Aduthood is the time to live your dreams, not forget them
Updated: Jul 25
Picasso said “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
This quote was included in a thought provoking article about why "adults don't draw monsters". It looked at the supression of the creative freedom which was encouraged as a child, but needed to be set aside for "more sensible" pursuits as we grew older.
Yet, creativity is good for us. It enables self expression when words do not easily flow. It gives us ownership of the thing we have produced ourselves. It can even raise awareness as creative mediums tackle subjects not often talked about. It lets us connect, it can offer us a skill, it is an area in which many achieve praise and recognition less forthcoming in "conventional" areas.
Of course it is not so easy to make a living through creative work - no matter how great your talent - and many a well-meaning parent or teacher will (not wrongly) encourage a focus on the skills that will pay the bills. The only error comes when those creative elements are stifled altogether.
What we must remember is that creativity can be applied very practically - it can help solve problems, it can inspire great innovations, it can be a simple as finding a new way to have a conversation - without worry - that had heretofore been troubling. When we develop other skills - it does not mean we have to leave the creative ones behind.
As an adult we finally have the means and resources to put our childhood dreams into action. While some of those dreams may have changed, we are still the dream makers. It is only ourselves who make the decision whether something is a "waste of time" or whether it will fulfil a long held desire; but if we have buried those dreams too deep, it can seem too great an effort to dust them off.
I'm not naive of course. As adults we also take on responsibilities. We choose to have families, we have priorities - people counting on us. Not only that but in the adult world, perhaps we don't draw monsters because they are just too real in the form of pain, grief or betrayal. Having to be the "grown up" means we often take on roles of protector, carer, fixer...and when is there time for dreaming?
Even finding 5 minutes to yourself to meditate - or just breathe deeply - just before you go to bed, or perhaps getting up a little earlier so that time is yours makes a huge difference to reported stress levels (Lisansky Beck, 2016), not only that but 10 minutes - again not necessarily at work - has been found to make executives more creative (Schootstra, Deichmann, Dolgova, 2017) and better problem solvers.
If you can find that little bit of time for self-care, perhaps you can find a little time to remember any fervent desires that still breathe fire...and then perhaps you will find a way to achieve them - collaborating with your current lifestyle.
I ran a vision board activity in a recent mindfulness session. One of the young men in the picture created a beautiful travel board and first said, 'Well, I like it, but I don't know if I'll do it'... He cited (the very adult factors of) cost and time as key limitations, but when we talked a little longer he was reminded of a time he had to take a layover in Egypt and got to explore, and realised next time he flew home he could take a 24 hour layover and leave the airport to look around wherever he stopped while still being en route.
Too often we allow creativity to drain through us as we make room to learn things that will help us pay the bills. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, we also risk never feeling quite "right" if we do not acknowledge that little child-like desire inside us which continues to try and be heard.
There is of course a fear that when someone listens to that desire suddenly they will turn their lives upside down (with many being caught in the wake of the disruption), but while that is the sort of thing that makes it into the media, it is relatively unique. More often, when you acknowledge some of those childhood dreams, you are able to make room for them - within the dreams you currently have as an adult - and this is the balance that brings fulfilment.
I no longer have a childhood desire to be a "famous actor" - the reality is, it was because the amount of work that I wasn't prepared to do - the "cattle call" auditions (and heartbreaks), the early starts and late nights, the scrutinisation of your body, the demands - all of this was just not for me...but I still enjoy performance. Further, my academic skills (and a little ember within me that still seeks recognition) have brought me to release a book, as well accept a wonderful opportunity as resident guest psychologist on The Chrissy B Show, and take me abroad to deliver talks and training - thus in some ways living the lifestyle I may have enjoyed within the acting profession - and I still perform. It's not professional, but a week's run is always enjoyable, and allows me to engage my creative side while living the adult life I have also come to enjoy very much.
Much of the "work-life" balance comes from making time for what's truly important in your life. Not only might creativity rest there, but freeing it will help you find ways of making a fulfilling balance reality.
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience For quick tips and tools: click for SKILL PILL and Q&A videos and here for Media appearances. Twitter/IG @draudreyt