Do you struggle with finding your purpose or your calling?
In this episode, Katherine Robertson-Pilling, a strategic creativity coach, talks about her process to help you be more intentional with your life.
Listen to this episode to start your journey toward cultivating self-awareness.
- [00:09] Introduction
- [02:23] What is a strategic creativity coach?
- [4.15] When did you write your book, The Wheel of Creativity?
- [5.53] About Katherine’s life in France
- [7:26] How long did it take to write the book The Wheel of Creativity?
- [10:36] Who can benefit from the Wheel of Creativity? What is it for?
- [13:17] How to cultivate your creative muscle whether you are creative or not?
- [17:07] How to make space for ourselves when we struggle with a busy life?
- [21:44] Overcoming the anxiety of finding our calling
- [25:15] Katherine’s journey toward clarifying her life purpose
- [28:25] How can we start our journey toward creating the change we want?
- [34:54] Where to find more about Katherine?
- [35:44] Conclusion and your next action step
- Take the Quiz on Katherine Robertson-Pilling website
- Read more about her Wheel of Creativity
- Follow Katherine on Facebook
- Follow Katherine on Instagram
- Follow Thuy on Twitter
- Connect with Thuy on Facebook or on Instagram
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Thuy: Have you finally made the decision to not live your life on regrets, but you don’t know where to start. If that’s the case? Today’s episode is for you. I have invited Katherine Robertson-Pilling to talk about her process to be more deliberate about your life and to become the person you want to be.
Thuy: Hello, I’m your host, Thuy Pham, and welcome to Episode 46 of Get On Your Quest. The place to create changes in your life and in the life of others. Today is about making space in order to listen to your inner voice and to clarify what you’re longing for. And before we get started, I suggest that you find a quiet place to listen to Katherine’s words of wisdom.
Thuy: Now, close your eyes and let’s get started.
Thuy: Katherine Robertson-Pilling is a strategic creativity coach, a speaker and the author of The Wheel of Creativity. We’ve known each other for a few years through our work, but I think that what got us closer to each other was when we discovered that we had many points in common. And for example, she has lived in France. I was also quite surprised to learn that we also shared common interests in past projects related to 3D worlds. But for today, I invited Katherine to talk about another topic that I’ve been exploring for the past years, which is creativity.
Thuy: I believe that we are all creative, but some of us forgot about our creative skills. And as we leave in a fast changing world, cultivating our creativity is so important to help us adapt and navigate through uncertainty.
Thuy: That’s why I’m super thrilled to explore with my guests today how creativity can help us improve our life.
Thuy: Hi and welcome Katherine!
Katherine: Bonjour Thuy. It’s so nice to be here. Thank you for having me.
Thuy: Yes, it’s been a while that I’ve been, you know, exchanging emails with you. I’m so happy that you are giving me a little bit of your time today.
Thuy: I presented you as a strategic creativity coach. Could you help us understand what a strategic creativity coach is and how you came to doing that?
Katherine: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. It’s an unusual phrase that I’ve not heard anywhere else. But I think what you said, starting out, is something I’m in total agreement with, which is that every human being is creative and we often relegate creativity to the arts or to hobbies or kind of the luxury kind of fluff of life.
Katherine: So I wanted to give it a bit of gravitas in the idea that we can strategically look at our lives and respond to what is happening. Whatever is happening, with creative thinking and creative action.
Katherine: I see the raw materials of our lives, you know, the circumstances of our lives as the raw materials with which we create what comes next. So that’s that’s a bit of a summary of that. And, you know, I’ve been a writer. I made my living as a as a professional writer, screenwriting most of my life. And then, when I moved to France, that became difficult because I was not then fluent in French. So I turned my attention to other things. And personal development has always been a part of my life. And so, I began the process of writing my book, really identifying and outlining the stages of that creative process that we go through, in creating what’s next for us.
Thuy: You wrote your book when you were in France. Or did you decide to go to France to write that book?
