Adapting is to Creativity as Shrinking is to Expansion

Do you find yourself in circumstances that seem impossible to change? Are you repeating patterns – with relationship, money, jobs, etc – that have you feeling trapped? Do you want to know what you can do to shift your reality?

For several years now I’ve been aware of a tendency in myself that is at once admirable and abhorrent. It is adaptability which, in the context of this post, is equivalent to shrinking (which I illustrate in the analogy expressed in the heading of this post – ‘Adapting is to Creativity as Shrinking is to Expanding‘).

I’m talking about the tendency, or more pointedly the choice, to accept my circumstances and mold myself – my way of seeing, being, and operating – to fit my circumstances. There have been a number of areas where I’ve done this like relationships, money, and jobs, for example.

Adaptation is a great benefit when it comes to survival. Animals adapt to their environment by developing behaviors and physical features that ensure a greater chance of surviving in their environment. Snow leopards, for example, have wider feet that act as snowshoes, which makes walking and running on snow easier. Giraffes developed their long necks to be able to forage for leaves high in the trees.

Adaptation is our protection against individual death by starvation and collective extinction. This is how our needs get met, nothing more. Necessary but not exactly sexy, if you know what I mean.

Creativity, on the other hand, is the expansive realm of possibilities that extends well beyond the box of survival. Creativity is imagination at play. Creativity is play. Creativity is desire expressed, possibilities manifest.

I was conditioned in a world of survival. Growing up in an impoverished family in the South Bronx in the 1970’s, surviving each day was the mission. The challenges were many – deprivation, hunger, crime, drugs, extreme stress, despair, aggression from others, family discord, sudden death. The world was unsafe.

I discovered and expressed creativity like all children do – street games like Kick the Can, Red Rover, Ringalivia, Bulldog, Skelzies, Hide and Seek, Stickball; playing in the ‘pump’ (fire hydrant) on hot summer days; riding my bicycle. The world became fun and I came alive in those moments, providing relief from the risks and dangers of living.

Overall, I had mastered the art of survival for many years, learning to survive and operate within my given circumstances. Like plants and animals that adapt I learned to operate within my environment just as it was and not how I could re-imagine it.

Not happy in a relationship? I adapted to my unhappiness by going through the motions instead of  creatively restoring the passion and aliveness I felt in the beginning, or just leaving.

Couldn’t afford to go on a trip? I would simply resign myself to staying home (is this what’s really behind the ‘staycation’ phenomenon I’ve read about in recent years?) and wondering what the trip would have been like.

Couldn’t afford to purchase a new computer? Suddenly, my old one didn’t seem so slow or glitchy after all.

Not happy with the job because my learning curve had flattened and my passions remained dormant? Well, at least the job came with benefits and I had a check coming in every week!

Ultimately, I adopted a view that life as it was was life as it should be. I was never proactive and engaged with life but passive and resigned. I never took action to change things unless there was imminent danger.

But as a Human Being I have the ability, unlike plants and animals, to shift my way of seeing, being, and operating in the world by choice and being the cause and not the effect. I have the ability to act creatively out of imagined or invented possibilities not out of necessity but simply by because I choose to. I am not limited to being a thing that is acted upon – I am an expression of possibility that can initiate an action without need or even precedent.

Certainly there is nothing wrong with any of my passive, resigned responses to what was my circumstances. But did I have choice in the matter? Yes!

I remember the scene in Bruce Lee’s movie, Enter the Dragon, in which he found himself trapped within an underground rock enclosure. Seeing no way out he simply sat on the floor in a relaxed lotus position rather than panic or fight against the situation.

Now, you might be thinking that my Bruce Lee example does not support my  point that we are called to take creative action to creatively shift our way of operating in the world and overcome our circumstances in doing so. And you would be right if that is how you see it and chose to operate – as one who adapts to circumstances.

However, our circumstances, always a result of our choices – choices which result from the way things, people, and events occur to us – are not like the immoveable stone that confronted Bruce Lee. Circumstances are not ordeals and challenges with insurmountable odds that leave us defeated or force us into acceptance and resignation. Circumstances are possibilities manifest as reality. The reality of our circumstances are the product of our choices and because they are they can be faced, moved, and molded by us in such a way that we have the experience of ourselves as being the cause in our lives and not the effect.

Circumstances do not perpetuate themselves. Circumstances are perpetuated by  how we respond to them and  by the actions we take in those responses which are always in accordance to how things appear to us. If you see a situation as impossible to do anything about then most likely you will take no action. If you see a possibility to transform a situation then you will take action in proportion to how you see it. Transform your seeing and you transform your doing and your being.

When our circumstances do not serve our growth, our expansion, how do we respond? Do we adapt to the circumstances and fit ourselves within the limiting walls of fate? Or do we get creative and take action to break through those walls to create our destiny?

Imagine if Gandhi had viewed the British occupation of India as an unchangeable fact of life – what would he have done about it if it had occurred to him that way? He probably would have done nothing about it and we would have a very different India today. Gandhi accepted the colonizing presence of the British as a then-present fact and instead of adapting his way of seeing and operating to fit the reality of that circumstance he chose to take action to break the British yoke around the neck of India without fighting it. He shifted his way of seeing and operating, molded by a vision of a new possibility by a new means (non-violence), and helped do the same for millions of Indians.

Or imagine if the Boston Red Sox had seen their 0 to 3 game deficit against the Yankees (and I’m a Yankee fan!) in the American League Championship Series in 2004 as impossible to surmount? They had every reason to believe they were finished after the Yankees had scored 18 runs in the third game and due to the Red Sox history of failure against the Yankees. But they did not give in to momentum or history. They did not adapt their way of seeing and operating to the then-present circumstance nor did they fight against the circumstances. Instead, they accepted where they were and worked with what they had to get to where they wanted to be. And we know how that ended. 😦

Life gives us exactly what we ask for and no more. Ask for a little and you get a little; ask for a lot and you get a lot. Bear in mind that action is required to go with our asking (ask, seek, knock) or else it’s simply wishing.

By always adapting to our circumstances we never challenge ourselves and discoveries of possibilities remain elusive. If we resign ourselves to bench-pressing 100 lbs our strength will remain at 100 lbs of possibility. If we push ourselves to lift 150 lbs, then 200 lbs and beyond we’ll discover what becomes possible with 200 lbs of strength and more.

If we fit our words to describe and fit our reality, whatever that may be, and adapt to the circumstances then we will never discover our creative power by declaring and going after a new possibility. Reality will appear fixed as a result, and we will experience ourselves as limited, small, powerless. We shrink.

By stating what is and remaining within the reality of that statement we reinforce and perpetuate what is and then shrink ourselves to adapt to the circumstances to the point that the circumstances mold us, shape us, and create us.

Instead,  if we declare the matter so that it occurs to us not as a circumstance that we must adapt to but as a call to action and creativity we will expand and the world will of possibilities will expand with us. Nothing will be impossible; all becomes possible.

Then you will be able to say to any mountain of circumstance/reality ‘move’ and it will give way to the creative power of your word.

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.” ― Muhammad Ali

4 responses to “Adapting is to Creativity as Shrinking is to Expansion

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