How To Design Your Life To Be More Creative

Minali Chatani

with Minali Chatani

Co-founder and Head of Brand at Wild One

How To Design Your Life To Be More Creative

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Wild One Co-founder Minali Chatani and Jenna discuss how following your curiosity stimulates your creativity and offers you new experiences. Minali also shares a simple way to design routines we can actually stick to and the importance of waking up with the intention of celebrating your daily wins.

How To Design Your Life To Be More Creative

When Wild One Co-founder Minali Chatani was growing up her mom kept crayons in her purse to ensure she could satisfy her curiosities about the world, and what it inspired in her imagination, by drawing pictures. As a parent, encouraging her daughter’s creativity was among her top priorities. She created a special crafts room in their home, enrolled her in countless art programs, and supported her leaving their hometown in Jamaica to attend art school. When it came to creative development the answer was always yes, Minali says, who attributes her creativity, and the success its brought her, to her mom.

While working in her first job as a designer at Bloomingdales, Minali witnessed a food stylist prepping for one of their shoots, piquing her curiosity about food as a creative medium. She quickly became captivated by the way food touches all of our senses and began learning how to cook, style and photograph food, inviting her friends to share in her creations. Making the decision to actively explore food ultimately laid the foundation for Minali to become Head of Brand Creative at Sweetgreen, where at only 24, she made significant contributions developing their brand and helping lead their award winning chef collaborations. A few years later, it was that same curiosity, still encouraged by her mother, that gave her the courage to take the leap to co-found the design driven pet brand, Wild One.

I admire Minali’s approach to creative living and loved chatting with her about how we can turn our curiosities into creative pursuits. These are the habits I’ve been practicing since our conversation.

— Indulge your curiosities: The way Minali’s creative mindset shapes the way she sees the world, and the experiences it’s afforded her, is inspiration to be more present to and curious about the things that interest us. Rather than just internalize them, Minali views our curiosities as invitations to learn more and try new things.

Next time you enjoy a delicious meal, why not look up a recipe to recreate it at home — and better yet, invite a friend to share it with you. If a topic intrigues you, read a book about it, and if you’d like to learn more, perhaps consider joining a group. Have you been curious about a specific place? If you live nearby, plan a day to visit, and if you don’t, you can still learn about the culture.

The importance here, Minali shares, is to follow your curiosity because you feel intrigued and are enjoying learning about a topic. Though your exploration may reveal future opportunities, curiosity isn’t about outcomes. Your goal is simply to learn and try something new.

— Use your creative pursuits as a way to relieve stress: When Minali felt stressed growing up, she’d spend hours in her room painting, a practice she still relies on today to recenter.

“Creative releases are a powerful way to take your mind off what’s causing you stress and bring you back to the present moment,” she says.

I appreciate the way Minali’s advice can be used as a calm escape during a stressful day as well as a regular practice we can slip into to relax and unwind. You don’t have to engage in an activity that is traditionally ‘artistic’ to experience a creative release. You can be present when you’re cooking a meal or singing your favorite song. Whatever you choose, try to focus on the present moment.

Designing routines you’ll actually stick to: We often create new routines based on what we think our future selves will be capable of. While waking up at 4 am to meditate, journal, exercise and cook a balanced breakfast sounds great on paper, it likely won’t when you’re alarm goes off at dawn on Monday.

Minali employs a simple and effective strategy to build habits that actually stick. Rather than focus on her future self, she zeroes in on the reasons she isn’t currently committed to the behavior she’d like to adopt and designs a routine that mitigates them.

For example, when she wanted to build a regular exercise practice, she identified the reasons she wasn’t working out previously – such as the time it took to get ready for the gym, take a class, and then get ready for work – and devised a solution that eliminated them. She now has a Peloton bike next to her bed, which significantly decreases the time of working out; Because she didn’t have to make any radical changes, the habit was much easier to adopt and maintain.

Minali’s approach can be applied to everything from streamlining your productivity at work to learning how to meditate, and is one I’ve used repeatedly since our chat. I especially appreciate it for the way it shifts our mindset to believe that we can always make time for the things that matter to us, gives us a realistic way to actually do them, and dissolves the disappointment we feel when we fall short of our expectations.