Think Outside Your Box

I was doing some research at work the other day, and I came across a blog post with the most peculiar message.

It was about how the author (an architect) takes great pride in his drawings, and views them as an opportunity to express his "artistic" side.  

I scoffed.  

Technical construction drawings are the farthest thing I can think of from artistic or creative expression.

But his words kept nagging at me, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that he is RIGHT.  

I may have been making a huge mistake in my life by wishing and waiting for an opportunity to be creative, rather than turning what I'm ALREADY DOING into that very opportunity!

I have a very narrow idea of creativity in my mind.  For me, it consists of writing, creating art (i.e. painting, drawing, making cakes, sculpting, etc.), any kind of crafting, jewelry making, decorating and party planning.  I don't really branch out much beyond those things.

But creativity can be SO MUCH MORE.

Dan and I were talking the other day about creativity for men.  He was arguing that guys sometimes express themselves differently than women, but it is creative expression none-the-less.  For example, a guy who spends his free time re-building an engine may view that as a highly creative endeavor.  I personally view it as the worst kind of torture, but that's just me.  Different strokes for different folks.  Or what about the way that Dan tricks out his truck and boat.  Or the hours he spends organizing his fishing tackle.  That looks like a real snooze-fest to me, but he is honoring the very deepest parts of himself when he engages in these activities.  He is painstakingly caring for a dream and a vision that he has for himself.  He is devoting time and attention and effort to his heart's desires, and he is practicing self love by allowing himself to enjoy something so thoroughly.  If that isn't creativity then I don't know what is.   

I had a conversation with a structural engineer this week about the various ways that we could attach a guardrail to the edge of a concrete wall.  It was eye-opening to see how he thought through creative solutions to the problem at hand.  He was passionate about steel and concrete, and thrilled when we came up with the simplest, cleanest and most cost effective solution.  I never thought about structural design as an expression of creativity until that moment, but it IS.  Or at least it CAN BE.

Any time you are engaging the deepest parts of yourself and acknowledging your true interests and passions:  that's creativity.

Any time you are making connections between things in your world, putting them together in new and interesting ways (whether it's physical objects or ideas):  that's creativity.

Any time you are actively engaging a problem and developing a solution:  that's creativity.

Any time you are figuring things out on your own, rather than waiting around for someone else to do it for you:  that's creativity.

Any time you are making time and space in your life to do the thing that your soul longs to do:  that's creativity.

Creativity is using the brain that God gave you.  It's fully engaging with what you are doing, and doing it to the best of your ability.  It's looking at a problem and allowing yourself to think outside of the box for the solution.

Yes, creativity can be expressed through art and music and writing, but it can also be expressed in the way you live your life.  Creative Living.  This is how you engage with the world; how you do things, how you pay attention, how you interact, how you carry yourself, WHO YOU ARE.

I worked at Red Lobster for a number of years back in college, and I will never forget one particularly busy day when my sister and I were on dessert duty together.  I was slinging key-lime pie and cheesecake like a mad woman, some of my plates looked like piles of sugary wreckage.  But my sister was carefully and lovingly creating each dessert, decorating every plate like she was freaking Martha Stewart.  At one point, the manager came over, looked at my sister's work, and demanded to know who had created that dessert.  We looked at each other in alarm.  "I did" my sister said timidly.  "Good work!."  the manager barked and turned on her heel in the other direction.  

That's creativity.  Taking any task you are given or situation you encounter, and putting your heart into it - owning it and using all of who you are to accomplish the task.

"How you do anything is how you do everything."

So the good news it:  we have no excuse to not engage our creativity on a regular basis.  We don't have to wait around until we have a week off of work to devote to our creativity.  We can  be creative NOW, with whatever we find ourselves doing.

When I think about my career in terms of this new idea of creativity, what I start to realize is maybe the key to a fulfilling career lies in finding ways to combine elements of the things that your soul longs to do.  

I woke up this morning with an overwhelming desire to do graphic design.  There is something about organizing words and images that makes me feel alive.  And even though I haven't done much graphic design since college, it is still there, as much a part of who I am as the fact that I work every day as an architect now.

I've been watching the Great British Baking Challenge this week, and watching those contestants lovingly baking pies and pastries stirs up a lot of the same emotions in me as graphic design does... it's another part of who I am.  I LOVE to bake, my soul longs to do it sometimes.  

So, while my role at work is an architect, that doesn't mean that I can't approach my job duties with some creativity and identify ways to incorporate my passions into that.  I can utilize my design skills, my intuitive knack for organizing and laying out images and words, my love of baking (ok, maybe baking is a stretch but you see where I'm going with this).

We need to figure out ways to bring ALL of who we are to whatever we are doing.  I've been guilty of keeping various parts of myself separate, I get into "technical" mode, or "creative" mode, and neglect to utilize the whole of my abilities.  But creative living requires us to bring all of who we are to everything we do.  Nothing less will suffice.  That is what we are called to do.  No one else on earth has the same perspective, the same background and passions and point of view and ideas that I have, or that you have, and no one ever will.  It is up to each of us to share our passions and talents and ideas with the world, or else they will go to waste.  And what a terrible shame that would be.  

