Diane O’Reily writes in Psychology Today: “As it turns out, creativity is more than a perk; it is a requirement. To be healthy and productive, you must carve out time to pursue your creative passions…….. suppressing your wild ideas may actually be sabotaging your best efforts to get stuff done.”

Sometimes it takes the creativity of a child’s imagination to prevail over the challenges of life. Creativity is a way of thinking, of allowing ourselves to inhabit the land of ‘what if’ when all we feel is fear and overwhelm. 

A client of mine, juggling classes and a day job along with other demands, fell ill recently. A virus took hold and it was like having the legs cut out from under him. What made it difficult to organize his thoughts around recovering from his illness was the worry he felt over what other people would think and feel if he took the time. He feared, understandably, that it wouldn’t be kind or supportive, especially where the job was concerned.

The clarifying question in this, and under most circumstances, is a ‘what if’ question. Acting truthfully under imaginary circumstances is the basic tenet of the actors craft. Inhabiting a role is a process of repeatedly asking the question ‘what if…’ and living into the answers.  ‘What if’ everything this screenwirter or playwright has on the page were true about my life and circumstances?  

The creative power of ‘what if’ for the theater artist means that no two actors are going to play a role the same way. Each performance will be informed by a unique response to ‘what if’ by every actor’s singular beingness: the sum of their spiritual, psychological, physical and life experience, coupled with their imagination.

So, in the spirit of life imitating art, the question I asked my client was ‘What if you didn’t care what anybody else thought or felt about how you choose to get through this illness, whether or not you’re able to manage everything else at the same time?’

Happily, this client is very coachable, which is why it was as though the lock of a cell door exploded and suddenly he knew exactly how to proceed in his own self-interest. 

What makes someone coachable is a willingness to play, to reinhabit the child’s imagination. Stonewalling with ‘but I DO care what they think and feel…’ is a sure-fire way to stay stuck. 

Life’s possibilities expand as our creativity does. Creativity doesn’t settle for what is. Creativity is our guardian angel: It leads us to thrive through playfulness and imagination rather than stay stuck behind a wall of self-perceived limitation hardened by the opinion of others.