The Art of Strengths Coaching

C is for Feeling Compelled To Create

Potter 2

What are the things you feel compelled to create? Some people feel compelled to throw themselves into writing, painting, gardening, cooking, building, designing, problem solving or whatever.

They feel swept along on a wave that enables them to create new things. Sometimes they experience a sense of flow or go into their equivalent of the zone. One writer explained this in the following way.

“Something happens when I wake up in the morning. Sometimes I have breakfast, do the chores and then start writing.

“Sometimes I start writing just after I get up, however, and suddenly find I have been writing for an hour. I have forgotten about breakfast or the other things I should do. This is a wonderful feeling.”

My mentoring work brings me into contact with people who express similar drives in many different fields. They feel the compulsion to encourage others, write songs, build prototypes, show better ways of doing things or whatever.

Looking at your own life, what do you feel compelled to create? If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things that you feel compelled to create.

Describe the specific things that happen as a result of you feeling compelled to create these things.

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Different people feel compelled to create different things. They may want to create encouraging environments, nurture beautiful gardens, design houses, make things work better or whatever.

Looking at my own work, for example, I want to create simple models that people can follow to achieve success. These models need to be simple in a profound way, however, rather than simplistic. People also need to be able to follow these in their own way.

This compulsion started in my teenage years. At the time I was in the middle of a six-year stint working in a factory. I wanted to find a way out for both myself and other people. This led to spending hours at the local library, studying how people had taken charge of their lives.

At the time I was reading masses of literature, which eventually led to reading writers such as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It was only later that I studied humanistic and existential psychology.

Learning about heroic women and men helped to create models that people could use to escape towards something, rather just away from something. These ideas came in useful later when I ran therapeutic communities for troubled young people who wanted to put the past behind them and lead healthier lives.

Since then I have become addicted to studying success and sharing strategies that others can use to succeed. As Elizabeth Gilbert says six minutes into the TED Talk below, however, this kind of compulsion comes from wishing to follow a Muse.

Creativity is something we often channel and obey. It is not something we own. We do, however, own the responsibility to do the best we can with the gift we have been given.

Let’s return to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. He is best known for his fable The Little Prince. Many people have also been inspired by his other books, such as Flight to Arras, Night Flight and Wind, Sand and Stars. Below is an extract from the latter book.

Reading this passage many years ago strongly influenced the work I did in the future. Antoine describes a long train journey in a crowded carriage in which he ponders on the possibilities within each human being.


I sat down face to face with one couple. Between the man and the woman a child had hollowed himself out a place and fallen asleep.

He turned in his slumber, and in the dim lamplight I saw his face. What an adorable face!

I bent over the smooth brow, over those mildly pouting lips, and I said to myself: This is a musician’s face.

This is the child Mozart. This is a life full of beautiful promise. Little princes in legends are not different from this.

Protected, sheltered, cultivated, what could not this child become.

When by mutation a new rose is born in a garden, all the gardeners rejoice. They isolate the rose, tend it, foster it.

But there is no gardener for men. This little Mozart will be shaped like the rest by the common stamping machine … This little Mozart is condemned.

What torments me tonight is the gardener’s point of view … It is the sight, a little bit in all these men, of Mozart murdered.

This passage fed my own compulsion to create models that enable the Mozart to flourish. You will, of course, have your own drivers that urge you to create.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Looking into the future, this invites you to do the following things.

Describe one specific thing you feel compelled to create.

Describe the specific steps you can take to follow this compulsion.

Describe the specific benefits – for you and for other people – of following this compulsion to create this specific thing.

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