What about you?  How can you approach what you are already doing in a more creative way?

Let me know in the comments.  I'd love to hear from you!

Till next time,


© Haley McManigal 2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Haley McManigal and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo credit:  Vitalii Shastun | 



Brownie Uniforms and Limiting Beliefs

I started a new job a couple of years ago, which turned out to be the perfect opportunity to update my wardrobe.  Since some of the clothes I was wearing at that time had survived since college and maybe even high school, Dan agreed wholeheartedly with this idea, so we went shopping.  We shopped for hours.  I selected a huge pile of slacks and suits and blouses and sweaters to try on.  After seeing a few outfits, Dan asked "Honey, why didn't you pick any dresses or skirts?"  

I stared at him as if he had two heads.  "Um, because I have never worn dresses or skirts to school or work."  I said matter-of-factly.  "Well maybe you should start" he shot back.  I glared at him.  Apparently he did not remember the story.

Yes.  There is a reason that I did not wear dresses or skirts to school or work for nearly 20 years.  And a darn good one.

When I was in elementary school, I was in a Brownie troop.  Brownies are like junior Girl Scouts or something.  They get together in troops and do fun stuff.

I don't remember much about being a Brownie, except for the God-awful brown uniform that I had to wear on meeting days. The uniform consisted of a brown jumpsuit/dress, a button up shirt and necktie, and a sash to display all of your badges or "flair".  I despised this brown uniform - not because I didn't like being a Brownie, but because it was uncomfortable.  And I had to wear tights with the uniform, and most of my tights were about two sizes too small, which intensified the situation.  It was just not a pleasant experience.

I will never forget one particular day when I wore my Brownie uniform to school.  It was a beautiful, sunny day in 1986.  I was in first grade.  I distinctly remember being stressed out all morning during class, worried about how I was going to play on the playground at recess in a SKIRT. It was awkward and uncomfortable, and I didn't know what to do about it.  

When recess finally rolled around, I decided to suck it up and go about my business as usual.  I loved the slide, so I went for it.  I climbed up to the top, swung my legs over onto the big metal chute, grabbed the rails, and pushed myself off.  Immediately, I heard a loud squeaking noise, and then I felt the burn.  My heart sank and my face flushed as I realized what had happened:  my brown polyester Brownie skirt had slid up, while my too-small white tights had rolled down in the opposite direction, leaving my bare butt in contact with the slide.  As I hobbled off the bottom of the slide, wincing from the pain, pulling down my skirt, and trying to re-gain my composure, I vowed through gritted teeth to never wear that stupid Brownie uniform again.

That dreadful day scarred me so much that it also marked the last time that I would wear a skirt or a dress to school or work for nearly two decades.  It just wasn't worth the risk.  

As I tell this story, I realize that it sounds dramatic and a bit ridiculous to let one tiny little incident on the slide in first grade keep me from enjoying the simple pleasure of wearing skirts and dresses for most of my life.  Yes, it IS ridiculous to allow silly little incidents from our past to influence how we behave years later.  But WE ALL DO IT.  

We all allow experiences from our past to shape our ideas and our opinions and beliefs about this world and our experience of it.  We all allow past experiences  to shadow how we see ourselves and others.  We all had difficult or embarrassing or overwhelming experiences in childhood that we weren't equipped to handle properly or understand clearly.  And we all did the best we could to deal with them and move on with our lives.  But things are different now.  We don't have to face the dangers of the playground anymore, so why are we still protecting ourselves from them? 

But sometimes these limiting beliefs and the experience that inspired them are difficult for us to see.  Sometimes, we are so identified with them, and so accustomed to behaving a certain way because of them that we don't even know they are there.  Sometimes it takes someone else to help us see them.  Sometimes they create so much pain and suffering that we go in search of them, we learn to dig deep and uncover them as we are ready and able.

And when we are ready, we begin to ask ourselves what is really going on here?  Why do I react in that same way every time X happens?  Why do I avoid Y at all costs?  Why do I get angry every time someone brings up Z?  We start to notice patterns and automatic behaviors that we had never been aware of before.  We start to see how we've been reacting to a pre-conceived idea of a certain situation all these years, instead of being present in the reality of the situation and reacting accordingly.  And this awareness helps us grow.  It helps us to stop the next time we are in the situation, and change our behavior.  It helps us to see what is really happening, what the reality of a situation is, rather than what we've been conditioned to experience.  

And as we stay with this long enough, and look at it closely enough, we usually discover that a single event from our past has been influencing our decisions and behaviors today.  And we realize that we have the power to challenge these long-held beliefs.  We have the power to look at each of them, shine the light of awareness into them and see what they are all about, what they are trying to tell us.  

