“There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual. Such moments are our most joyful. Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom.” ~Robert Henri, The Art Spirit
When I was in my 20s, I worked at a Fortune 500 firm on 401 North Michigan Avenue. It was fun to work in the city, and my office overlooked Lake Michigan—I never got tired of the stunning view. On weekends, we spent time with our friends at different ethnic restaurants, visiting blues bars and art galleries, museums and theatres, as well as eating out in unique places.
Chicago is an exciting city that has vibrant cultural life. It was a wonderful experience.
I eventually went on to get a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, and after I completed the degree, everything in my external world nudged me to “get out there and do great things.” Fellow students were receiving grants, fellowships, and prestigious tenure-track positions at major research universities. Mihaly Cikszentmihalyi (my advisor, author of Flow() was enthusiastic about my dissertation research, and asked me to publish.
The Ph.D.s I met were busy writing papers, interviewing and speaking at conferences. And if that wasn’t enough incentive, my department was being closed by the University, and administrators, faculty, and students were launching a massive fight to try to keep it open. They wanted to demonstrate how the recent graduates, i.e. Please send me…) were doing amazing, brilliant things in the world. Yikes.
I pushed myself—secluding myself away at a quiet retreat center for a week to try to focus, write a research article, and finally get SeriousAbout my academic career. I was boring, stiff and contrived in my writing.
My mood was terrible.
Instead of embarking on an academic career that was renowned, I decided to move to Montana’s wilderness.
Montana enchanted me. All was perfect. Different. I fell in love with the spectacular natural beauty, but also the people who were so different from anyone else I’d ever known.
It was home to backwoods musicians, artists, and even musicians, who lived off the grid.
In a teepee, I moved in to live with my long-haired hippy. We could both hear the wolves at night and were able to cross paths with bears in the day. The wild, with its dark mountains and deep winters, was a place I found myself immersed in.
The world of professional excellence was far and away from me. Here’s what happened instead.
1. I developed self-reliance.
A bird flew into the house and became stuck in between windowspanes trying to escape. Another day, a neighbor’s stray dog got his eyelid hooked on barbed wire. (Ouch!)
I used to go to the nearest helpline in the city. In this area however, it was impossible to call neighbors. Both animals were freed by me, and I was able to do so without further harm.
2. A wide range of skills was acquired.
Rural and remote places require you to be a generalist. It was a great experience that I would not have had if I had stayed in the city.
A church invited me to give a speech. The yoga center invited me to lead creative writing workshops. A local artist asked me for a book and I accepted.
3. I developed openness.
In my city I was a firm believer in gun control. Through my experiences in the countryside, I was able to understand different views better. Rural Montana is home to new-age hippies and churchgoers as well as hunters.
My perspectives broadened. My perspective was not limited by my previous position. I see shades of gray, instead of seeing the whole world in black and white.
4. Leadership skills were acquired.
The city can be intimidating because of the size and scope of civic organisations. Everyone pitches in when it comes to rural settings.
It was my honor to be asked to help organize the United Way Meeting. The Rotary Club was something I got involved with. An employment agency requested that I lead a staff meeting.
5. Passions led me to pursue other interests.
River rafting was something I learned quickly. I spent weekends contra dancing. Because there wasn’t anyone else, a band was in need of a bass guitarist. I offered to try it. I loved it.
The country was full of surprises and fun.
6. The freedom to be me was liberating.
I’d spent my life growing up in a conservative Midwestern family, then following corporate rules as a computer scientist before embarking on a rigorous Ph.D. program.
Montana allowed me to let go of the rules and try something totally new. It was liberating to let go of expectations and roles that I experienced.
My friend, who is a massage therapist herself, loved what she did. She decided that she was ready to earn more after working as a massage therapist for many years. Because both careers involve healing, it was natural for her to believe that nursing would suit her best.
After many years of experience and thousands of dollars, she finally admitted that she dislikes nursing. Logic doesn’t help us find our next step.
I am also blessed to have a friend whom I love. Love being a nurse. It isn’t a story about academia or nursing. It’s a story about uniqueness.
Which are some of the most inspiring paths for each one? Are there any places, people or situations that inspire us to grow?
When we’re stuck, it’s often because our minds are dead-set focused on the direction that seems Reasonable. It’s the only direction that our minds can See also:.
Creative genius is a different kind of person. It offers us unique, peculiar possibilities that our rational mind can’t see.
Your creative genius will take you in directions that you don’t expect and can’t predict ahead of time. Directions that aren’t a linear, incremental next step. Instead, they open up entire new worlds that you didn’t know existed.
Here’s a tip…
When you’d like to make a change, feel blocked, or frustrated that whatever you’re doing is no longer working, consciously step back and Imagine opening a space for possibilities you hadn’t considered. This can be a challenge—your mind may have a hard time letting go of the reins.
Your thinking mind is only part of you. Your life is not only governed by your thinking mind, but also includes a non-cognitive creative intelligence. It’s your creative genius and it’s worth listening to.
Giving it space will allow it to express its creativity.
Kim Hermanson Ph.D.
Kim Hermanson is an educator pioneer and professor at Pacifica Graduate Institute. She has written two books on the power of the creative and “third space” – the non-cognitive creative space that lies beyond our thinking mind: Teaching, trainers, coaches, mentors and teachers can get messy by following this guide: Taking risks and opening their imagination., This was awarded the 2022 National Indie Excellence Award. www.kimhermanson.com
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