As 2020 nears an end and the new year approaches, why not a new you? Color Up, Get Unstuck! We’re used to making New Year’s resolutions, putting new plans in place to improve ourselves, and our lives. And there’s the rub. Waiting for the first of the year, believing it’s a special time to take action, thinking a change has to be a big deal, and making pronouncements about it, risks ending up making little “progress” at all. Thinking that there’s a special time to make change is a framing problem.
In our book, Color Up to Create the Life You Want to Live, we define framing as what happens when you describe and interpret situations in fixed and limiting ways. Believing that big life changes should happen on January 1 is a framing problem. Believing there are just two alternatives is a framing problem. When a situation is framed as having only two options, either this pile or that one, you typically end up with inadequate and often incorrect information. Framing a problem too narrowly means losing out on possibilities of being more flexible and creative—not to mention the opportunity to learn something new or even be surprised completely. Framing a problem in limited ways usually means staying stuck.
What if you saw every decision you make as an opportunity to make change? So instead of waiting around for a special moment to arrive in which you will do a drastic make-over of your life, what if you made every moment special—special in that you can choose to frame the situation differently?
You can choose to always see more than two options. In Color Up, we used the color wheel to literally help you create new choices for your life. We don’t expect you to carry around a color wheel and consult it when you have the opportunity to make a new choice, but it can be a constant reminder for making sure you always have more than two options when making decisions. You can start with always finding a third option, and then you can try to find four, five, six.
Make it a game! It’s a game that will be much more rewarding than vowing to lose five pounds by March. That’s because when you open up your frame, you open up your world. In COLOR Up, you have the opportunity to expand how you view your life dilemmas. Invite more things into your world by opening up your frame.
So what does this mean in practice? The next time you find yourself stuck, trying to make a decision, color up to get unstuck. Come up with at least three ways of approaching the situation. Maybe it’s something as simple as whether to attend a friend’s destination wedding 200 miles away, to let your 10-year-old have the cell phone he’s been wanting, or to attend a holiday party at your in-laws’ house instead of the office party where you know you’ll have fun with co-workers. How many in-betweens of this or that can you come up with? Let’s start with the destination wedding. Can you use it as an opportunity to also visit friends near by? What about not attending the wedding but going to see the newly married couple for another long weekend, when you can all catch up with the frenzy of a wedding as backdrop? Yet a third option--What if you sent a very nice gift that they could use at the site of the wedding? Are they getting married at a mountain resort? How about hiking poles and a picnic lunch? Are they getting married at the beach? Would they like a whale-watching excursion, a day of deep-sea fishing, or a romantic dinner at the beach?
Now what about your son and that cell phone? If you truly believe 10 is too young for a cell phone, stick to your guns and color up to get unstuck. Can you offer alternatives that will move the decision out of either or? Perhaps you let him use your iPad for an hour a day on the weekends. Perhaps your son gets to choose a family activity for the weekends—a Ping-Pong tournament, hiking a mountain you haven’t been up before, or training for a 5-K fun run.
And, if you’re trying to decide between a party at your in-laws or with your co-workers, what about attending a little bit of both events? Can you stop in at both parties? Or do something special with the group whose party you choose not to attend? Invite your in-laws to a nice lunch or afternoon tea. What about sending a nice floral arrangement to your in-laws that will add a nice touch to the holiday party that you won’t be attending? What about inviting your co-workers for a happy hour in February, when the holidays are over and the winter doldrums are back?
Coming up with more than two options, maybe even four or five, is an excellent way of making your life more colorful in all the seasons, in all ways, because you learn to appreciate the wide range of options that are always available in a wider frame. And, in doing so, you are never stuck!
If it’s hard for you to think of more than two options, get a little help from your friends. Ask your spouse to help think of options over coffee at your favorite café or a glass of wine by the fire. Even your kids can be helpful. They will often come up with silly ideas that may not be practical in and of themselves but can lead you to think more imaginatively yourself. So make color up, get unstuck your mantra for the New Year, and you will be happily surprised at how every decision becomes an adventure, an opportunity to create anew.
An open creative mind is primed for inspiration. When seemingly out of the blue
without any conscious effort, your mind is wandering and you happen to come
in contact with the right materials, there is a moment of clarity and an awareness
of possibility. An aha moment of sudden inspiration, a both / and moment, when
intuition and reason come together—perhaps you have enjoyed an equally
wonderful gift of recognition and insight—a reminder that the creative process is not a binary.
