“What is the meaning of life? I don’t know. But I do know that if you think that your life has meaning, you are much more likely to be happy, healthy, and enjoy your life.” —Michael F. Steger, Ph.D.
“You can create the psychological experience of meaning by seizing meaning opportunities and if you do so that will improve your overall sense of wellbeing.” —Eric Maisel, Ph.D.
2 Powerful Benefits of the Creative Instinct:
Your creative instinct serves a valuable two-part purpose: it helps you make meaning in and of your life, and that clarity adds to your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.
When you or I are immersed in enjoying someone else’s creative work, we know that it represents the vision of that creator. It shares her or his life, ideas, viewpoints, and culture. But, as a viewer or listener, it’s easy to forget that creativity is about more than just representation.
When you’re the creator, it’s easy to be focused on the end result—the accomplishment. Usually, when you do that, you start to dislike the struggle and messiness that can be the creative process. In those moments, I believe that it helps to remember the value in meaning-making for wellbeing.
The psychologist Michael F. Steger studies how meaning-making contributes to wellbeing. His research shows that people “who have a sense of meaning in life, also report feeling more happy, more satisfied with their lives, less depressed and anxious, and more satisfied with their jobs.”
Now, creativity isn’t the only way to create meaning in life. As Dr. Eric Maisel writes, you can create meaning opportunities through love, good works, (the pursuit of) excellence, relationships, stewardship, experimentation, pleasure, self-actualization, and so much more. You already make meaning of your life in a variety of ways. But, if you have the persistent urge to create—and you’re not, or you’re doing so in a fitful way— you may be ready to give creativity the weight it deserves in your life.
Why It Helps to Keep Meaning-Making in Mind
With this big-picture benefit in mind, attempting to create (AKA the search for meaning) is enough! Of course, it’s a beautiful thing to follow through and bring your ideas into form. But, when you know that the process is enough, that it serves a purpose, you can relax into the creative process a little more. And that makes you less likely to get sidetracked by our own creative anxieties. You can spend time and energy creating, instead of busying yourself with learning productivity tips, ruminating over your unhealthy habits, and compulsively seeking the education and resources you think you need to create truly great work. Honestly, the follow-through becomes easier!
It’s a mindset shift that gives you your power back. If the point is meaning-making, you can never be a creative imposter or a fraud. You’re just another person making her or his own meaning, a right we all have!
It also helps you avoid the rising (sales) pitch of solutions. When you struggle with the creative process, you can seek help from businesses and consultants that prey upon your sense of not-enoughness, perfectionism, or fears (of overwhelm, visibility, failure, success, hard work, others’ opinions, and not living up to your own potential). True mentors, teachers, and coaches teach you that you are enough already, and help you shed the mindsets that cloud your thinking.
When you remember that you’re making meaning, you trust your own creative voice. You envision your creative work through a positive lens and, usually, that leads to a wellspring of authentic creativity.
You can choose to devote your creativity to this higher good. You can shed the excuses about how your situations and experiences aren’t conducive to your dreams, and stop procrastinating. You can take responsibility for your own meaning-making in art, business, volunteering, activism, parenting, work, and play.
Your creative process can benefit from many tips and approaches, such as learning to take small action steps, connecting with support people, and working on your self-talk. But, it’s important to engage with this foundation, this big-picture value of creative meaning-making for wellbeing. It gives vitality to your creative work through the gifts of comprehension (of yourself and of the world around you) and a sense of purpose.
Start today with this mantra—creativity is meaning-making for wellbeing—and we’ll keep this conversation going…
Share a Comment: What do you see as creativity’s greatest benefit?
Tackle your creative pursuits this year. Get In Tandem’s monthly notes on creativity + wellbeing: