Creativity and survival are more closely linked than you might think.

I read recently that one of the things (and I think this is majorly important) that holds people back from enjoying life, seeing success and moving ahead, is a little thing known as reactivity.

Being reactive to a situation, a person or a perceived ‘problem’ means being on auto-pilot. Reacting is not thinking; it is letting emotions control us, before we gather thoughts to actually think something through.

Reactivity is being passive instead of active.

Reactivity is seen in the man who digs himself deeper and deeper into debt. It is seen in the young lady who won’t stop comfort eating, and the guy who seeks approval from other people before feeling satisfied enough (in the short term) that he is a ‘worthy’ human being. Reactivity is effectively the process of dying. Each act of passivity, of non-action you take is harming your own survival as a human.

Being reactive is seeing yourself as the victim. How often do you make yourself out to be the victim? How often do you blame the world around you for your ‘misfortunes’? How many times have you flipped this around and become the owner of what you are doing, seized control, taken responsibility for your life and seen the tremendous advantage that this attitude brings?

Creativity is the opposite of reactivity.

When we create, we are proactive, we are moving forward, we are owning, and we are actually living.

I’d love to hear your comments below!

If you liked this article, you might like this one.

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Posted by Alex Mathers

Alex is a project starter, sometimes finisher, writer and illustrator. He started Red Lemon Club in 2009 with the aim of helping talented creative people leave their mark.

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51 Comments

  1. I enjoyed the article, I have not actually thought this might be holding me back creatively, but I think being too passive and not active is definitely pro-active, thanks again for the thoughts.

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  2. IT is true I have had history of reactive behavior and it gets you in trouble.Stop first then proceed.I can see the results.

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    1. awesome, Tracy 🙂

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  3. Hey Alex, this is a very insightful article. I believe the reason why we often fall into this trap of victim-mentality, is when we stubbornly harbor limiting & negative beliefs about ourselves. To begin to change that, I try to understand where these beliefs come from and proceed to reframe my ideas to become more positive. Gratitude is a gift that keeps on giving too. 🙂

    I agree with you that creatively living life is learning what we’re truly made of and no longer waiting for others to validate our worth. Cheers!

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    1. Great comment Dang! It’s all about reframing, very powerful. The imagination is a powerful thing.

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  4. To be creative, to create anything, one must make choices. It matters not the medium. When I paint I must choose every color, shape and brush stroke. There is no room to be reactive only proactive. The more I create the more confident I become in the choices I make. This then shows up in other areas of my life as well and like choice the paint usually ends up not just on the canvas but on my clothes, in my hair and on my dog as well.

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    1. ha, I like your thoughts and your process, Matthew :).

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  5. Hi Alex,

    Interesting post, and so true. Actually this week I was listening to a series of podcast from http://www.MorningCoach.com about Reacting Vs Responding, and they were reaching a pretty similar conclusion, that you need to be proactive and take action in your life.

    Sometimes we react because of fears or stress, and the best way to fight this is to take action, little by little, so creating certainly applies to it!

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    1. Absolutely Christelle, thanks for the comment!

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  6. It’s not what happens to us that’s as important as how we react to it. Mindset matters much!

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  7. ” Reacting is not thinking; it is letting emotions control us…
    Reactivity is being passive instead of active.”

    This is excellent Alex, well said! While I’m a proactive person, never quite thought of it like this. Not whining about what is, but creating something better, growth, solutions, etc. as an individual, a business, and yes a designer!

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  8. “When we create, we are proactive, we are moving forward, we are owning, and we are actually living.”
    This post certainly spoke to me…I cannot tell you how many times I’ve resisted when others have told me that I need to create my life. The way you said it – motivates me. Thank you!

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  9. Thanks for the comments Inga and Diana! Great that the article spoke to you and inspired you a little. 🙂

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  10. We are animals, yet we do not have to be. Fascinating read.

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  11. Excellent ! Am sending it to others and certainly reiterating it in my own life.

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  12. To be honest, that’s close to how I have been feel but this past week I’ve felt like I’ve relit my creative flame that I love and have missed. This article made me feel like I wasn’t the only one and answered the question why wasn’t being proactive. Thanks!

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  13. Another unmissable piece of free wisdom from Red Lemon. Thank you so much! Immediately tweeted <3

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  14. Wow.. When I saw the link through to this article, I thought it was going to be another one of the many posts telling us to “draw more” or “spend time in nature”. As an artist, I was still curious to read a post about creativity, and am really glad I clicked on the link. The thoughts in the article are so much more powerful than any advice of the other kind!! 🙂 Thanks for this, it really gets one to think and analyse.

