For everything there is a seasoning

You will no doubt be aware of the fable of the princess who professed to loving her father as much as she loved, not gold or diamonds, but simple salt. Only having banished his youngest child and having experienced a life without the flavour-enhancing qualities of salt in food – and existence without the life-enhancing qualities of love – did the king understand the error of his ways.

selective-focus-photo-of-salt-in-glass-jar-3693294I have heard and read a number of people comment on how hard it has been to remain creative during lockdown (quarantine) – and during the subsequent time period of controlled movement. Sometimes this is due to being overtaken by circumstances of loss, often it is due to the stress and uncertainty of the situation. To me, the challenge relates also to the loss of variety, of salt, spice.

Yes, inevitably here I will pause in order to quote 18th-century poet William Cowper’s lines: ‘Variety is the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavour’ (The Task, 1785), the origin of today’s popular saying.

In the same vein, Life coach Tony Robbins proposed six Human Psychological Needs, based on studying ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’. These are
1. Certainty
2. Uncertainty/Variety
3. Significance (feeling of one is of value)
4. Connection/Love
5. Growth
6. Contribution (supporting others)

As Maslow’s hierarchy suggests, we are in a fortunate position if our essential needs of food, water, warmth, and safety are satisfied, and when we have love and companionship. These basics in place, we are able to turn to meeting the higher-level requirements of esteem and self-realisation. For those of us this position, we seek such fulfilment – through expanding our experiences, minds, learning, creativity.

Generally, I am not a big fan of life coaches (a different topic), but Robbins’s six factors, above, seem relatable enough. The first two elements on the list, Certainty and Uncertainty, do appear somewhat contradictory. However, I guess the answer is that we need them both but in different ways – e.g. have a basis of certainty, of predictability, from which we can venture into the world, such as a secure and consistent home life. We also need these qualities at different times. At the start of lockdown, for example, it was all about creating new routines, hanging on to the familiar, looking for assurances. Now many of us are butting at the barn door. Because ultimately, as with so many things, it’s a question of balance.

So back to creativity. Creativity, that is, in a broad sense, using the mind, the imagination to make something new (it doesn’t have to be original), to be absorbed in and fulfilled by a productive activity – writing, painting, knitting, cooking…

The relationship between creativity and variety is a close one. There is the need to stay curious, to enquire, research, to develop a new skill and apply fresh knowledge. New experiences, fresh perspectives, stimulate us. Another psychologist, and a pioneer of the psychological study of creativity, Howard Gruber, studied the lives of famous innovators, to discover what made them tick. He found engagement in a variety of activities to be one of the key characteristics these inventive types had in common (alongside sense of purpose; emotional attachment to their work; and ability to take a ‘big picture’ approach to problems – which I think means not getting bogged down in details).

It’s become a little monotonous…

Personally, I have not been bored these past three months – too busy for that, but there a certain… ennui has descended. A creeping lethargy when it comes to tackling creative tasks, which I think must come from lack of variability in routine, a restriction of experience to this house and the ‘walking-distance locale’ around it. Reading has helped; that can broaden the mind, take us to places new. Finding inspiration in the smaller things around us, the things we’re often too busy to notice, is helpful, too, as I have noted in previous posts (e.g. Extraordinary ordinary; Small world, big picture). But there is an itch now, a restlessness for something new.

It would be churlish to complain about being in lockdown when I have moved through it without harm and without loss. If blandness is my worst problem, then I have been fortunate indeed.

