One of my rallying cries for Ungated is to “create things no one else but you could.” I earnestly believe we all have creative gifts buried within us, along with perspectives no other human holds. Further, I believe our individual lives, along with the lives of those around us, would be richer and more connected if we shared our gifts more fully.

But alas, this is another area where The Pattern holds us back and does untold damage. When we’re caught up in Pattern ideology, we don’t trust ourselves. Instead, we trust the Experts and their Best Practices, and begin conforming our creative output, and our lives more generally, into prescribed, pre-packaged boxes. We never strive to write the book, or make the video, that no one else but us could. We do it the way we’re told, the way everyone else is doing it.

In Jungian terms, individuation is the process of becoming the person only you can be. It’s the process of fully realizing your unique personhood, expressing your gifts, and developing a sense of wholeness, meaning, and connectedness. In many ways, this is what The Forest is all about. But I’ve also started using the phrase Creative Individuation to refer to the process of breaking The Pattern and doing work that no one else but us could.

I'll be sharing way more about Creative Individuation in the months to come, but for now, let's explore a few essential principles.

Creative Individuation is a long-term process. It’s not something where you just snap your fingers and wham, you’re magically doing differentiated and unmistakably human work. If, like me, all you’ve ever really known is operating from Best Practices instead of self-trust, it’s going to take time. Probably a lot of time. Three years ago, there’s no way in hell I’d be able to write the way I am today. Back then, I was stiff, rigid, locked in old stories about who I thought I should be. What I'm doing now is the result of many tiny steps beyond my comfort zone. They add up. One by one.

Creative Individuation is more about subtraction than addition. Much of what leads to inauthentic work is this idea that we have to be different than we are. The world is constantly telling us to wear ever more complex, strategic masks. In a world dominated by The Pattern, we're always finding new ways of performing, new things to add. Creative Individuation, by contrast, is mostly about subtracting. It's about stripping away the stories in our head about who we think we should be, and what we think we should do. Once we've peeled back the layers accrued over decades, what we're left with is essencesourceraw aliveness. When we begin trusting that essence, and channeling it into everything we do, we're left with work that is uniquely our own.

Lastly, Creative Individuation is downstream of the more traditional definition of individuation. The more I begin to trust myself in all other areas of my life—such as my relationships, fitness and food, spirituality, etc—the more that self-trust begins spilling into my creative work. All of these processes are interconnected. And in fact, I suspect if we focus too much energy on the direct goal of differentiating our creative work, we actually undermine the goal. More and more, I believe Creative Individuation is best approached indirectly, as a byproduct of cultivating a sense of wholeness and aliveness throughout our entire life.

I've got so much more I want to say about this whole process, but my day is jam-packed with coaching calls and I'm out of time. But for now, I'll leave you with a juicy snippet from this famous interview with Bruce Lee. Start it up at the 11:37 mark, and enjoy.