It’s a delightful thing, coloring together with my kids at the dining room table. I marvel at how they silently swim in their own gigantic imaginations and translate their inner worlds onto paper. They hate activity pages, only want “clear” printer paper, and in their wildly self-expressed ways create with complete abandon. Their intent, focus, and storylines are intense.
Now me? I tend to doodle or color in one of their coloring books. What you read above is NOT my personal experience of creative expression.
READ: I like to color inside the lines.
Reflecting on this observation last week, I had an interesting thought: by insisting that I color inside the lines, have I been unintentionally keeping myself from taking big chances in life?
This might seem like a stretch but hear me out.
By drawing inside the lines, I follow the rules and maybe unknowingly adhere to a right/wrong paradigm of the world. By relying on predictable structure maybe I haven’t learned to trust my creativity and impulses enough to allow me to take bold risks in life. There is safety and security in an outline. There’s less chance of “doing it wrong.”
Show me the way. Show me how. Show me how it’s supposed to go and then if I do it right I’ll have succeeded.
Probably why I love playing classical piano over improvising jazz piano. The rules and rigidity required to master any piece by Bach, Rachmaninoff, or Haydn feel way more relieving to me than learning any progression of chords and just going for it.
Last week, at the dining room table was an eye-opening experience. Apparently I’m still unknowingly attached to an old view point: there’s a right way and a wrong way. I like to color inside the lines. It’s that pervasive.
Not that I have any tool or trick to counter this insight other than that I see that I hold a fixed mindset in this area. I share it with you because you know what? If I’m noticing my need for rightness and wrongness through a fairytale coloring book then I can damn sure be clear that there are other areas in my life where I’m unconsciously seeking an outline to safe safe and keep from being “wrong.”
Not that there’s a right or wrong to that (ha!), but I’m committed to living a fully engaged, uninhibited, joyful on-purpose life. Artificial, self-imposed boundaries are limitations I actively work to deconstruct. So, this week I put the coloring book away and seize the “clear” paper like my 7-year-old son. I commit to creating “Yes!” in all areas of my life.
How about you?
If you prefer to color inside the lines, what have you been saying “No” to as a result? Leave a comment below on how this does or doesn’t resonate with you for your life. Thanks in advance for your colorful contributions. 🙂
Amy Eliza Wong is a life coach, writer, and speaker in the Sacramento, CA area committed to helping people figure out what makes them tick so they can finally live with joy and real purpose. Learn more about working with her.