In our experience as women, there’s never a shortage of advice and direction about how we should behave. Beyond this, the recommended behaviors center on presumed goals that we’re expected to prioritize based on appropriate or acceptable standards. These imposed values may be regarding lifestyles, marriage, or whether or not to have children and/or careers. Or on a smaller and more petty level, they can invade our personal preferences concerning how we look, what we eat, what we wear…the list is endless. It can be daunting and downright exhausting trying to adhere to current norms in order to be  considered worthy of approval.

The questions become 1) whose consent are we appealing to and 2) why are we placing more importance on another’s approval than our own autonomy and self-esteem? There’s not a single valid reason to place someone else’s values and objectives above our own, if we are self-sufficient adults. In fact, perhaps the most exquisite and enjoyable aspect of our personal freedom is our right to live a life that we create for ourselves, based on our unique desires.

The operative word is create. Even Albert Einstein—one of the most brilliant individuals who ever walked the planet—said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Once we discover the joy of creating the life we want on every level, our awareness of all the possibilities open to us expands. Further, it can never shrink back to that helpless feeling that we don’t have choices. It’s been observed that the most dangerous phrase in the world is, “We’ve always done it that way,” which leaves no room for creativity, including the growth and learning that occur when we use its limitless power.

The sister to creativity is curiosity. A delightful  aspect of doing things creatively is that the results are at least in part a surprise. But a creative approach to life requires the spirit of adventure and this can demand courage, too. It’s been said that, “Courage is like a muscle, the more we flex it, the stronger it gets.” It helps to look at it as all part of the fun.

Lailah Gifty Akila, a scientist and philosopher who wrote Think Great, Be Great observed, “Imagination is a powerful magnet. The power of imagination is attraction of desires.” We create a momentum when we consistently practice using our imagination, which can increase in power exponentially over time. Our creative actions—combined with courage, positivity and love—actually create vibes that attract other like vibrations, as opposed to lower tremors of negativity and fear.  Whether or not you believe in the Law of Attraction, it’s a fact that energy begets more energy. So as activist Bradley Whitford said, “Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen.” And by all means, don’t wait to find out what the crowd is doing.  Create you own path. Therein lies adventure and excitement.

There’s nothing wrong with being a rebel, especially when you’re rebelling against something that doesn’t feel right to you. Besides, doing things that others don’t expect of you can have its own rewards. I love this quote by writer G.K. Chesterton: “I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.” While I’m not advising you to do things out of spite, I am suggesting that you have enough self-regard to  listen to your conscience and follow your own instincts—every time.

When you live a life brimming with creativity, you’ll never be bored. If you do become restless or fatigued, you’ll know how to change things up—a little or a lot. This can mean anything from creating a new recipe for dinner or painting an abstract for that empty wall space to something as consequential as moving to a new city or launching a new business. Creative people are experimental and have a high tolerance for trial and error, which means they’re usually not judgmental or smug. Instead they welcome open-mindedness, constructive ideas and progress. If this sounds like the person you are or the person you’d like to be, creativity is bottled up inside you that needs full expression.

Time is precious and you don’t need anyone’s permission to do what’s right for YOU. Go out there and create the life you want. Set your own objectives and be 100% accountable for meeting them. Then notice your capacity for pleasure and self-esteem rise off those limiting charts that others devise to measure your success. In the words of Anthony Hicks: “To stand on a mountain top, you must first create the mountain.” You don’t need to hesitate a moment to begin.

Mary Kathryn “ M.K.” Jones, Writer