Lisa A. Kramer

Author, Speaker, Theater Artist, Creativity Facilitator

Living Values in Creative Ways

Have you ever thought about what you truly value, and how that relates to decisions you have made in your life? I was recently encouraged to take a values assessment and I was a little suprised by the results.
A chart that displays my top values. In the center yellow circle is "Meaningful Work". Next, in an orange circle are the words compassion and curiosity. In the outer purple circle is Growth and Authenticity.
Where is creativity? It was one of the options that I chose in comparison to other things. For a moment, I thought: Have I been fooling myself all this time?  Who am I to write a book about creativity and collaboration, if its not even one of my top values?

Those doubts only sat with me for a few moments, however, as the list of my values truly resonated. After reflecting on them for a while, I understood.

For you see, I do value creativity as a tool and as an innate ability (or superpower) that too many of us have forgotten we have. I value collaboration as a crucial aspect of solving problems in the world--if we do not learn how to work together, and recognize that we are all connected, then we become a world full of narcissistic assholes who focus only on money and power for themselves. Our current times reflect the danger of allowing that to happen.

However, creativity and collaboration are not the core of me, rather they are the foundation that supports my core. The things that I truly value. Allow me to explain.

Meaningful Work 
When I decided to leave my regular adjunct faculty work 3 years ago, I never thought it would be so difficult to start over and find my next steps. I felt, in my gut, that it was the right thing to do, and I still do. For you see, while I had created some really meaningful programs during my tenure in higher education, I saw those programs being taken away by a broken system. (Three years later, they do not exist--and it was not because I left). 

Now, after facing surprising and unexpected obstacles like the silver in my hair (ageism is a thing) and being considered too educated/experienced/mature/expensive(?) to be hired for pretty much anything, I've realized that I don't want jobs that don't accept me for all that I offer. I don't want a job that simply brings in a paycheck. (Financial stability wasn't one of my highest values). What I truly want is to be doing meaningful work. To be doing my part in making this world a more safe, just, and loving place for everyone, not just certain people.

In some ways, I think my compassion has been both a blessing and a curse. For you see, I truly care about other people, and I want to do everything I can to raise people up. I have always tried to give a hand up to anyone who needs help, whether that means connecting them with someone else, providing free service, or giving money that I can't really afford. I don't regret any of that, of course, but I often find that sometimes compassion is not recipricoted or even paid forward. Not that it should always be reciprocated--that's never my goal. I always hope that compassionate asks will encourage other people to practice compassion as well, but it doesn't always work out that way. In a world where "woke" can be seen as a negative, or people believe that there isn't enough to go around--sometimes compassion bites you in the ass. It won't stop me though, because I value caring for others. 

This didn't surprise me at all, since creativity is intimately connected with compassion and creativity. I love learning about other people, and sharing stories. I am curious about everything in the world--how people express themselves; why problems exist; what are the unthought of solutions. When we look at the world with curiosity, we discover the unexpected, which leads us to create and collaborate in new ways.

There are some people who cringe at the idea of being your "authentic self." What does that even mean, if we are ever-evolving creatures? What does that mean in a world where we often perform differently for different audiences? We all do it. In the age of social media, where we present only what we want people to know to a wide audience of near strangers, is it even possible to be authentic.

My answer is a resounding yes! We are always shifting and changing, but we can choose to be the true to ourselves with all our actions. That, to me is living with authenticity. I have never fully understood hiding behind a pseudonym (unless you are trying to protect yourself) or only posting things that make you look good. That, to me, is not living authentically. So, I try to share the good, the bad, the ugly. Or, if I can't share my authentic self, then I simply don't share. If I don't live true to myself and my dreams, then what am I doing?

This value confused me at first, until I realized that everything I've done has been toward helping people (including myself) grow. I'm not perfect--far from it--and I don't even strive for perfection. Nobody should. However, learning to adapt, shift, and grow into our new selves as we get older, wiser, and the world shifts around us, is a valuable skill to embrace. Watch me grow!

Where does creativity fit?
Creativity and collaboration--the two words and ideas upon which I am attempting to build a career that helps make meaningful change in the world are connected with all of these values.  They require the willingness to be curious, to grow and to learn. They demand a willingness to practice both compassion and empathy. They are ways through which we express our authentic selves. And, for me at least, helping others connect with their innate creative powers, is perhaps the most meaningful work I can ever do.


What do you value, and how does it influence your decisions? 
I'd love to hear from you.