You are a genius but probably don’t know it. Each of is born with a specific gift that exists nowhere else in all of creation. In ancient Rome, it was well understood that everyone had his or her own genius, or tutelary spirit, whose sole purpose is to inspire our lives and guide us to our unique destiny. But this is a wisdom we have forgotten.
Instead, we’re told that genius is miraculously rare (think Leonardo da Vinci or Stephen Hawking) and based on bizarrely high I.Q. In fact, genius has more to do with authenticity, courage, focus, and passion, than it does with psychological testing. Genius comes from the voice of your deepest self – the still small voice within – guiding you forward in mysterious ways that have little to do with conscious will and a lot to do with learning to listen.
What gift are you here to offer the world? No one else can do it for you. Unless you harvest this inherent brilliance, it will die in you as unrealized potential. “(Because) there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique,” as Martha Graham reminds us. “If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it.” This genius has nothing to do with art, probably. There are genius nurses, genius firemen, genius parents, and genius accountants. Genius relates to the how as much as the what. When we bring light to the world – when our actions increase truth, beauty, or love – we know that we’re following our genius.
I see this in students every day. They come to my awakening genius course longing for creative fulfillment. Though outwardly successful, for the most part, well educated, well-meaning people, they describe feeling off the mark when it comes to enjoying their greatest gifts. They long to bring their genius to life; they can hear the muse’s whisper but not the words. I teach them how to listen more closely and how to respond when the message gets clear. It’s a skill I’ve learned through trial and error, through blood, sweat, and many shrinks, over 30 years of being a writer. All you need is creative discontent and determination to wake yourself up from the trance of personal limitation. Here are five essential steps for awakening the genius inside you:
1. GET QUIET
Language is a magnificent gift but can also be a great limitation. Brilliant as the thinking mind is, our intuitive, sensory, non-verbal intelligence is even more powerful. While the logical portion of our brain processes about forty bits of information per second, the nonverbal portion processes about eleven million bits per second. When it comes to creative insight and wisdom, we “know” far more than we think we do. Flashes of creativity tend to arise out of moments of stillness and silence.
2. LOCATE DESIRE
When we get quiet, we become aware of an interior landscape suffused with potential. The lifeblood of this creative landscape is desire. Desire is the vital force that through the green fuse drives the flower. Desire carries the seeds of invention, nourishes the roots of transformation, and enables us to bring forth our unique vision. Many of us never acknowledge the full force of our own desires nor the life-changing wisdom they offer.
3. PRACTICE FOCUS
The world is full of highly creative people filled to the brink with ideas and potential who never bring forth their genius because they don’t practice one-pointed attention. Unable to choose where to place their focus. Convinced that desire will focus itself, they sacrifice prodigious powers of choice, specificity, and immersion, wandering from goal to goal, and wondering why their inherent genius never quite manifests as they hope it will.
4. ACCEPT YOUR GIFT
The sense of being more oneself while doing a particular thing is an indication of meeting your gift. We do not choose our genius, it chooses us. In the same way that we can’t choose whom to love, we can’t dictate our own aptitude. Impulses beyond the mind, located deep in the heart and gut, impel us toward what life wants to give us. This isn’t an effortless process; once we discover our aptitude, it takes hard work to bring what’s inside us to fruition (just as we must work at relationships in order to practice love).
5. BE COURAGEOUS
Fortune favors the brave, but we tend to underestimate the importance of courage to self-realization. Aptitude is just a beginning, a seed of possibility. Without the courage to nurture our gifts, and trust fully our inherent brilliance, we are unlikely to fulfill our potential. Remain loyal to your creative impulses, stand up to your inner saboteurs, risk the unknown (and possible failure), and marshal the nerve to begin again. Leading an authentic life isn’t easy. Living your genius comes at a cost. Saying yes to our deepest desires requires that we say no to others. Like every committed relationship, the marriage to genius is demanding.
It also gives your life its meaning. If you doubt this is true, give these steps a try. They’ve saved my life, creatively, again and again. They not only help to awaken your genius but can also lead to your deepest joy. Genius is your birthright.
Mark Matousek will lead a class at the Open Center called “Awakening Genius: Exploration of Desire and the Creative Life” on January 19. Read more about it here.
By Mark Matousek