Sadly, because of that one unfortunate experience on the playground, I didn't allow myself the pleasure of wearing skirts, which I have recently discovered has numerous benefits.  First and foremost, they are COMFORTABLE.  (given you have the proper undergarments, of course).  Secondly, they make  me feel feminine and ladylike, and of course, thirdly,  they are super convenient, just slip one on and go.  Also, they instantly diversified my stale wardrobe.   I tripled my outfit selections just by adding a few skirts and dresses in the mix.

It's sad to think about all the years that we missed out on because of our blind beliefs.  But that should motivate us to look closely to see what else we may be missing out on due to other misinformed and limiting beliefs.  It's our job as humans to evolve and learn and grow in awareness, and it we commit to living life to the fullest, our limiting beliefs will reveal themselves to us when we are ready to see them.  We just have to keep the faith and stay the course.

What limiting beliefs are you holding onto that are no longer serving you?  What painful experiences from your past may be influencing how you behave today? Please share your thoughts in the comments, I'd love to hear from you!

Till next time,


© Haley McManigal 2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Haley McManigal and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo credit:  ID 384018 © Merilee Voth |

Here's What To Do When You Have No Idea What Will Make You Happy

I think about happiness a lot.  I wonder what it really is.  I wonder if I'm actually very happy and I just don't know it.  I wonder if any thing "out there" will make me any happier than I already am.  I wonder if making changes in my life will result in more or less happiness.  One of the strangest things that I've noticed about happiness is that I'm usually happiest when I'm not thinking about being happy.  I'm happy when I'm in the moment, when I'm living my life to the fullest, and not analyzing or brooding over whether I am happy or not.  

I read something about happiness yesterday that really struck me.

It was an article by Brianna Wiest at Soul Anatomy about emotionally intelligent people and things that they DON'T do.  

"They don't assume to know what it is that will make them truly happy.  Being that our only frame of reference at any given time is what's happened in the past, we actually have no means to determine what would make us truly happy, as opposed to just feeling "saved" from whatever we disliked about our past experiences.  In understanding this, they open themselves up to any experience that their life evolves toward, knowing there are equal parts good and bad in anything"

Just think about that for a minute...  How many of us are out there, frantically searching for what will finally, once and for all make us TRULY happy.  I know I've been guilty of that in my life.  But looking at it this way opens up a new way of thinking:  if we have absolutely no way of knowing what will truly make us happy, then the only sane option is to just embrace where we are and see where that takes us.  Wow, this takes the pressure off, doesn't it?

This week has been a roller-coaster of a ride for me.  I've been doubting and questioning lots of things, wondering what direction to go, what to focus on.  I've set sky-high expectations for myself and others that can only lead to disappointment.  But I'm realizing that all of the analyzing and planning I've been doing is totally and completely pointless and ridiculous, and all I really need to do is embrace where I am, and fully engaging with what I am doing.  Just DO and stop THINKING about the doing.    

How enlightening to think  "there are equal parts good and bad in anything".  To me, this means that one of the most important things that we can do in this life is cultivate our ability to find and focus on the good in any situation.  The negatives will always be there, no matter what changes we make or different things we try.  We just have to learn to Re-Frame a situation or circumstance to be able to see the positive.

What about you?  How do you define happiness?  Are you able to find and focus on the positive in any situation?  Let me know in the comments, I'd love to hear from you!

Till Next time,


© Haley McManigal 2015

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Haley McManigal and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Pre-Birthday Mindfulness

With my 35th birthday on the horizon, I can't help but have some frantic thoughts that I'm not where I thought I might be by this point in my life.  These have been creeping up on  me over the past few weeks, causing some unwelcome stress and anxiety.  

I finally had to stop and ask myself:  why can't I just appreciate where I am in life RIGHT NOW?  Why do I always have to ruin the present moment by worrying about the future?

I'm notorious for this.  When I was single, I was fixated on finding Mr. Right.  When I was in school, I couldn't wait to have a job.  When I lived in an apartment, I was obsessed with buying a house.  When I didn't have a job, I was desperately trying to find one rather than enjoying that precious and rare opportunity.  And now that I'm working full-time again, I'd give anything to have an extended vacation.  When will I learn that things in life come and go in their own time, and I must not worry myself with changing them.  My job is to LIVE in the PRESENT, and experience each individual moment to its fullest potential.  But how can I do this if I'm constantly waiting and working for the next step??  

Reminds me of this beautiful quote by Joseph Conrad:  

"our weary eyes looking still, looking always, looking anxiously for something out of life, that while it is expected is already gone - has passed unseen, in a sigh, in a flash - together with the youth, with the strength, with the romance of illusions." 

I don't want to miss the good stuff that is right under my nose.  I don't want to wish away my life looking toward a better tomorrow.  I want to appreciate where I am now, and know that everything is constantly changing, and I will reach the next step when the time is right.  I want to accept and embrace my current circumstances, and bloom where I am planted.  I want to remember and embrace what Thoreau said:  

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”

So, bring on 35.  I'm ready to embrace and enjoy every minute of it!

Till next time,


© Haley McManigal 2015

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Haley McManigal and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo credit:  © Rcmathiraj | - Birthday Candles Photo