We are at an inflection point. The challenges of our time result in large part from a 20th Century mindset, which we have outgrown. The dominant mindset today places us as separate and above the world, and condones extracting from nature and exploiting one another to advance. We are only now beginning to acknowledge the unintended consequences of living disembodied from nature as well as from ourselves, yet our efforts to find more sustainable approaches still remain situated within the current mindset. Creative States supports creative practitioners who are helping us shift to a flourishing mindset by exploring more embodied ways of perceiving the world around us and motivating change.
Our modern mindset finds its origins in Rationalism. The birth of scientific analysis replaced Western religions as the dominant means by which many make sense of the modern world. In different permutations across time —from the Enlightenment to Industrialization and the Technological Revolution—we‘ve sought to break down, quantify, objectify, commodify and control everything around us. We favor the material over the mystical; thought over feeling; logic at the expense of bodily intelligence, and we increasingly encounter life with a technical lens. This mechanistic worldview fundamentally separates our rational minds from our sensing selves and leads us to live as if we have a body, when in fact we are a body with varied and vital forms of perception. Honed across millennia, our felt sense receives cues from our environment that help us viscerally experience the world as relational instead of rational. When we value our felt sense, we no longer act as separate and sovereign in an inanimate world, but as co-creators of a living one.
Our modern mindset measures success by individual gain. What if instead, it were measured by communal generosity? The marketplace thrives on keeping the world in a perpetual loop of desire and productivity, selling a narrative that growing personal possessions and influence will bring us fulfillment. To fuel the race, companies often appeal to our feelings of insecurity and inadequacy to shape what we buy, how we project ourselves and what we’re motivated to achieve. This individualistic worldview breeds an increasingly pervasive state of self-involvement, and a culture inclined toward calling out instead of calling forward questions that ask if what we’re creating will actually help us flourish. A flourishing mindset focuses less on what we might get and more on what we can give to the world. It shifts our motivations from selfish to generous. When we encourage generous feeling states, we help people pull out of themselves to enliven more expansive, attentive and collaborative spaces between us.
The Flourishing Project explores how designing for our relational felt sense and generous feeling states can seed the shift to a flourishing mindset. Through grants, commissions, conversations and collaborations, we support the emerging work of creative practitioners who model this approach and offer new proposals for embodied ways of perceiving the world and motivating change from generosity and generativity.
Maren Maier is a design strategist, educator and writer. She serves as the Human Insight Lead at CoCreative Consulting and professor in the Design Management and Arts and Cultural Management programs at Pratt Institute School of Art. She has supported systems change initiatives and workshops for the UN, the G20, Gates Foundation, The California Endowment, Ashoka and Skoll Foundation among others. Her work is featured in Smarter NYC: How City Agencies Innovate, and in Leading as if Life Matters: An Invitation to Attend a Future of Our Own Making. She is a graduate of Columbia University and Pratt Institute and currently lives in Germany.
Kimberlie Birks is an art and design writer. Her work has been featured on CNN.com and in publications such as Dwell, Domus, and Metropolis. Her book, “Design for Children”, is a century-wide survey of beautiful design for children, published by Phaidon. She chairs the advisory board for the Museum of 21st Century Design. She is a graduate of Brown University, received a master’s degree as a Silas H. Rhodes Scholar in Design Criticism from the School of Visual Arts in New York, and has a certificate in Art Galleries, Museums and Curating from the Sotheby’s Institute in London. She lives in New York.