However, I do not mean that this change, this diversity in experience, has to be great. I am happy to be able just to creep out of this shell again to look around again and welcome simple differences. Currently, I am waiting to see if we’re able to go on the holiday we booked to Scotland late July, just for a few days. We have optimistically booked in for several nights camping in August. None of it travelling far, no ‘planes, no faraway lands or castles. Lovely places, though, close to nature, where I can practise a new appreciation for those things I risked taking for granted. Perhaps it will even help regain a sense of creativity…


Some related TED Talks
Tony Robbins: Why we do what we do?
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Flow: The secret to happiness

Spices photo by Marion Botella on Unsplash
Salt photo Castorly Stock on Pexels
Boxes photo by Curology on Unsplash

17 thoughts on “For everything there is a seasoning

  1. Lateral-thinking is a great tool for creativity. Move something over into a different field. Sartphone? Camera+phone+microchip. Intel used to be a worlwide leader in all semi-conductors. They sold all divisions except micro-chips. An Intel client once told they made more money with just their chip than the PC manufacturer did with the whole machine.
    Now Robbins? Interesting. I can see how it relates with Maslow. (Wich in turn relates with Socio-economic levels, but that’s another story…) How do you know about Maslow?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Much as I prefer to work in the public sector, it can be rather averse to lateral, rather than vertical, thinking, even though you might expect universities to be prepared for creative approaches. I think this will need to change with pressure to be competitive. Still, I agree it can be powerful, and nothing to stop us engaging in lateral thinking for problem solving on the quiet. Poor old Maslow seems to come in to every professional development training course going these days! I have to say though, his hierarchy is relevant in change management.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Maslow went out of fashion for a while, then came back. Of course it is not the ultimate truth, but it is a useful analytical tool.
        Public sector now? Interesting? Are you in teaching? (If I may be so bold)
        The thing about lateral thinking is that you can train for it to some extent. E.g. In Ad agencies, they use a creative “ladder” approach. Say a word. (Brand name). say the next word that comes to your mind. Go round the table and so on and so forth. Before you know it, you have dozens of words remotely related to the brand (or the problem). Then you go back, and select the most promising words. And start again…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Theories all come back around. The hierarchy is a useful, basic classification and has clear parallels with other theories of human psychology and development. I used to teach but now am a project manager, essentially. Nothing can stand still any more. I’ll look into the creative ladder approach, thanks for the tip – is that related to stepladder technique?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Teachers are soooo important. Though I like the project manager concept. You have to have a broad perspective, otherwise the project may fail…
            Had to look at the stepladder technique. I’d say they’re not related, the ladder approach was developed much before I believe, and all participants are included from the start. Flows more naturally.


  2. Loved your post – how food can drive behavior – is food for thought – I am also not a big fan of Life Coaches but there is some wisdom in those 6 thoughts

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Robbins puts together a lot of previous thinking, but it does make sense.
      And as Oscar Wilde put it: ‘I hate people who are not serious about meals. It is so shallow of them.’

      Liked by 1 person

      1. lovely words – I love Oscar Wilde witty Aphorisms- thanks for sharing

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Virginia Woolf said,
    “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
    You completely nailed it with this awe inspiring write. Perfect!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great quote – so true. The Bloomsbury Group had a hedonistic relationship with food, as you may expect. There’s a cookbook I have wanted but haven’t been able to justify the cost, ‘The Bloomsbury Cookbook: Recipes for Life, Love and Art’ by Jans Ondaatje Rolls.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Spice is such an interesting topic. It often seems like an extra but some of them, like salt, are about life. I spent time researching how earliest man might have found salt, where the salt pans were, how much salt he got from meat–that sort. Really interesting stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The history of early man is the most fascinating era. To think by what process of experimentation people first dried sea water, dried, roasted, cured, and ground different food stuffs. Olives were around in the bronze age, I believe, but inedible unless cured – who found that out? It’s amazing.


  5. This is so inspiring and it is must needed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for stopping by and long may you enjoy the twin spices of creativity and inspiration.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Maslow forgotten about freedom…


  7. I agree with Victoria, freedom should be added.
    Self isolation didn’t impede my creativity, but that’s because nothing much changed for me – save the lack of quiet hours in the morning.
    And just fyi, I read on a blog today that Scotland is closing the borders with England – they’re almost free of the virus, I think? Not sure, take a look though.


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