"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious... and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
Walt Disney Company
According to Drs. Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman, creativity falls under the values heading of "wisdom and knowledge." In their writings, found in their handbook of Character Strengths and Values, "Creativity is a cognitive strength of thinking that is used in novel and productive ways to understand and accomplish things. It is NOT limited to artistic expression alone." In other words, you don't have to be a musician or a painter to have creativity or to be creative.
My mind is always working. Even while I'm sleeping I've learned to keep a pencil and paper on my night table because on any given night I could wake up with an idea that I don't want to forget so I write it down in my sleepy state. I can't always decipher what I've written but the gist of the thought is there.
Sometimes I wish I could take a vacation from my mind, just leave it home and just breathe without wondering about everything there is to wonder about. It's not really a good idea for me to do this because I'd lose a very important part of who I am. BUT... What if I could spring clean my mind instead?
Recently, I volunteered to do something creative that I've never done before: work with a colleague to produce a virtual-workshop to present to our coaching community. Our workshop was on the topic of home business loneliness and we specifically centered our presentation on loneliness prevention strategies that exist with regard to the mental isolation and geographical isolation of running your own home business. This was very challenging for me because I had high expectations for my presentation and also had certain content criteria I had to meet. I got clear in my mind about what I wanted to present and gave myself a pep talk. My mind, my brain, my spirit, my creativity were all challenged and as a result raised in consciousness.
The short story is that the workshop was a huge success filled to the brim with giveaways, resource lists, hope and passion. The long story is that it involved a lot of research, practice time, re-writes and a spring cleaning of my own personal doubts. I found that anxiety and perfectionism are the enemies of creativity. I stayed with my objective to meet my participants' needs as well as maintain my passion for this subject. I needed to stay focused, creative and empathetic and curious.
The take away for me after stretching myself with this workshop is that everyone has the ability, capability and tools to be creative. We just have to clean out old notions of what creativity means and open our minds to what we can discover when the clutter clears away.
Where To Begin
"Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with dry, uninspiring books on algebra, history, etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the 'creative bug' is just a wee voice telling you, 'I'd like my crayons back, please."
Hugh MacLeod, Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity
Where does one begin to spring clean the mind to discover creativity? I think it's important to know that at its core creativity is valuable. This means, "The created product and its creator have brought beauty, elegance and/or function into the world", so says Drs. Peterson and Seligman. They go on to say that "creativity is trait-like, meaning it's an everyday creative who can use objects to create something new from something old." For example: someone who rearranges furniture to create more pleasing aesthetics to a room and create better function, or the person that changes an ingredient in a recipe to make it their own dish. Creativity is and should be fulfilling. Creation on any level just feels good.
Just like when you get ready to spring clean your garage or attic, spring cleaning your mind to allow for creativity opens emotional doors to worlds you've yet to discover.
Tina Turner said it best when she said, "Sometimes you've got to let everything else go and purge yourself. If you are unhappy with anything... whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it, because you'll find that when you're free, your true creativity, your true self comes out."
In order to gain perspective, ask yourself:
1) What is possible?
2) Who will this affect/benefit?
3) If this doesn't lead to the result I want, would I still be glad I took the time to work on it?
Your answers could be personal and in most ways should be. If you are going to benefit, if you are going to be positively affected, if this is important to you, then everyone around you will benefit as well.
Every day "creatives" leave room for curiosity, open-mindedness and critical thinking. Are you an in the box every day creative meaning you only seek creativity within the structure of your daily routines or an out of the box everyday creative meaning that you follow where your thoughts and ideas lead you whether it was on the t0-do list for the day or not? I am learning to be an out of the box every day creative by practicing it. I stay present in my daily agenda and goals, I do the creative things that I feel passionate about and allow myself to explore more deeply the things I am curious about, and I allow myself time to breathe and get clear so that I can be ready for the next idea to wash over me.
