The Human Photocopier Vs The Human Canvas: How To Become The Artist Of Your Life

In the summer of 2016, I had the pleasure to sit down with the legendary writer of Toltec Wisdom, Don Miguel Ruiz.

Ruiz was the author of the classic book The Four Agreements and The Mastery of Love. These books were so popular that on that summer day in 2016 “The Four Agreements” was still the #1 spiritual bestseller in America — despite being written almost twenty years earlier!

So I asked Ruiz “You write about Toltec Wisdom. But what does Toltec mean to you?”

He replied:

To be Toltec means that you are an artist. An artist of your own life.

Ruiz went on to speak about how so many people forgot that their life here on Earth is meant to be a beautiful piece of art. And art, he suggested, should be original.

In short, create your life to be YOUR work of art. Not a duplicate of someone else’s masterpiece.

When I introduced Ruiz on stage at Mindvalley Reunion a few years later, I shared his comment. And I explained to the audience…

Too many of us rather than create our own work of art, emerge into life like photocopies. We template our lives based on the lives lived by people around us.

We emulate our fathers and mothers, our media and television — our goals therefore, are not our own, but merely suggestions from the people and ideas we sometimes blindly emulate.

And so billions of people live a life that is not their own. Rather than listen within to what their heart or soul is asking them to do, they enter the giant human photocopier machine and emerge with a templated life.

The result is damning. For example, according to a Gallup Poll of people in 200 countries, 87% of people “are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive.”

All of those years of study, all of that time spent — only to end up in a career or job that keeps you unfulfilled. And the reason is that when it comes to trying to set goals for our lives and careers, we chose to go the photocopier route rather than view our life as a blank canvas, ready to be painted into a masterpiece.

So how do you get started painting your masterpiece?

Here are some tools and methods worth looking into.

First: Awareness

Know that we are living in the most abundant time in human history. Never before has there been such a massive variety of jobs and roles and things to do in the world that help you truly live.

While it’s true that almost half of the jobs today will likely be gone in the near future, it’s also true that so many unique jobs are emerging thanks to the internet and mobile revolution that possibilities are endless.

Second: Ikigai

The Japanese concept of Ikigai is a beautiful idea of finding meaning. It suggests that “reason for being” or Ikigai falls in the intersection of 4 different things.

  • Doing what you LOVE
  • Doing what you’re GOOD AT
  • Doing what you can be PAID FOR
  • Doing what the WORLD NEEDS

The image below is from the Toronto Star. Just look at the image and the philosophy instantly comes alive.

Third – The Three Most Important Questions

The Three Most Important Questions is an exercise I created years back that has since been adopted in schools and corporations around the world. It’s about three questions you ask yourself — as you pay attention to the difference between means goals and end goals.

The three most important questions we can ask ourselves are:

  1. What do you want to experience in life?
  2. How do you want to grow and develop yourself?
  3. How do you want to contribute to the world?

Answering these questions will give you a blueprint into your soul, and will make you discover what it takes for you to know you truly lived life.

It’s a little more complex than that, but if you want to go truly deep into these questions, read this blog post which provides a video explainer and a free template you can use.

Fourth – Visioning

Finally, as you go through these ideas know that there is a danger with Goal Setting. The problem with modern goal setting is that too often you end up not setting goals that truly speak to your heart – but come from the giant human photocopier machine.

I have met hundreds of people who are doctors, engineers, lawyers and others at the peak of their career, who privately told me that they were miserable.

They felt they invested decades of their lives pursuing a goal and getting trapped into a job that kept them safe and made their parents proud but that now was making them feel bored, lonely, and unfulfilled.

How do you avoid this?

Michael Beckwith teaches an idea called Visioning. It’s the concept of setting goals not from your logical mind — but by tapping and listening to that greater aspect of yourself and discovering why you’re here on Earth.

Most people blindly follow intention, Beckwith says. But the next level is when your intention flows from your inspiration.

Intention based on blind emulation can lead you astray.

But intention based on inner inspiration can you lead to your purpose.

When you move towards mastery, he says, “inspiration LEADS to intention.”

This idea is called Life Visioning. It’s Beckwith’s spiritual process to find your Ikigai. I’ll be bringing him on our next Masterclass where we’ll explore this further.

So in closing, remember…

Your life is meant to be a canvas for you to create the most beautiful painting you can imagine. You are an artist. An artist of your own life. Make it a masterpiece.


Which one of these 4 principles resonate with you the most? Share your thoughts with us in a comment below.

Vishen Lakhiani

Vishen Lakhiani

Vishen Lakhiani is the founder of Mindvalley, the education company behind many of the world's top apps, festivals, events, courses and more in the field of human transformation and personal growth.

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