Halos and Horns: How being bad makes us good designers

So far during this novena, we’ve looked at external things that affect our creativity; manipulative coworkers/bosses, life events that affect our health or well being, the personal and professional demands of daily life.  In week four, we will begin looking at ways we limit ourselves.

For architects, every day is Judgement Day.  We constantly measure our work and ourselves against everyone else, endlessly critiquing, even sometimes feeling threatened by others’ success. We style ourselves after our heroes and forget to be introspective enough to build our own true, original identity. How many personal armageddons have arisen from pure ego and a desire to “make it” getting in the way of true happiness and success?  My wise little teabag gave me a reminder today of just how much opportunity we miss by doing that. The paper on the end of the string contained this statement, “When ego is lost, limit is lost.  You become infinite, kind and beautiful.” So if we are stuck in a world of ego imposed “shoulds” which hold us down while paradoxically making us feel that we are doing the right thing, how do we know when/which obligations and expectations to let go of?  How bad can (not should) we really let ourselves become?

The devil made me do it
This was one of my favorite claims when, as a child, I was caught doing something like, say,  writing with a Sharpie on my parent’s designer wallpaper.  The “devil” prompted me to some very instructional, creative and fun projects, which unfortunately often also caused some level of damage or destruction.  Oops.  But who is this devil?  We’re not talking Lord of all Evil here in any sense.  No, this imp was simply my creative mind asking “what if?”  The child’s mind is not so strapped down by a feeling of what should be that it judges itself.  Free from expectations, and often unaware of all of society’s rules, it explores cause and effect, linking seemingly disparate elements together to make something that never was.   Our ego is the source of should. Challenge yourself today to do one thing that you normally would consider deviant and see what fun, and revelations, result.
Know what you want and claim it
Our biggest faults as creatives are guilt and self doubt.  When was the last time you really explored your motives for living life?  Chances are that if you did, you would find a whole lot of activity spurred by a sense of obligation or the beliefs and expectations of others.  The deceptively simple question: “what do I want to do?” is one that most architects find almost impossible to answer. Knowing what you want frees you from the destructive competitive cycle that was introduced to us in school and is reinforced in so many professional practices. Take time to actually know what you want helps you to overcome the self doubt and give yourself permission to take the steps that will help you live your dreams, not someone else’s.
Let go of ego
Our own judgements and beliefs, our ego holds us back more than anything.  It is what makes us stubborn, rigid, unaccepting, insistent, all of the things that cut that rut and keep us firmly entrenched within it.  Therefore, we comply with the world’s rules, the things we know we should do, while secretly resenting the fact that we have to do so.  Our ego is the source of should, one way to be our most inspired and best creative selves is to let go of all those expectations and give ourselves permission to be bad.

How have you explored the virtue of living outside of expectations?  In what creative freedoms have you allowed yourself to indulge? It's self-restorative, not selfish - and that allows you to give even more back to the world because you can and not because you should.