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    1. Thanks Bonita for your uplifting comment! I’m glad it’s making you think! Alex

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  15. Alex. Really great post. In my opinion using creativity rather than reactivity is fundamental to leading a happy an contented life. I was lucky to learn this, but only about 10 years ago. There are many moments of course when I forget it and have to remind myself. When I come up against a reactive person I now find I have more compassion for them; I was there once and they just haven’t learned this… yet.

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    1. 10 years ago is certainly better than nothing. You’re right about having to be reminded. Learning to stay creative is a constant process :).

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  16. The Boy With A Herve Villechaize Tattoo August 26, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Being passive may as well be death.
    Not ready to die yet, so I think I’ll just go do what I always do and CREATE!
    VERY COOL PIECE! 😉

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  17. Thanks!

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  18. Great post man! Really got me thinking there. I love a short post like this. Inspiring, compact and easy to digest.

    Most reactive people always believe that they are acting this way because they are born/raised this way. What they didn’t know is that anything can be changed if they are in control (proactive). 🙂

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    1. Nice comment, Pete, and great point. Thanks!

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  19. I disagree with simplifying reactivity and creativity. Reactivity can be congenital,subconscius as a reflex or learned by us and it can influance or even give beginning for creativity. Creativity is not just positive thinking, I would say it is very very complex.

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  20. Really enjoyed this! Well done. Creativity truely is a must in life it fills an inner satisfaction. Thanks:)

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    1. very true, thanks Declan!

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  21. Read into my mind with this one. I read the article aloud to a loved one, to which they turned around and told me this was me. Takes an article like this boot me into shape Nd start being more proactive and letting the group dynamic take hold thus grinding my thoughts and actions to a holt

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    1. Excellent Daniel, here’s to a fresh start! All the best 🙂

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  22. This is a really insightful piece. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a little while now but just couldn’t quite put my finger on it. How empowering! 😀

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    1. Awesome to hear that Paul! thanks for the comment.

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  23. Good point well made. The times in my life when I’ve been creative instead of reactive (a trap I have often fallen into) have given me the love of my life (18 years and still going strong) and saw me leave a career I didn’t enjoy to set up my own successful, growing company.

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    1. Excellent Tom! That certainly inspires me.

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  24. What’s making me pro-active those days are your posts here.
    I took the time to think about them, and must admit this convinced me to take resolutions for that new year. Beginning with taking the time to think more, and adjust reactivity to creativity. I think you’re underlining very important points. Those ones that need to be repeated several times a year to feel them alive and effective.
    And furthermore, this also makes me improve my english with new & fresh subjects… which changes me from advertising glossary, and boring daily stuffs on the internet… Happy +1 to you…
    Niko /

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    1. Thanks Niko! All the best to you!

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  25. But… Because there’s a but… I share that point of view about the obvious complexity of the relation between reactivity and creativity. It’s not that simple……

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  26. I am very, very creative. But that too may hamper my, economical, survival, because creation can be, but doesn’t have to be, action and result. To create a business concept or product to me is very very easy. To do all the work to put it in the world can be hard work.

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    1. That is why Red Lemon Club exists 🙂 Keep reading! Thanks Floris!

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  27. Great article, I feel the same way, thank you for all you do!

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  28. Reactivity is seen in the the guy who seeks approval from other people before feeling satisfied enough. Good one “thumbs up”

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  29. I am very glad I found this blog. I have only just arrived and just read two different posts and felt like you were hitting the right spot for me. Thanks for this, you’re great!

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    1. Excellent to hear that Raquel! Welcome 🙂

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  30. Lucretia Donahue-Reed May 9, 2013 at 6:42 am

    I have been feeling stuck, in my job, in my responsibilities. I started a blog as something I can do now that may lead to new possibilities. I felt I needed to take action of some sort. It has stirred up the creativity I haven’t had in my life for a long time. The blog is http://www.lucretialineage.blogspot.com.

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    1. Excellent! Keep going with it. You will find your creativity growing as you go.

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  31. There are some great ways to train yourself not to react. Mosquito meditation for example. Next time there’s a mosquito on you. Try and accept it. Let it do it’s thing and fly off on its own accord. Then don’t scratch! This kind of training can build character through acceptance and teach you non-reaction.

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    1. Cool advice – I’m not sure I could not scratch though!

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  32. Great article! I found that a lot of the negativity and dark feelings in life can be countered by active thinking and attempting to take control of what is happening around you, rather than letting external influences dictate your behavior.

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    1. Thanks Andrew – you got it 🙂

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  33. You really touched the most important topic here. Well at least for me 🙂 Being able to take responsibility for your life in every aspect possible is what we should all aspire to, right? Creativity translates into freedom – freedom of choice and freedom of caring for other people’s opinions. As long as you are living up to someone else’s expectations and not your own, you are just a reactor, not a creator. Freedom takes guts. But only freedom is true happiness 🙂 Great article, thank you!

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