Tuesday, June 2, 2015


By: Jennifer Quarrie

Have you ever hit one of those points in your life when youre ready to move in a healthier direction?  Whether its getting better sleep, moving more throughout the day or walking away from junk food, the realization dawns that now is the time.  New Years resolutions come to mind.  Well, not long ago I reached that point and what I learned on my journey towards wellness reflected many of the critical tenets of creativity.

Pursuing wellness can be a beautiful, creative process.  Inviting new ideas into your life often feels invigorating and meaningful.  Yet since wellness is a holistic balance across many life areas - physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, social, occupational, financial, and environmental - achieving full wellness takes significant attention in each individual area, in addition to the effort involved in balancing all of them.  Its an investment, but the outcome is worth the effort.

I was motivated!  Not only did I want to improve bad habits (like not getting enough sleep), I also wanted to improve even those I felt were pretty good (like nutrition).  It was time for a whole new look at what it meant to be well.  Research and insights abounded!  My free time was filled with everything from recipe searches to athletic classes to insightful chats with friends about their own wellness journeys.  I used Creative Problem Solving (CPS) to identify, select, develop and implement new habits.  I was on my way with immediate positive results!  Nothing could stop me now!

Insight through Illness

Let go or be dragged.  - Zen Proverb

Except for illness.  Only a few weeks in and my body called a time out.  Sidelined by a nasty cold, I knew it was not just the fact that it was going around.  Intuitively I understood my decisions had played a role in compromising my immune system.  How had I gone the opposite direction from my intention?  Had I failed at wellness by getting sick?  And so soon at that?

Upon reflection, I realized that in the process of attempting holistic wellness, I had diverged brilliantly, but had not held true to the principles of convergence in CPS.  While I had converged on which new habits to add to my life, when it came to implementing, I had not converged on which elements would stay in my overall calendar.  I had taken an already busy schedule and added to it until there was not a moment free. I even started cutting back on my already meager sleep schedule to fit it all in.  And when my sleep habits faltered, not even all of the other positive physical benefits of nutrition, exercise, and meditation could compensate.

Luckily, in this instance being physically unwell did not reduce my wellness in any other area; in fact, it fostered greater wellness in certain ways.  I had more time for phone calls, increasing social wellness.  I spent more time reading and improving my intellectual wellness.  The reduction in responsibilities lowered my stress levels and increased emotional wellness.  It was a fantastic insight to realize that despite a rough cold I was really still mostly well! 


When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.  - Lao Tzu

It was also surprising to realize that during my illness, I treated myself far better than I did on any normal day, even during a deliberate exploration of wellness behaviors.  More startling still was the insight that illness is one of the few socially acceptable reasons to throttle back in our modern, fast-paced society.  It takes significant courage and insight to prioritize personal needs and values over social expectations.  This means saying no even when it might feel uncomfortable.  It was easy for me to diverge and say yes to all of the new wellness habits, but it was much more difficult to converge and say no and choose between the things I valued.  That kind of everyday creativity takes courage.  We are accustomed to asking for permission when we go against expectations.   May I please stay home from work for a few days because I am sick?  May I please substitute another option in my meal? I have an allergy.  Yet the truth is that we need permission from ourselves to make self-supporting, affirmative choices - in any area of creative problem solving, wellness or not.

Creating Space

The music is not in the notes, but in the silence in between.  - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

In truth, we are only able to enjoy the things we create when we have the time and space to do so.  Wellness practices do not create wellness if they exceed your available resources.  Experiences and information do not provide as much value without the time to synthesize and reflect on them.  In wellness, as in all creative change, we require space to rest, incubate, and simply be. 

One of the most critical aspects of wellness and creative change is building different types of free space.  Space in schedules, space from demands, physical space, personal space, social space, and even mental space where you are not required to think about anything specific, or perhaps instead where you are required to deliberately think of nothing at all.

Letting Go

Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn't you - all of the expectations, all of the beliefs - and becoming who you are. - Rachel Naomi Remen

In order to make space in our lives, we must let go of some things.  As they say, we can have it all, just not at the same time.  By embracing the power of the polarity between creating and letting go, we are more likely to have a successful outcome.  Wellness practices exemplify this concept.
     Meditation and sleep, two habits that empower all areas of wellness, exemplify the fact that rest is productive in and of itself, and is required to make waking hours productive.
     In the realm of nutrition, fasting (according to medical guidelines) is a very beneficial practice for the metabolism and immune system.
     Breathing, a critical practice to physical and mental wellness, demonstrates that every inhalation requires a balancing (and ideally longer) exhale.
     In mindfulness, three primary pillars are defusion (letting go of unhelpful thoughts), acceptance (making room for uncomfortable feelings), and contact with the present moment in a curious and open way.

Some wellness literature calls this type of letting go decluttering.  While on the surface the concept of decluttering might seem to pale in comparison to something like proper nutrition, the greater mindset is critical to wellness in every realm because it helps to create and protect space in life.  In the realm of creativity, we frequently refer to this idea as convergence or prioritization.  We empower ourselves to succeed by providing the resources we need to do so. 

As we journey toward self-actualization, becoming our complete selves, fulfilling our true potentials, and letting go of the inauthentic pieces of ourselves allows for space to accept and embrace our true selves.  As part of that greater effort, we must discern why we are wedded to certain expectations and whether they are worth retaining in our lives.  Creativity and wellness are important tools to assist in doing so.    

It is here along my wellness journey that Ive hit one of those points yet again.  I made some space and healed from illness.  I made some more space and was able to permanently institute several new wellness practices.  I felt the power of letting go.  The impact of such simplification became apparent.  Through it all, it became clearer that there is still more to let go and now is the time to do so.

Davis, G. A. (1998). Creativity is forever. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt.
Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Random House.
 Kashdan, T. B., & Ciarrochi, J. (Eds.). (2013). Mindfulness, acceptance, and positive psychology: The seven foundations of well-being. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
 Puccio, G. J., Mance, M., & Murdock, M. C. (2011). Creative leadership: Skills that drive change (2nd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
 Robin, M. (2010). Wellness on a shoestring: Seven habits for a healthy life. Unity Village, MO: Unity House.
 Rogers, C. (1961). On becoming a person: A therapist's view of psychotherapy. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
 Ross, S., & Rosewood, O. (2003). Happy yoga: 7 Reasons why there's nothing to worry about. New York, NY: Regan Books.
Wellness model image source: http://www.fitnessforlifecoaching.com/Blank.html
Balloon image source: http://theidproject.org/blog/nancy-thompson/2014/08/23/metta-month-i-cant-make-you-be-happy

Bio: Jennifer Quarrie is a dynamic innovation strategist and creativity expert with a visionary outlook and a knack for metacognition, facilitation and listening. With a BA in Cognitive Science from the University of Virginia and an MSc in Creative Studies from the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC) at SUNY Buffalo State, she incorporates budding areas of mind and creativity research into all of her work. As a leader and speaker she inspires wellness, fosters transformation and emboldens self-actualization.

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