Well-Being//

Pinterest’s Aya Kanai On the Power of a “Microstep Attitude”

Kanai joined Thrive’s Arianna Huffington and Marina Khidekel to talk about creativity and finding joy every day.

It’s no secret that the pandemic has been a trying time for all of us — but if you look at the last year a little closer, you may find a few learning moments and new habits you’d like to keep moving forward. 

In celebration of Thrive’s first book — and the resilience each of us has displayed during this year like no other — Thrive Global founder and CEO Arianna Huffington and head of content development Marina Khidekel joined Aya Kanai, the head of content and creator partnerships at Pinterest, to discuss the power of creativity and the truth behind productivity. (Hint: It all comes down to Microsteps!)

Take a look at these stand-out anecdotes and tips from their conversation:

Aya on why we don’t need to label creativity:

“We see creativity as binary — either we’re creative or we’re not. The word ‘creativity’ is sometimes a turnoff to people because people hear that word and they’ll say, ‘Oh, I’m not an artist.’ But every person is creative. I have a 3-year-old daughter. She is creative every minute of the day, but she’s not calling it anything because she doesn’t care to give it a name. So, how can we shift our mindsets to expand our definitions of creativity, and not take it so seriously? Because yes, we might not be painting the works of Picasso, but we can be creative in our own lives.” 

Marina’s tip on reconnecting with nature at home:

“In our hyper-connected time, we think of productivity as king and breaks as throwaway. And that is absolutely flipped — it’s the wrong way to think about it. In fact, those quiet moments — whether it’s at the beginning of your day or the middle of the day — are so important. If you can get out in nature for just one minute, that’s an amazing Microstep [to take] during the day. I do some stretches for one minute and watch a live animal cam from a zoo… I watch the animals and reconnect with nature.”

Arianna on tapping into your breath:

“I love the fact that Navy SEALs use box breathing in times of extreme stress. I feel if box breathing is good enough for Navy SEALs, it’s good enough for me. If you ever wake up in the middle of the night and you can’t go right back to sleep, if you get some bad news and you need to recenter, you can try box breathing: You breathe to the count of four, you pause to the count of four, and you exhale to the count of four. It’s kind of amazing if you do that for 60 seconds a few times a day. It really helps you to end the day without being a bundle of nerves.”

Aya on finding joy in movement and mindfulness:

“At the beginning of the pandemic, when we were all sent home and everyone’s stress and anxiety levels were through the roof, I tried to ‘eat the whole pie,’ which is to say: I assigned myself the task of completing 66 days of 20 minutes of meditation, 20 minutes for a run or a walk, and 20 minutes of reading a book, all before 6 a.m. And by the end of those 66 days, I had accomplished my ‘assignment,’ but I stopped doing it because I felt like I had run a marathon. And that’s not the point of meditation, of exercise, of any of the reading. All those things are meant to be lifelong joys that you engage in — not a grueling boot camp I was putting myself through. If I had taken the Microstep attitude of, ‘Maybe I do one minute of meditation, and then next week two minutes of meditation,’ I might still be doing it now.”

Marina on doing something that’s just for you:

“We do a lot of work with Eve Rodsky and her book, Fair Play. She came up with the concept of Unicorn Space, but really it’s eudaimonic well-being, and that means doing something that brings you joy, that’s unique to you, or that enriches the creative part of you. It’s something that does not connect you with other people as someone’s daughter, or mother, or wife, or girlfriend, or boyfriend. It’s something that really speaks to your soul. So, the Microstep that we love to do, even if it’s for five minutes, even if it’s once a week, is to do something that brings you joy and reconnects you with the core of who you are. It can be playing the guitar, staring out at the stars, it can be anything — and it doesn’t have to be ‘creative.’”

Arianna on not judging yourself:

“We all have the eye of the hurricane in us. We all have that place of peace, wisdom, and strength in us. Most of the time, we don’t give ourselves the chance to connect with it…It’s something I always aspire to. I don’t always achieve it… but it’s something you can get to with practice as you practice Microsteps. Always remember it’s a judgment-free zone. Nobody’s doing this perfectly. We are all works in progress, and it’s very important to remember that because when we judge ourselves, it’s harder to get back on the horse and journey.”

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