Why Your Creativity Is Being Crippled By An Outdated, Overworked OS

We may be humans and not personal computers, but nevertheless the internal Operating System (OS) we each run ultimately decides how creative, adventurous and successful we feel our creative lives are.

What do we mean by your OS??

If your mind itself is the computer or the hardware, then the contents of your mind – all your thoughts and beliefs – is the Operating System.

If you’re trying to run cutting edge, complex, incredibly creative software, and you want your computer to be performing at its best, then having an overloaded OS full of outdated and fragmented files is going to cripple its ability to function well.

It’d be like trying to run a brand new computer with an OS from 10, 15, even 20 years ago. The weakest link is not the lightning fast processor, the vast expanses of memory or the retina quality graphics card. It’s the creaky, limited OS.

image: Stephen Mitchell

Before we disappear into too much geek speak, let’s look at a simple real life example of what I mean.

I’ve been teaching salsa for about two and a half years or so. I currently teach four lessons a week, and have done at least three a week for a long while, so I get a fair amount of experience.

But when someone new asks me about how long I’ve been teaching salsa, there’s a part of me that thinks: “Oh, you mean ME? Well I’m not REALLY a salsa teacher, I just sort of turn up and show people roughly how to do a few moves and hope they get it.”

Or, worse still, I look around to see if there’s a “proper” salsa teacher behind me that the stranger was directing their questions at.

My own Operating System in this area is still stuck in a previous era maybe four or five years ago when I hadn’t even danced a step of salsa, and never dreamed I’d ever dance it, let alone teach it and be good at it.

My beliefs haven’t caught up with the reality.

If I could indulge in another personal example. I went through a difficult emotional time in my late teens, and had a few issues with eating, and especially eating publicly. That was literally decades ago.

But even now, if I’m asked to dinner with a group of people, I occasionally briefly revert back to the old me of my late teens and think “I can’t possibly eat in public, I have issues with eating, didn’t you know?”

Again it’s a broken, outdated old file in my OS that still sometimes influences my current thinking and beliefs. It’s not the current reality, which is that I love cooking and eating and regularly enjoying eating out with others,

Can you think of similar examples in your own life? Where what you believe about yourself is outdated and redundant, but still casting a strong influence over what you do (or what you don’t even attempt to do)?

Specifically, in the areas of creating, are there beliefs you hold that simply aren’t relevant and true any more?

For example, despite the fact that you’ve written thousands of words this year already, you still don’t think you’re a writer? Or, even though you’re an active photographer who’s regularly approached for commissioned work , you still don’t think you’re a “proper” photographer?

Start a page in a notebook and write down all your outdated thoughts and beliefs that just aren’t true anymore (and maybe never were anyway!).

Add to it over the next few weeks as other thoughts come to you. You’ll be surprised just how much old junk we all carry around in our heads that limits our actions and our creativity.

Each time you identify an outdated belief, ask yourself what you really believe now in that area. And if that belief isn’t strong, or positive enough, then write out a new one to use instead.

It’s time you updated your OS. That amazing computer that is your creative mind deserves nothing less than the best!

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10 thoughts on “Why Your Creativity Is Being Crippled By An Outdated, Overworked OS”

  1. Yes, it happens to us without being aware of it. I’ve been subconsciously thinking that I’m “not really” an artist who produces on a regular basis like others.
    The other day, for the first time, I counted up my inventory of paintings spread around my house:
    I had a paradigm shift on the spot.


  2. That’s a brilliant example DJ!

    Having a fairly regular review of exactly what you’ve created every 3 or 6 months always reveals much more than you remembered.


  3. Awesome post. So true. I’ve switched careers a lot and was always someone who didn’t want to be boxed in by “what I do” but with that comes a lot of doubt about “do I really do anything well?” or am I a dabbler. But, once the junk gets cleared out and the OS upgraded, I do feel at times like a woman of all trades. It’s worth remembering that our creativity can both hinder us and save us.


    1. Hi Katie,

      I think this is something we can easily get caught up in, because we are good at a number of things, we struggle to “define” ourselves, and we wonder if it would be better to have one single passion that we dedicate our lives to, rather than a handful of different, evolving ones. There’s so much written about “finding your passion” that if we haven’t found this one thing we can feel like we’re the only person in the world who hasn’t and there’s something wrong with us for actually having a number of passions.

      I wrote an article recently about this – the golden threads that run through our lives, even with different projects and areas of our lives, these threads and themes are common to many.

      “Unbreakable, golden threads, that weave in and out of your life (and have done for as long as you can remember) and reveal to you common themes and motivations, and make you feel like this is the really important stuff when you’re involved in them.”

      The Unbreakable Golden Threads Of Your Life

      Thanks for your comments. 🙂


  4. Yes, the “old junk” really does hold us back. It’s outdated, hurtful and inaccurate causing a huge block to the wonderful creativity that’s bursting at the seams to get out.

    Recognizing how wrong the old system is for us is a big step towards moving into a satisfying, creative flow.

    I relate to the eating issues you had. I developed mine as a child and while my mother insisted it was a passing phase, it took 30 years to conquer! But still echoes as though it was my current reality. Letting go of the “old junk” is a necessity to progress, but not an easy task.

    Your analogies really put things into perspective! Thanks.


  5. Hi Diane,

    I like that expression – “old junk”. And I agree that recognising our limiting thoughts and beliefs is always the first step to moving on to new ones that will better support our creativity.

    I still have the occasional flash back to old thoughts and patterns re eating. But if we look at what we do today, compared with what we couldn’t do 1 or 3 or 5 or 10 years ago, we can see how far we’ve come and be rightly proud.

    Thanks for your thoughts,



  6. Great piece, Dan, with — as others have said — lots of truth in it. I think it takes a while for our mental picture of ourself to catch up with reality. I lost quite a bit of weight in my late teens (I’m mid-twenties now) and I still have moments when I look in the mirror and I’m surprised that I’m not fat…!


  7. Thanks Ali, that’s a great example, because even though it’s something obvious and physical for you to see, your mind still sometimes returns to the old mental picture like you say.

    Like I said above, by having a regular check in with ourselves, we can see how much we’ve done, and how well we’re doing, right now.


  8. Thanks for a great post, Dan. It served a much needed reminder that I need to look at what I’ve achieved so far this year and update my mental OS. Writing output could always be more, I suppose, but it could be a lot less, too. Why is it so easy to focus on the stuff I didn’t get done instead of looking at what I did actually write?


    1. Ah it’s the donut and the hole situation. If we’re given a ring donut, many of us, instead of enjoying the donut, complain that there’s a whole in the middle that could’ve been more donut! I wrote a post about this a little while back:

      The Danger Of Disregarding Delicious Donuts

      There’s always more we could’ve done. Once we accept that of all the creative ideas we have in our lifetimes – even if we devoted every moment to them and never ate or slept – we’d still only have the time and energy to develop a tiny fraction of them. Coming to terms with that makes it much easier to focus on giving our full attention to one idea at a time, and making it as great as we can.

      Thanks Sonya for stopping by, and your comments.


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