Spring reminds us of the limits of binary thinking—only two choices with
nothing in between—because spring is anything but binary.
Spring explodes with abundance, filling in every space with new green.
A tree doesn’t grow one or two leaves; instead it overdoses on leaves.
We don’t just see one flower blooming; we are presented with a wild array
of flowers of every color, height, texture, and fragrance.
Let spring be our model for getting out of and living beyond binary thinking.
As we write in COLOR Up, “While our world seems to be ‘a massive collection
Of opposites,’ in fact, nature knows nothing of black and white. Nature
doesn’t grow moral elephants and immoral ones, true trees and false trees,
correct flowers and incorrect ones. And the opposites that exist in nature—big
and small, ripe and unripe, animate and inanimate—aren’t problems. Neither
state is good as opposed to bad or right as opposed to wrong.
These differences in nature don’t cause bouts of depression and despair,
promote feats of self-righteousness and self-aggrandizement, or breed conflict
and competition. But for humans, it’s different. Almost all the time, we make
daily decisions based on the construction of imagined opposites, and we agonize
about them constantly.” It doesn't have to be this way. As nature let's us know,
the binary is a construction and abundance surrounds our vibrant lives!
When you think about it, women’s movements, feminist movements, have always been about not putting
women—not putting anyone—into boxes and binaries. In the month of March, we celebrate Women's Herstory Month
and gender fluidity.
The earliest definitions of feminism sought equality with men because women and men were seen as very different
creatures. In fact, many questioned whether women had souls because they weren’t sure women were fully human.
That’s because men were seen as having heads for mental creation while women who had wombs for physical
creation. So women’s heads were purely decorative. And of course, rationality was the hallmark of being human,
and because women weren’t rational, they probably weren’t human. And it went from there: every difference between
the sexes was used to see men as superior, with a right to the public sphere, and women as inferior, relegated to
the domestic one. So equality was the starting point for many feminist movements—the need to see women as equally
capable as men, as deserving of the same rights and opportunities.
After you think about it for a while, though, you realize that not only is the issue that women have not been granted
equality with men, but that not all men are equal either. So our definition shifted to something much more in line with
bell hooks: “Feminism is the effort to disrupt the ideology of domination and oppression and to create instead
relationships of self-determination, affirmation, mutuality, and respect.” So it’s not just about women and men but
about ending oppression against all people—women, men, LGBTQ; any race and color and size and shape.
For us, feminism is indeed a movement and it’s also a revolution, an evolutionary process, and a state of mind.
Ultimately, it’s about self-determination and self-expression. It’s about being able to make conscious, deliberate
choices about how you want to live your life. Implicit in this definition is that we allow others to do the same—to
make their own choices even if those are different from the ones we choose for ourselves—or the ones we
would choose for them! And it’s this feminist philosophy of self-determination that pervades COLOR Up.
COLOR Up is a book about living creatively. A book about creativity as a habit, something you place at the top of your “to-do” list.
It is a mindset, a way of making life choices, and a style of engaging with the world. The COLOR Up process is a way to
approach any situation with a spirit of innovation and fresh choices always beyond only two options.
In COLOR Up, the creative process is never a binary, it is both right and left brain,
the whole brain, the integrated whole person, complex and messy contradictions—for example, it is play (very important)
and seriousness, solitude and collaboration, openness and limitation, and mindfulness and mindlessness—and that is
what we offer to readers in our COLOR UP process.
Given the impact of color on our moods, emotions, and how we attach certain colors to certain memories, it makes sense
to us that color and the color wheel be used metaphorically in the COLOR Up process as a means to get out of
deeply ingrained binary thought patterns when we think of colors as representing life choices:
n COLOR Up, we’re all about avoiding binaries. But there’s one binary that’s not a problem in New Mexico, which is the only state to have a state question: “red or green?” It’s a question you’ll be asked in every restaurant, and it refers to whether you want red chile or green chile on your enchiladas, carne adovada, or huevos rancheros. This binary is not a problem because you can’t go wrong with either red or green chile. There’s no right or wrong here, no better or worse. There’s just delicious.
