I shared a post last week to kick off a series of posts on the best books I’ve read recently. The Art of Work is all about seeking out encouragement in failure and finding supporters to make your career path more rewarding. If you haven’t already, snag yourself a copy.
This week, we’re taking a turn to a book that’s impacted my own trajectory in all the ways… career, business and life. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown is almost like a guidebook to uncovering your most meaningful life, whatever that may look like.
Through 10 wisdom-filled guideposts, Brown walks you through hurdles you may have encountered or mindsets that may be holding you back to discover exactly how to live courageously and fully.
This book came out nearly 10 years ago, and Brown has written several phenomenal books since. I’ve read almost all of her work, but I can’t help but think this one is her greatest accomplishment.
In fact, after reading it the first time, I wanted so badly to share it with everyone I knew. But I’d marked up the pages with scribbles of notes and underlines and double-circles so vigorously that my heart broke a little at the thought of parting ways with this book that had impacted me so deeply.
I ended up buying a second copy to share with friends. That way, if someone happened to keep it, I wouldn’t be worried about losing all of my notes. To me, that’s the sign of a remarkable book.
Perhaps I’m biased, though, because The Gifts of Imperfection came into my own life at such a pivotal moment. It honestly showed me the way in terms of living well, from improving relationships and cultivating resilience to practicing gratitude and embracing authenticity.
The two guideposts that have stuck with me the most revolve around career and creativity. Essentially, she says a meaningful career and regular creative expression cultivate a meaningful life.
Let’s start with the career bit. Everyone is born with an innate set of skills and talents that no one else has the same degree or combination of… And we all value different things. It’s our job to find work that support our natural talents and values.
When you refine your gifts and share them with others through your work, that creates a sense of purpose and fullness in your life.
Brown writes, “Squandering our gifts brings distress to our lives. As it turns out, it’s not merely benign or ‘too bad’ if we don’t use the gifts that we’ve been given; we pay for it with our emotional and physical well-being.
When we don’t use our talents to cultivate meaningful work, we struggle. We feel disconnected and weighed down by feelings of emptiness, frustration, resentment, shame, disappointment, fear, and even grief.”
So, work isn’t just a way to pay the bills and support your family. Once you figure out your version of meaningful work, it becomes a pathway to a rich, joyful life.
On that note, Brown also dives into the human propensity to create. As someone who’s been a natural creator for my whole life (I love to knit, quilt and draw), it’s always driven me crazy when people compare themselves to me and my creativity.
“I wish I was creative as you! I’m just not a creative person,” my friends have said over and over. It wasn’t until I read this book that I realized why I didn’t enjoy hearing this.
Brown says, “There’s no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t. Unused creativity doesn’t just disappear. It lives within us until it’s expressed, neglected to death, or suffocated by resentment and fear.”
The fact is, creating looks different for everyone, and some people haven’t yet tapped into their own version. While I enjoy making cozy baby sweaters and randomly doodling, you might create better by baking, taking photos, writing poems, decorating or painting.
I shared this book, and specifically this section, with a friend who had remarked she wished she could be more creative. After reading it, she discovered how much creativity she practiced with her kids. Parenting is a complete expression of creativity—she’s constantly coming up with new and interesting ideas for meals, activities and problem solving.
The shift in mindset allowed her to embrace her creativity and find purpose in it, rather than labeling herself as someone not original enough to create. Letting go of comparison and just enjoying the process of creating will allow you to feel the joy in it.
“Creativity, which is the expression of our originality, helps us stay mindful that what we bring to the world is completely original and cannot be compared. And, without comparison, concepts like ahead or behind or best or worst lose their meaning,” Brown writes.
I mean, how GOOD is that to hear? For more mind-blowing realizations and encouragement, I can’t recommend picking up The Gifts of Imperfection enough. It’s a quick read that’s chock-full of everything you didn’t know you absolutely need to hear.