Katherine: Ah, well, they’re definitely related, though not in a linear way. I went to France on a walkabout. I thought I would be gone from the US for about six weeks. And it ended up that my first day alone in Europe was September 11th, 2001. And so, as the world kind of froze in its tracks, I stopped in Nice and just let go. I, I just stopped. And that showed me at a very personal level, the adventure that life really is. You know, when we make our plans, other things happen. And and I stayed. And I think through living life in a different way than I had as an American. You know, as an American, I was very ambitious and driven and success oriented. And I got to France. And France is really strong in the opposite set of skills that the US is what you call “La vie quotidienne”, daily life. And I learned about that and I learned that there’s really a balance of energy in life. One is really active and one is more receptive. And so, it was through that process that the ideas for the book began to come to me and you know, it formed more specifically over time while I was there.
Thuy: How do you see your life over there? What was that phase? Was it a “new you”? Was it a “deeper you”? How do you see that?
Katherine: Yeah, well, it opened up for me a possibility that there could be more pleasure in my life, that I could have more balance in my life.
Katherine: I think, as you know, a lot of Americans, we, as they say, we live to work, whereas French people live. And work to live.
Katherine: And for me, I can share about this later in the call, but there are two muscles. You know, there’s an active muscle of the creative process and there’s a receptive muscle. And in as Americans, we’re very strong in the active, in the productive, in making things happen, in building things, whereas the French are really stronger in the receptive and the culture supports that. And so for me, it opened up another part of myself that I knew was missing, but I couldn’t access it in the swirl of productivity that we live in here in this country. And I don’t want to minimize in any way that France also is very strong in entrepreneurship, I mean, in development of certain types of tech things. But the culture really fundamentally supports that piece that we are missing here in the US.
Thuy: How did you create the notion of the wheel of creativity that you describe in your book? Was the long journey? Did it take several months? Years?
Katherine: Yes, it took about 10 years, from the first idea to the publication of the book. And I’ll just step back to my previous life as a scriptwriter. In that work, I used the concept of the hero’s journey a lot, in storytelling.
Katherine: So I would take my characters on a journey or even viewers and documentaries on a journey from home, away from home through a cycle that brings you back home with a treasure, with something new. And I was going through that journey myself, you know, at the time, by leaving the states.
Katherine: And when I left here, you know, there were things dissolving in my life. I came to an intersection of three endings, a relationship, a job and my home. And all three I had to give up at the same time. And so I know a lot of people today are experiencing at least one of those things. And it puts you into a state of, you know, you’re destabilized, disoriented even. So, when I first started the idea of the wheel of creativity, it wasn’t a wheel for me at all. It was just this journey I knew I was on. And I could see in the writing work that I was doing that, wow, that stage that the hero is in, I’m living that and I’m living the next one and the next one. And I’m having to overcome those challenges.
Katherine: And when I looked around me, I saw that all of my friends and the people in my life were going through the same kind of thing. And that was when it began to dawn on me. This is kind of the way that life works. And if we can understand those pieces of the cycle, what the task is in each of those pieces and what we need to do to be able to move forward, then we really have some power over what comes next in our lives.
Katherine: And so for me, it was an evolving intellectual process that reflected what was going on in my life. And then there was a day in Nice. I remember it. I was sitting in my apartment. The sun was coming in the window. It was morning and it hit me. Wow. It’s a wheel. It’s a cycle. It happens many, many times in our lives. And if we can learn to recognize it, it becomes familiar. So when we hit those places, it doesn’t have to be scary because I know I’ve been here before and something comes after this.
Thuy: Does it mean that the wheel of creativity is mainly for people who are going through an important change in their life? Mainly a struggle. You mentioned about a relationship, job change, changing home. Can people who don’t feel that they are going through a big challenge still benefit from the wheel of creativity? What is it for? Why would people need it?
Katherine: Someone said to me once at the end of a talk that I did. He said: “So this is not a how to. This is how it works.”
Katherine: And he really hit the nail on the head there because, you know, I think we want sort of somebody to give us a set of steps.
Thuy: A magic pill?
Katherine: Exactly. Wouldn’t that be nice? But in fact, it’s like they say, you know, you don’t give someone a fish, you teach them to fish. So it’s like, as you said in the beginning of our conversation, every human being is creative. So if we can learn how that process works, we can apply it to any area of our lives. And yes, I have people who use this to navigate really difficult times in their lives. But I have a lot of creative people who use it to understand the creative process that they are going through and to forgive themselves for not being further along or to release that self judgment that comes up of like, you know, comparison and self-doubt and all those things that we encounter that can stop us. But I’ve also had people use the process, my online course, for example, to create, to launch software programs. You know, entrepreneurs use it because that cycle of creativity is the cycle of innovation as well. And also people have designed and started social enterprises using this system. So it really is it’s like your project is unique to you and this is a system you can bring really anything to, because it’s really founded in the principles of nature. So it is universal and it is applicable to any type of project or challenge in life.
