Keeping it human: A guide to thriving in the digital era.

Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Courtesy The Art Institute of Chicago/Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection

In the digital age, technology has transformed the way we live, work, and communicate, shaping the world in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few decades ago. Life has become goal-oriented, success is measured by achievement of specific objectives, whether it’s personal or professional aspirations. From getting fit, starting a new business, to achieving financial stability, having a clear and well-defined goal provides direction and a sense of purpose to stay motivated and focused on our desired outcomes, and sometimes, the outcome only. 

While achieving goals is undoubtedly important, we tend to forget that it’s equally vital to engage in activities we really enjoy doing for no particular reason. We definitely forget that by embracing the process and allowing ourselves to be fully present in the moment, we open ourselves up to new experiences and ideas that can enhance not only our overall well-being but also creativity. 

The comparison of the two opposite sides of our journeys doesn’t necessarily imply that one is better than the other, but it definitely says that the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. 

Frankly, there is no such thing as “no particular reason”, there always is a reason in anything you do, any random activity you are engaged in, that is not directly connected to your professional endeavours, has a point. The reason might not be obvious at the moment, but it always makes complete sense at some point in life. 

The rise of the AI, the ChatGPT explosion in the world is causing a lot of anxiety among people potentially being out of work at some point in the near future. I genuinely believe that the origin of anxiety is not the rise of AI in our lives, but the secret conscious awareness that we have become very detached from our own creative thinking, which, we all know, is bound to be the survival skill of the near future. 

Let’s see what we can do to awaken our own creative potential in a machine-driven world. 

Rejoice in the process.

Engage in something because you truly enjoy doing it, for no apparent reason, no deadlines, no outcome, no pressure. Do it for the sake of pure joy, fun and love. The best way to do it is to get a hobby and, even better, a hobby that is in the opposite spectrum of your professional occupation. 

Leonardo da Vinci played the flute. Darwin was a passionate gardener, Virginia Woold was an enthusiastic photographer, Picasso wrote poems, Steve Jobs was into calligraphy and meditation. Pick something, anything, that makes you feel joyous and engage with it for a long period of time. You never know where it will take you, how it will impact your career path, what new opportunities the intersection of the two different occupations will open for you. 

Imagine that you know nothing.

Approach everything with curiosity, rather than logic or knowledge, in other words, awaken your inner child. Look at everything as if you see it for the first time. This mindset will not only enhance your utter experience of life, but, chances are, it might make you a better person: good listener, engaged communicator and overall, an empathetic human. Learn to notice details and get absorbed in them. Still life drawing would help a great deal with that. It reinforces you to actually sit and look at the object you are drawing for a long time, as a result you can’t help but notice the details you would have missed otherwise. 

Read fiction. 

In this fast-paced world, we not only want to achieve our goals efficiently, but we want to achieve them fast. And, of course, in today’s world there is no shortage of the type of books that allure us to “getting there fast”. (The secret about these kinds of books is that while some of them are very useful, others are the repetition of the same concepts, presented from different perspectives and none of them will get you there as fast as you imagine.) I’m not saying you should give up reading for learning a particular skill, but I encourage you to keep the balance and read fiction (secretly whispering “Reread the classics!”

Storytelling is crucial for human existence. We communicate with stories, we learn through stories, we make sense of the world with stories, we imagine and visualise with stories. Imagination is vital, and so is storytelling. We keep speaking about the importance of empathy in the era of AI, but can we also assume that the possible decline in empathy is due to reading less fiction? Fiction provides an opportunity to experience different perspectives, gain deeper understanding of others, explore new worlds and develop empathy. As a bonus point, exposing yourself to different ideas and perspectives will inspire new ideas and ways of thinking, which is the core creative thinking. 

Allow yourself to be spontaneous. 

My daughter would cover her hands in water colour and ask me to hi-five her saying “oh, come on, it’s only just a paint”. Being spontaneous is about being brave, being Ok with not knowing or not trying to control everything. It’s about being open to new experiences, broadening your own horizons, being joyous and excited about life. The fun bit about accumulated spontaneity is that it helps you grow as an individual. 

Spontaneity creates better relationships. You are better connected with people you are spontaneous with, whether it’s hi-fiving a child with coloured hands or jumping in a juice muddy puddle, the benefits of these little moments of pure joy is going to be a lot more impactful, than you can ever imagine. 

And, keep in mind, creativity thrives in moments of spontaneity, where it’s all about exploration, experimentation and fun. 

Make new friends. 

I have heard from many people that as we grow older, it becomes a lot more difficult to make new friends. I genuinely believe it has nothing to do with age and everything to do with a mindset. Meeting people is not only fun, but it’s fundamentally useful for a number of practical reasons. We are a lot more social than we are aware of and emotional support, sense of belonging and genuine connections are vitally important for our overall well-being. Befriending people from different backgrounds and experiences enhances our own world outlook, broadens our knowledge and understanding of the world. More importantly than that, it often challenges us to step out of our comfort zones, try new things, which is the secret fuel of creativity. 

So, while living in a machine-driven world can be intimidating, as long as we remain human with the capacity for connection, creativity, and empathy, our lives will always have a purpose and the world will always be a better place.