When I first moved to New Mexico, I didn’t have a clue about chile. I had only been in Albuquerque a couple of months when I was greeted with a pungent, smoky, sweet smell in the neighborhood. I soon learned it was the smell of fall—of chiles roasting in front of virtually every grocery store and farmer’s market in town. So I thought I’d better figure out what this chile obsession was in my adopted state.
The first thing I had to figure out was “Hatch.” Signs everywhere advertised, “Hatch green chiles.” Did this refer to a new crop or batch of chiles? How do chiles hatch? What’s the relationship between a hatch and a batch? My husband finally got up the courage to ask a man roasting a sack of chiles outside our local Smith’s. He said, “Hatch is the town famous for green chiles—it’s where most of them are grown.” “Ah, my husband said, because we had recently moved from California: “Hatch is to chile as Napa is to wine.” “You got it,” our new friend said, with a grin, handing us a freshly roasted and piping hot sample of his wares.
So since then, we make sure to get our bushel of roasted chiles every fall. We bring them home, let them cool, and then peel and freeze them, ready to use in virtually everything. At least, that’s what a good New Mexican does—put chiles in and pour them over everything.
And if you don’t want to have to choose between red chiles and green ones, you can get out of the binary yet another way. Just say “Christmas.” That means you want some red and some green on your enchiladas. So eat your chiles however you want and get out of the binary however you can!
After living in our house for 26 years we decided to do some updating starting in the fall.
We really didn't do that much, but what we did included painting and flooring some rooms.
I'm someone who can be visually oblivious not noticing details, not attending to colors and
textures, but this fall when I began to look at paint, and the color wheel . . . well, it was like
going down the rabbit hole!
I just kept loooooking at colors, trying to understand the color wheel, and what made a
white, brown, red, blue, yellow--I spent a lot of time just on whites! It was as much fun as I've
had in a long time.
And as I looked at colors, my perceptions of the world changed, really - what I saw, what I
thought about . . . it was absolutely yummy to realize that I was seeing entirely new
stuff, using very different parts of my brain. Oh gosh it was great.
It really did feel like I was living in another world! Sara
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE COLOR?
What’s your favorite color? It’s a question we’re often asked. Have you always liked the same color, or has it changed over time?
When I was a girl, I think I liked pink. At least, I remember that I had a pink blanket I was fond of. My sister liked yellow,
and my mom liked blue, so I liked pink. I couldn’t like green because my mom made it very clear that she didn’t like green.
But then, in the 1990s, lime green made an appearance. And I was hooked! I like how lively it is, and it looks really good on me.
I’ve worn it ever since. And I’m grateful that the color has stuck around because it’s not leaving my wardrobe anytime soon,
no matter what the next fashion trends say about it.
Green as a color has a most unusual history. Early humans did not use the color green in their drawings, perhaps because
there was so much green in nature all around them? Some suggest that the ancient Greeks didn’t see the color green;
others suggest the Greeks didn’t bother to name colors that appear in nature—like green and blue. To them, a “true” or
“real” color was a manufactured one. And while the Romans had no trouble naming the color green, they rarely painted
everyday objects green. No one seemed to know what to do with green.
Green has continued to be both valued and dismissed, favored and reviled. During chivalrous times, green was a positive
color, associated with beauty, gaiety, and hope. It has long been the color of spring, of that which is fresh and new. But
it also developed associations with the Devil, witches, and poison. At the end of the Middle Ages, church officials declared
some colors to be honest and some not, and green fell in the latter category, perhaps because by combining yellows and
blues, different shades of green emerge. So sometimes green was considered to be a secondary and false color and
sometimes it was elevated to a color in its own right, a sign of stability and moderation.
It’s hard to escape binaries, even with colors. Is green good or bad? Up there with God or down below with the Devil?
What associations come to mind when you think of green? There’s Robin Hood, the good guy wearing forest green. We all
put on the green on St. Patrick’s Day and pretend to be Irish. And what about the little green beings that descend from
alien space ships and faraway worlds? Why green?
So the next time someone asks you, “What’s your favorite color,” think about all that means and what it means to you.
And whatever color it is, make it your own!
 Much of these green “facts” come from Michael Pastoureau, Green: The History of a Color (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 2013).
Imagine a world in black and white and shades of gray. There are no colors--only monochromatic shades.
How would a lack of color affect your way of life? Imagine describing a relationship that has no color.