Thuy: Is it for people who already think that they are creative or do you help people find their creativity through your process?
Katherine: That is such a good question. And I think back to one person in particular who reached out to me, and she and her husband are entrepreneurs and they were really struggling because they’re very left brain thinkers, very analytical, very productivity oriented, very practical. And they were just struggling because in their business, their inability to think creatively was holding them back. And so part of what we looked at was how to cultivate the creative muscle. And I mentioned earlier these active and receptive principles of life. So I’d like to just share a little bit about that and answer to your question. There’s not sort of one creative muscle. It is really, too. And if you think about yin and yang, they are sort of two opposing forces that are linked and all of us lead in one or the other, but we have to have both. If you think about your arm, you have a bicep and you have a tricep, you have to have both of those muscles equally developed and functioning for your arm to be strong and for you to have full use of it. So the active principle of creativity is that one associated with the left brain, with getting things done, with analyzing what we know, knowing what we know, focusing on what we know, and it’s really oriented toward efficiency. But that alone just keeps us, in a way, recycling what we know, recycling the past. So we need the receptive side as well, which is more associated with the right brain, thinking, creative thinking, open to new ideas, being open to what we don’t know.
Katherine: And so what I say to people who think they’re not creative is that, that is your work. Whichever one that you lead in, whether you lead with the act or you lead with the receptive, you need to cultivate the other muscle in order to be able to have a full functioning creative process. So it’s also true that people who are more receptive regraded… A lot of us are really great at generating ideas and we’ll just keep generating ideas, but we’ll never actually dig down and take one. Choose one idea. Focus on it. With that left brain thinking or the active principal and see it through. You know, sometimes I say it’s the person who does that, who gets the trademark, you know. And so for those people who live with the active, who think of themselves as not creative. It’s really about making space, about doing less or at least creating blocks of time where you can open and cultivate the receipt of new ideas and for the receptive people, those who think of themselves as creative and right brain, it is about digging down and doing the work until you actually produce the product. And either one, I would say, feels very risky because you’re leaving your comfort zone. But both are required.
Thuy: Is it important to make some space first? How to handle that when you are in a crazy moment in your life where it’s not that easy to just pull everything in and find that space?
Katherine: Yeah, I know this place really well. I am in historically in my life. I’m kind of a self self-proclaimed workaholic. And this space that you describe is really where I was when I left the United States in 2001. And for me, it was, you know, it was a stopping. But clearly, most of us do not have that opportunity. And I think also it’s worth saying that we become habituated to a rhythm of life that is so compressed, so full, especially now with the technology that we have where we never stop, we never take a breath, we pick up our phone and we go from the weather to what I ate today, to what I spent all the tracking that we do. And it is, it is really shutting down what is most essential for us and about us. We’re, I think, losing our connection with ourselves because we keep ourselves like floating on the surface of the water, just bouncing along from one thing to the next. So I have to acknowledge that it is not, it’s not a switch that you can flick to change it, obviously. But what I will say is that if you’re feeling that something’s missing or that something’s wrong, this is what I identify as the very first stage in the creative process. People think that in order to change their lives, they have to know what they want. And for me, that’s the second step or the third.
Katherine: The first step is knowing what you don’t want, knowing this does not feel good to me. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what’s wrong exactly. But there’s a restlessness in me and I need, I need something to change. And people can stay in jobs, in marriages, in homes, in situations for years. Knowing this at a very deep level, but not being able or willing to tell themselves the truth about it, and so being willing to admit something’s wrong is the very first step. And that actually launches the cycle. In terms of how you make that space, I think it’s a decision, you know, and there’s I kind of see three three steps to that decision. And I’ve recently created an online quiz. I’ll tell you about that at the end, if you like. It’s free where people can determine where they are in that process of being ready to make the change. But when you make that decision that I am willing to listen to this part of me that says there’s something more than this, then you begin to make choices from there. And that awareness that something’s missing that can begin inside, like, you know, you have this thing you have to do for your life to be complete. And a lot of people don’t get to that until they’re in their fifties, sixties, you know, but it can also come from outside like you can, you know, your partner files for divorce or you’re made redundant or, or there’s a global pandemic, you know, but where, where that change is forced upon you. But in either case, the process is the same.
