My biggest, everyday goal is improving how I think. To me, everything important stems from thinking habits. This includes careers, romance, friendships, even our chances of winning the lottery. Because we realize playing the lottery is idiotic and our chances are best when they’re zero.

One powerful mental habit I’ve learned before is to spend free time creating, not consuming.

Consumption Takes Away Our Control

The big issue with consumption is it lets other people control or influence where your thoughts go. For example, thoughts built around a popular television show will focus more around it, becoming a limit. Someone who obsesses over Game of Thrones will see life more through the lens of that show.

By extension, that lens will be a limit. It blocks the other lenses they could see life through. A lens that’s more in line with everyone else who watches it, making it less unique. If a potential thought or idea doesn’t relate to that show, people are less likely to acknowledge or accept it. It’s not impossible, but the simple fact it’s less likely is worrisome.

The more someone consumes, the more limits are put on their thought and imagination.

This applies to things far beyond television. It can be consuming too much news online, buying too much clothes, looking for too many “next big things,” and it goes on. So many things to get sucked into that catch a person’s excitement while imposing limits on their thoughts.

I’m not arguing we shouldn’t consume anything. Then we’re trapped in caves, isolated from anything good and bad. While it’d protect from idiotic lottery commercials, that’s (just barely) not worth it.

An Inner Culture of Creation

The answer’s then to have an internal culture that values creation over consumption. That means while someone stills consume, they’re selective about what we consume. Making sure it doesn’t run their life. Looking for quality, value, usefulness, and creativity in what they add to their thoughts.

They see it as fuel for what they make with their own thoughts and hands. Even if what they create isn’t concrete, high quality, or even shareable at all.

All these vary in importance and quality, but the point is the person is creating something unique to themselves.

The biggest benefit is that creating teaches us to discover and set our own mental agendas. While consumption has something else think for us, creation makes us think of our own ideas and goals, even if they’re small. We have to take a small piece of ourselves in the mix of all our experiences and decide what to make with it. So in the process we learn who we are, what we want, and start making little paths to reach it.

The Risk of Creation Beats the Loss of Consumption

I worry this is why some people may purposefully chose to consume instead of create in their lives. Creating always the risk of making something bad. When someone makes something that reflects themselves and it fails, it can seem like their character fails. That can be a huge blow to who we are as people.

Some may want to just avoid that risk, whether it’s a risk of hurting our self-esteem or getting jail time for arson. Regardless of the fact that it’ll keep people from wasting money on idiotic lottery tickets.

The risk to our character is worth the benefits of expressing it.

But avoiding that risk bears a heavy price: not enough creation and too much consumption erodes our identity. When the way we view the world is more limited and uniform, we’re less of ourselves and more of what we consume. The world will always affect parts of our identities. But that shouldn’t affect it the more than how we interpret the world and what we make with those new thoughts.

Creating will always have more work and risk than just consuming it. But when the trade-off is giving others a majority say in who we are, I don’t think it’s ever worth it.

Whether a person creates identity through hobbies, crafts, career projects, daydreams, or a canvass of ripped-up lottery tickets shaped like a demon, it’s still creation. People should always fight for that internal culture of creation.

~ Cheers, Max A