The Sustainability Cycle: Where Authenticity Meets Perception…

The Sustainability Cycle: Where Authenticity Meets Perception

Anyone with an artistic mindset tends to struggle with more left-brain decisions. We like to take our time and feel or create more than structure. Meanwhile, the business mindset has not only penetrated our government, but it also controls much of our personal lives (e.g. banking, employment, even our non-profits)!

Big business has systematized sustainability while the Arts are just starting to define what that means. The unfortunate side effect of that is exploitation. And when being exploited takes its toll, many artists either compromise their art for a “day job” or abandon their art altogether. Not to mention the depression, ego, and even suicide that comes as a result.

But there is always #AnotherWay. I would like to suggest a mindset that can arm artists against exploitative practices. The Sustainability Cycle comprises of three stages: Exploration, Inclusion, Evolution.

Perception and authenticity

  • Exploration is the practice of discovering the unknowable.
  • Inclusion assumes mutual respect, prohibits judgment, and opens the door to the unthinkable.
  • Evolution allows for every knowable thing to change indefinitely.

While all three stages can ultimately occur concurrently, it helps to pick one dominant stage to identify with at a time. But one cannot master the Sustainability Cycle without first understanding how authenticity alters perception. To demonstrate, we’re going to create something out of nothing! How do you do that? Well, first define something and then define nothing.

Beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder right? I’m talking about how perception shapes reality. The only way to combat a materialistic, exploitative culture is by employing the antithesis: authenticity. Perception changes when we see the unthinkable happen. Remember when Apple commercials told us we would one day have phones that would fit into our pockets? Inconceivable! A black man for president – never! We take for granted that the impossible is happening every day.

Authenticity is the most potent force behind perception. It can be measured by an honest examination of what you are seeking: enrichment or approval? The difference between the two will foreshadow your sustainability: either you have something to enrich, or you are merely selling “nothing”. After all, where do you want to meet people – in your reality or theirs? Are you only trying to fulfill someone else’s expectations or are you serving your authentic self? When you base your perceptions on someone else’s reality (i.e. seeking approval from the mainstream), you compromise your own enrichment. You will never receive 100% approval 100% of the time anyway so how can that be sustainable?

You are the only one who can offer a perfect record of approval for yourself. So why not stay true to your authentic self first? Armed with authentic perception, let’s put our something out of nothing through the Sustainability Cycle.


We started exploring the decision-making process above but let’s expand it here as the cycle never ends! Everyone places demands of varying degrees on the people in their life – demands that are deeply ingrained in their psychology. These demands arise out of selfish desires (sometimes it’s healthy; sometimes it’s vindictive).

Whose demands do you prioritize and why? Do you define your own self by the approval of others or by your own personal satisfaction? If you switched your perception from one to the other, would your nothing become a something? Or vice versa?


Making your authenticity a priority attracts those with similar interests. If your perception does not reflect a reality you believe, how will you convince others? For instance, you tell people you’re a success but you don’t believe it. If you are trying to manipulate how people see you instead of presenting your authentic self, you are closed to the reality of success without self compromise. That’s because people won’t see the possibility if you don’t demonstrate it! I call this the Mirror Effect.

Forget everything you have been taught. If you are not open to the unthinkable, you won’t recognize the opportunity to make nothing into something. When decision-making is driven by the desire for approval, it closes the door to possibility.


Evolution reminds us not to neglect unrecognizable moments as opportunities. People change and staying authentic means recognizing that change, allowing unforeseen circumstances (a.k.a. possibility) to uproot your plans and take a completely different direction. After working so hard in pursuit of a goal, the idea of the finish line moving or changing course can be heartbreaking. But that is evolution and if we don’t pay attention we sabotage our own success.

The Sustainability Cycle breeds an opportunity mindset that might feel foreign to the right-brain dominant. Change is scary, unknown, and unthinkable. It’s also the only thing that will arm one against exploitation.

Change is what made your nothing into something, and will continue to do so, repeating Exploration, Inclusion, and Evolution over and over again.


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Emileena Pedigo

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Emileena is a blogster and coach for artists across discipline. Her book on artist development, ANOTHER WAY, scrutinizes how the…

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