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Making space, making time

Creating an oasis of quiet

It is easier to do trivial things that seem urgent, than to do important things that are not urgent…. – adapted from John Cleese

One cannot make room for care, learning and reflection – which are the core elements of individual and organisational health – without space, time, confidence and humour. It’s like trying to make pizza without flour, water, yeast and a good oven (I’m Italian, so please bear with the metaphor!).

The trouble is that recipes for ‘how to be _____ (fill in the blanks)’ tend to sound rather dry and out of reach for most of us, often creating a sense of inadequacy. Here is where this excerpt with John Cleese is different, and offers a feasible ‘process’ to breed creativity (and much more as we shall see).

My immediate reaction when I listened to his talk was: creativity equals mindfulness!

Creativity is mindfulness

‘Creativity is not a talent, it’s a way of operating’ (and so is mindfulness)

John Cleese outlines 5 factors that work to make life more creative, and in my view also  contribute to creating a learning and caring space within ourself, and within the organisation or community we are engaged in. Let’s look at them, and see how they matter when it comes to building resilience:

1. Space: ‘You can’t become playful, and therefore creative, if you’re under your usual pressures’, says JC.

I say: ‘You can’t create a learning and caring environment if you’re constantly running around and never making space for reflection.’

2. Time ‘It’s not enough to create space; you have to create your space for a specific period of time’, he tells us.

My take: ‘Building resilience and preventing burnout requires that we intentionally make time to avoid becoming a boiled frog.’

3. Time ‘Giving your mind as long as possible to come up with something original’ and learning to tolerate the discomfort of pondering time and indecision, is JC’s view.

My opinion: ‘Learning and care don’t happen by chance. They require time, and an openness to the unknown.’

4. Confidence ‘Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake’, warns JC.

My perspective: ‘Sometimes it’s easier to stay in the old ineffective auto-pilot mode than to explore new avenues. Change is scary and requires confidence‘. Some say: better the devil you know (I disagree).

5. Humour ‘The main evolutionary significance of humour is that it gets us from the closed mode to the open mode quicker than anything else’, we hear from JC.

My approach: ‘Even in the midst of crisis a light touch, and sense of humour can be healing. Even when changing the world, let’s not take ourselves so solemnly.’


By adapting the 5 aspects discussed by John Cleese to our own particular situation, we cultivate both mindfulness and creativity (two for the price of one!).


The muse of this post is Maria Popova, over at Brainpickings. Make sure you read her post John Cleese on the 5 Factors to Make Your Life More Creative, which forms the inspiring basis for mine.

John Cleese’s full talk on creativity

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Mindfulnext by Alessandra Pigni is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.