Thuy: You mentioned that it’s important to also know what we don’t want. I have friends, for example, who I think feel the pressure, maybe feel anxious when they are asked what is your purpose or what’s your passion? And then suddenly they feel like: “I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it”. Or “I have no big passion”. So I love the fact that you help them maybe take a step back and not stress themselves on that question and maybe think more about, you know, maybe the trigger is there’s something missing in my life. So this can be an exit to this stressful stage where someone asks you what is your passion or what is your purpose?
Katherine: Can I just respond to that? You know, I just want to acknowledge this is possibly the most personal, essential part of who we are. So if it’s not sitting there evident on the surface, you know, don’t, don’t be scared. And there’s no sort of nobody can give you that magic pill or a one size fits all solution for that. Some work is required and a process is required, and that’s as it should be. And so I would just say, if people are unsure about that, intervene in your own life, you know, give yourself… Maybe it’s literally five minutes a week, you know, to just sit and be quiet and start with a question. Like, what I like to say is, I like to say that every problem is a solution in disguise. And so if you start with the problem that you feel you’re here to solve, you think about it can be in the world or it can be in your personal life, that place where something’s wrong, where you think this is unacceptable, where you find that restlessness, sit down and tell the truth about that for five minutes a day or five minutes a week.
Katherine: And the result, what, what comes at the end of that first stage, as I described as being hunger. The task is to tell the truth. And the reward in that stage is awareness. That awareness then gives you the ability to have a little bit of direction just enough for the next step. But this is where the entire creative process starts. And, you know, I’m just now finishing one of my 90 day programs. And one of the people who did the program with me said to me that she sort of thought she was going to come in and get her book written in 90 days. But she said she didn’t do that. But what she got was so much such a deeper sense of the kind of life that she wants to live, in which writing a book is a part of the process. So if you think about the whole first part is just to get clear at a deep level for yourself about what you really want, then the implementation of that becomes easier, clearer and more direct.
Thuy: What about you? How long did it take you to get this clarity about what your big project is, what you are meant to do, because you said it to you 10 years for the book?
Katherine: You can’t see it, but I have a smile on my face because when you think about a life purpose, I think you should allow a lifetime for discovering what it really is and recognize that it’s, it’s an evolving journey. And I think I was asking this question in my teens, in my 20s. I tell a few stories, but I’ll share one with you, which is quite poignant. My mother passed away when I was 40 years old and she had gone through a long battle with cancer. My mother was a very successful, accomplished psychiatrist who was a pillar of her community and helped a lot of people and had an influence and a lot of people’s lives. But literally two days before she passed away, she looked up at me and with this sense of desperation, she said, I never got my turn. And honestly, it still chokes me up, but it was in that moment, it was, unfathomable to me, and I thought, how can a person who meant so much to so many people say that, what does she mean? And it really opened up a path that I didn’t expect to go down, which was about a trying to be clear with what I knew about her life, what she had missed, what she regretted. Also, to be sure that I did not say that at the end of my life and really also to… I think my work began to shift then into a place of recognizing that there’s a lot of us that could end up there if we don’t intervene and make our lives conscious and deliberate, take the wheel, as it were, of our lives. And that is not just about some big project we want to accomplish. It’s also about the whole of our lives and making sure that we don’t sacrifice the things that matter most to us in the service of our work or some “should” that we think we must do in life. So it’s a whole, it’s a whole picture that explores not only what we see outside of us, the results that we’re producing in our lives, but also our real experience of being alive.
Thuy: If someone feels ready to leave a better life, what would be your advice to that person? How can this person start?
