of mistakes. Don’t be afraid to make a bit of a mess as you learn a new skill or make a change.
Mistakes and failure actually help you progress. In fact, many mistakes or missteps can be blessings in disguise. When you view mistakes not only as part of the process but even part of the final product, there is really no need to fear or avoid them.
There’s no pressure to be perfect. Not everything needs to be solved, nor does it always need to be neat and tidy.
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3. Color outside of the lines.
“Life is short, break the rules. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile.” – Mark Twain
Sometimes, to find your truest and fullest expression of yourself, you need to take a daring step beyond the borders that you’ve been living within. You need to do things your own way.
Doing things your own way doesn’t mean being stubborn, selfish, or uncooperative. That doesn’t contribute to a healthy life any more than constantly comparing, pleasing, and holding yourself back.
Coloring outside of the lines doesn’t mean abandoning your values, either. On the contrary, it means actually living by your values and not those of someone else.
Coloring outside of the lines means giving yourself permission to be imperfect as you try things a new way. It means seeking authenticity rather than safety. When you approach life this way, you are living harmoniously and accentuating who you really are.
4. Appreciate the beauty in every day.
“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” – Confucius
Life is like a collage of ordinary moments, everyday objects, and familiar faces, dotted with surprises, accomplishments, and special events. We can be pretty good about appreciating the special times in life, but often don’t pay much attention to what seems commonplace.
Ordinary moments and objects can be powerfully beautiful when we actually pay attention. Use the beauty of everyday life as inspiration for your own life’s masterpiece. Seek it out in unexpected places. Dare yourself to find awe and gratitude for even life’s most mundane situations.
5. Keep moving no matter what.
“Don’t wait for inspiration. It comes while working.” – Henri Matisse
Feeling uninspired can sometimes lead to inaction, but even more commonly, stagnation is what leaves us uninspired.
It is tempting to wait for the perfect opportunity, or until you are certain before taking action, but neither time nor inspiration waits. Just as an artist keeps creating, you must keep moving.
The timing may never be perfect to act on an idea or make a change, but you can still do something. Even when you aren’t certain where you are headed or what the finished product will look like, you can still keep on going.
If you are feeling stuck where you are, the first step can be small. It’s even okay if it feels uninspired or unoriginal as you begin.
There are many ways that each of us may find inspiration, but they all share the common feature of taking a step toward action. Try learning a new skill and applying it, even if you aren’t very good at it yet. Look to nature for inspiration. Experimentation and collaboration can also help.
Whatever it is that you choose to do, just keep moving.
6. Aim for self-expression, not perfection.
“I think everybody’s weird. We should all celebrate our individuality and not be embarrassed or ashamed of it.” – Johnny Depp
Our imperfections reflect our individuality, but we often try to cover them up. We try to iron out all of the wrinkles, blend every color, or smooth every rough patch, and we betray ourselves in the process.
As in art, when we aim for self-expression rather than perfection in life, we create something so much more profound and complete. Living doesn’t need to be so very precise or flawless.
It is through self-expression but not perfection that we develop character and depth, and it is by expressing ourselves that we create meaning in our lives–artistic or not.
Leslie Ralph, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist practicing in a university counseling center where she specializes in anxiety management, values exploration, self-compassion, and mindfulness. Outside of the office, she is a wife and mother, cat lover, music enthusiast, weekend runner, and living room yoga practitioner. To see more about connecting to the good within you, visit her website.
Photo by elisabettalacava