Being involved in a creative process is like existence in two parallel dimensions, the physical and earthly, and the spiritual, whereby you are floating within your imagination and the stories you build in your head. It is the dream of the innovator who connects the seemingly impossible with the possible by linking the two dimensions and making their paths cross.
It is not by compromise, surrender and oblivion that you can live a fulfilling life. To me, creating your reality means pursuing opportunities, being conscious of your own strengths and weaknesses, cultivating flexible thinking, ignoring distractions and constantly looking for that place that makes you feel at home.
The motivation to create your reality is not derived from the inability to be thankful for what you’ve got, be it by nature, by nurture or by what you have accomplished so far. It is not about where you were born or who you were born to, nor is it about anything that is out of your control. It is not about perceiving the half full glass, appreciating precious happy moments, or interpreting reality. Rather, for me, it is about listening to the unease that has found a permanent home within me where it disseminates seeds of unhappiness and creates That Inner Urge for action. The search for reasons and solutions for that unease—prior to reaching the miserable conclusion that I am just ungrateful—took me back to Abraham Maslow’s theory of the hierarchy of needs. Vague memories from classes of years ago led me to look for something that was sitting in the back of my mind. And there it was, black on white: ultimate psychological development can be achieved only when all basic physiological and emotional needs (food, shelter, warmth, security, sense of belongingness) are fulfilled and the "actualization" of the individual’s full potential takes place. Self-actualization—the need to be good, to be fully alive, and to find meaning in life—can be achieved only when the base of the pyramid is in place. There are other similar theorists whose interpretations explain our source of motivation, each putting a different emphasis on human behavior. To mention just two: Viktor Frankl introduced existential therapy and the theory for finding meaning in all forms of existences, and Carl Rogers, one of the founders of the humanistic approach which puts the individual at the center by presenting a theory of the self. But personally, I found a kind of a relief in adopting Maslow's way, with its premise, based on its fixed order of things, that there can be no shortcuts. There is a time for everything, and one should, I believe, pass through all the stages before moving up the pyramid.
The lowest level of the Maslow Pyramid is part of our genetic makeup; we fulfill these needs intuitively. While striving to satisfy the second level, we understand instinctively that in order to physically live we need shelter, we need to work, and we need to take care of our health and property. I, for example, chose first to study law, then business, followed by investment management, all in order to have a decent paying day job and thus to achieve, at least for starters, this second level.
The third level, though a challenge for some, is still, on the whole, within our natural predisposition. And yet, efforts still, of course, need to be invested in finding love and cherishing intimate friendships in search of meaningful connections.
Being able to stand up for oneself and shape the fourth level is not, however, something to be taken for granted. As one who was a good student and loved studying, motivated to succeed and attain financial prosperity, I was for years under the impression that reaching the two highest levels of the pyramid was just a matter of consistency: "Keep on the path of education and in pursuit of a career, " I convinced myself, "and you'll reach that place of self-actualization." But education, as much as I appreciate and value its contribution, is not the main key to success; at least not what we conventionally call education. Collecting university degrees won't get me anywhere; I gave up the search for diplomas. Exceptional grades at school, though flattering, are no more than external feedback, mostly designed for the purpose of social comparison. Excelling at school or at work may indicate that I have acquired cognitive skills but says nothing about the emotional skills I need to build self-esteem. Achievements and the ensuing respect of others may seem objective parameters, but I should in fact be looking at them through the kaleidoscope of my ultimate goals. And as long as there is a gap between my current reality and the reflections at the end of the tube, then the fourth level is out of my reach. What I should do is turn my passion for study into the action of diligently guiding myself towards an actual goal, both in terms of learning new skills and of building the confidence, self-belief, and other emotional skills necessary to prevail. These emotional skills, though harder to acquire, are within reach, and it is these that are, in my case, shaping the journey. Other posts—such as To Be Seen, Rewire our Brain, Reaching Fulfillment in the 21st Century, and Risk and Failure—all discuss these aspects and highlight some of my struggles and the lessons I have learned in my search to improve the emotional skillset necessary for perceiving subjective success.
Reaching the highest and purest level of the Maslow Pyramid is a whole different story. It requires the courage to leave our fears behind. It requires finding the way to express creativity in the quest for spiritual meaning. It requires discovering what exactly is needed to lead our lives in accordance with our true nature and capabilities (thus living up to our full potential) and to find our basic drive and motivation and thus fully integrate our goals with our lives.
For the sake of clarity, I would like to compare the idea of "Creating your Reality" with an observation I had while playing tennis—although I am sure it can be related to any other competitive sport. By creating reality we take a decision to be proactive or, in other words, not to play in defense mode. When you play in defense mode, you can only rely on your opponent’s mistakes to gain points rather than on your own strength and enthusiasm for the game. Gaining points by initiating attacks doesn't mean you have to be an aggressive or provocative player. You can, instead, rely on strategy and sophistication, taking advantage of your opponent's weaknesses and, most of all, empowering your own propensity and aptitude.
"There's only one very good life and that's the life you know you want and you make it yourself.” Diana Vreeland
It is hard enough to get to the point of knowing what you want; it is harder still to make it happen. I think I have passed the first stage; I still have a long way to go before I reach the second.