Katherine: Well, I have for four things I think I could recommend that people cultivate in their lives. And then I have a couple of specific things I could propose that I can offer them. But the first thing I would say is cultivate self-awareness, you know, admitting what you long for, that maybe you have never spoken to anybody. It helps you to see yourself more clearly, to know yourself, you know, deep inside. And that in itself is making space. Internally for your authentic self, so I recommend that people practice a mindfulness or meditation to create that inner space where you can hear your own knowing in your own inner voice. And in the middle of these crazy busy lives that we live, you can literally start with 60 seconds a day and build it from there. So, and you can look for the spaces in between, whether you’re sitting at a traffic light or waiting for the kettle to boil. Those places where you, where there is space, you can use that space. And I just want to say, don’t expect your mind not to wander in these times because that’s what it does. Just notice where it goes, which is informative and you know, know that you don’t have to follow it. You don’t have to go there.
Katherine: The second thing is to cultivate vision. So Stephen Covey used to say: begin with the end in mind. Another of the stories that I, that I tell is when I was in my thirties, I had a vision really of myself on a road. I recognized that road was my life. And at the end of that road was an 80 year old woman with long flowing hair. And she had her hand stretched out to me and she was just going with her fingers. Come on, come to me. And I recognized that I was she and she was me. And there were 50 years between us then. But you have that road and you have somebody standing at the end. And who do you see there and what do you think about that person and who do you want to be? And that is your vision. And the cool thing is that you already have inside of you everything that person has. You just have to live your way, making the choices to become that. So what do you need to change in your life or what do you want to change to become that person?
Katherine: The third thing is to cultivate structure. So once you have that vision and once you are aware of that longing, give yourself a system or a structure that allows you to turn the vision into actionable steps. You know, a dream becomes a vision and a vision becomes steps. And that’s how you make it real. There’s a lot of online courses and programs out there. And the 90 day program I mentioned is one of those where I kind of take people through that process.
Katherine: And the fourth thing to cultivate is accountability. We all need clear witness. If you really have never shared that longing with anybody. You deserve to have somebody witness that and hold that with you and honor that with you, and it really needs to be somebody without an agenda for who you are or a stake in you being a certain way because they need you to be that way. Could be an accountability partner, somebody who will keep you to your word. It could be a community of people. And for people who really want private support, it could be a coach.
Katherine: So, you know, to really get started. I love the Chinese proverb that we all know a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. So we like to look at people who become successful and think of them as overnight success. But the reality is it takes what it takes to get to that point where change occurs and we have to go through the self-doubt, the resistance, our battle with perfectionism and procrastination.
Katherine: And that process can be painful. But as I said a minute ago, it’s deciding that you are ready and getting the support to make that choice now rather than continuing to wait. I think we all need support to navigate the challenges, the internal twists and turns that really successful people have to navigate, the doubt, the resistance, the uncertainty, the burnout, the overwhelm all those things. And I know you’ve talked about the growth mindset rather than the fixed mindset. So it’s the being able to believe that I can change and in fact, recognize that change is my natural state of being. So I do offer a free training once a quarter that helps people clarify their vision and their blocks and called the Visionista’s Gateway. And that’s a great place for people to start. And, and also that little quiz I mentioned, which they can find on my website. Are you ready to make your lifelong dream come true? Really quick. And, and I have some specific suggestions that for each of the people, each of the results that might come up about how they can take those next steps.
Thuy: Thank you for those insights. No wonder why you mentioned about the fact that the journey will take a lifetime, in fact. About your quiz and your different programs, where can people find more if they want to go deeper into their exploration?
Katherine: Yes. Well, thank you for asking. I would really recommend that people go to… I have two websites. Probably the one to go to first is katherinerobertson.com, and I’m sure you’ll give them the spelling there. And the other is just wheelofcreativity.com, where you can get more information about the wheel and some of the programs that I offer as well. The quiz is on both sides. Katherine Robertson is the place to start.
Thuy: This was episode 46 of Get on Your Quest. How are you feeling? Are you now committed to taking a few minutes a day or a week to look more strategically at your life? Start with blocking a few minutes in your calendar to cultivate self awareness and to go through the different exercises that Katherine suggested. If you are interested in knowing more about her work, go to the show notes related to this episode and check the links to her website. And if you found this episode helpful, don’t hesitate to leave a review on Apple Podcasts and to share this episode with your friends. Until next time, don’t forget to take a break from your busy life and listen to your inner voice. It’s never too late to start creating the changes that matter to you.