I’ll remember 2018 as my year of corporate burnout. I was bombarded by meetings, a daunting inbox, and never-ending pressure that took its toll on my health, relationships, and well-being.
Thankfully, my employer at the time realized their employees were stressed to the max, so they organized a mandatory meditation session that gave me more perspective than I ever imagined. The meditation instructor repeated this basic mantra: choose happy.
It was such simple advice, but it resonated. For the first time in a while, I felt empowered to take control of my life. I started making time for myself and prioritized activities that made me happy. That’s when I reignited my love for reading.
I read a book that changed how I see both the world and myself: Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. There were countless parts of the book that have stuck with me, but there’s one quote I cling to most:
“Live a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.”
The main message that Gilbert conveys in Big Magic is that fear sabotages our creativity. If you let go of your insecurities, diminish self-doubt, and ignore the opinions of others, your curiosity will lead you to create things that bring you joy.
I’ve always considered myself a creative person, but I wasn’t exercising my creativity outside of my nine to five. I was constantly brainstorming, writing, and designing, but always for my professional, not personaI, gain. I became a robot, stuck in a routine that trapped my imagination and suffocated my ideas. I wasn’t myself.
Inspired by Gilbert’s words of encouragement, I acted on my newfound curiosity and fearlessness by booking a dance class. I was like a fish out of water in that studio, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling mirrors that amplified my awkwardness. I didn’t know a soul. But I moved, I laughed, and was totally care-free. All I thought about were counts one through eight. Despite my two left feet, it was liberating. I wanted more.
Two weeks later, I decided to go to a writer’s meet-up and shared some of my most personal writing with total strangers. By the end of our meeting, I felt like I found dear friends who reinvigorated my creative spirit. It reminded me that words and stories are incredibly powerful, even if that power is only used to find a few new friends to support you.
Since these experiences, I’ve done countless other things to get out of my comfort zone. I pushed fear aside to make room for opportunity and growth. I’ve made friends and have learned more about myself. I chose happiness.
Here are some ways you can put yourself out there to live a more curious and creative life:
Take a class.
If dancing is too much, try photography, pottery, coding, or public speaking. You’ll gain new skills and have fun in the process.
Find something you love to do, and teach it.
Trust me — you already have a gift, talent, or skill you can share with others. It is incredibly rewarding to see someone learn from your knowledge and experience.
Find a cause that you’re passionate about and give back. Donating your time is a precious gift that will warm your heart and change your perspective.
Get a part-time job.
Try something you’re unqualified for. Pursue work that might interest you. At the very least, you’ll make a little extra cash and learn something new.
Publish your work.
Today, everyone is empowered with a channel to share their art with the world. Start blogging on Medium, make a website to showcase your photography, or sell your handmade jewelry on Etsy. Write a book.
Become a member of something.
Being part of a group and surrounding yourself with both like and unlike-minded people is unifying. Join the alumni club, play on a kickball team, get involved with your local government, heck, run for office.
Schedule a photoshoot.
Get in front of the camera. Be silly, be sexy — just be you.
Endorphins — need I say more? And no, you don’t need to be fit to get started. Start where you are. Sign up for a 5K and hold yourself accountable to train.
Face a fear.
Afraid of commitment, snakes, or skydiving? Let yourself go and see what happens. Take it from Will Smith.