As scary as it was to create and deliver my workshop presentation, I allowed myself to enjoy the time spent on the research. I enjoyed the collaboration process with my colleague. The feedback from the participants was so much more than I could have ever imagined. The content was something I really resonated with and, therefore, it allowed for my own richness and passion to come through. Participants used words like empowering, uplifting, over-flowing. Passion and curiosity created content, content created interest, interest created exploration, exploration created creativity for out of the box research and open-mindedness.
Best- selling author, Michael Neill says,
"If we treat whatever stands in our way as an obstacle, we can bring the full creative resources of our mind to bear on the situation and find ways to get over, around, or through it."
Being scared was my obstacle and I am so glad to have found a way to get over it and through it. I am armed for next time.
What are some ideas we can all practice toward becoming more creative? To free our minds; to spring clean what we know and allow for the unknown to propel us toward new discoveries?
10 Stepping Stones to Becoming more Creative:
1- Meditation breathing: This allows for you to begin the positive open-minded flow of ideas
2- Visualize: What do you want? Get clear, see your ideas.
3- Stay present: Don't spring ahead or fall behind with your ideas.
4- Don't forget your funny bone: According to Adrian Gostick and Scott Christopher of the successful book, "The Levity Effect", incorporate fun and humor into your agenda and project. Bring fun snacks, spin around in your chairs while brainstorming, tell a joke, keep fun toys nearby like silly putty, paper airplanes, etc., play great music. Lightening up, approaching from a fun point of view allows for out of the box thinking and powerful creativity.
5- Journal your journey: This will allow you to keep moving your thoughts and creativity forward and to not forget what you want to achieve without the pressure of cluttering your agenda or goals.
6- Get physical: Use warm up exercises to get you ready for the days' tasks even if it's physical tasks. This gets your mind, your heart and muscles determined and ready. It lets your happy cells and happy chemicals (endorphins) flow through you to feel energized toward your accomplishments.
7- Recruit: If your task is too big for just one person, ask for help. "The more the merrier" cliché applies here.
8- Time Out: Music breaks, food breaks, journaling breaks, walking breaks. BUT... don't sit too long or your momentum could suffer.
9- Step back, take notice: Allow for perspective and evaluation. Allow yourself to feel grateful for every tiny step you take toward your goal. Allow gratitude for your interpretation, your voice, your spirit.
10- Celebrate: Acknowledge your success by celebrating your every accomplishment. Creativity is a celebration, a great and wonderful, out loud reflection of YOU. Be proud and celebrate.
Inspiration To Get You Started
I recently came across a story that I think gets to the heart of creativity:
An Old Sioux Legend
In ancient times, the Creator wanted to hide something from the humans until they were ready to see it. He gathered all the other creatures of creation to ask for their advice.
The eagle said, "Give it to me and I will take it to the highest mountain in all the land," but the Creator said, "No, one day they will conquer the mountains and find it."
The salmon said, "Leave it with me and I will hide it at the very bottom of the ocean," but the Creator said, "No, for humans are explorers at heart, and one day they will go there, too."
The Buffalo said, "I will take it and bury it in the very heart of the Great Plains," but the Creator said, "No, for one day even the skin of the earth will be ripped open, and they will find it there."
The creatures of creation were stumped, but then an old blind mole spoke up. "Why don't you put it inside them-that's the last place they'll look."
The Creator said, "It is done."
In the very popular book "The Artist's Way", author and teacher Julia Cameron lists 10 basic principles of creativity. The one that resonates with me the most, the one that inspires me is her #4 principle: "We are, ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are meant to create."
The Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet, Thich Nhat Hanh says, "Every thought you produce (create), anything you say (write, sing, etc... ), any action you do, it bears your signature (creativity)."
Deepak Chopra writes, "The most creative act you will ever undertake is the act of creating yourself."
To all of these great and wonderful inspirational thoughts and words I say, never stop creating who you are and who you want to be. No one suffers for your intuition, your courage, or your curiosity.
Spring is a great time for renewal, regeneration, release. Clean out what is holding you back and get your creativity on.
Call to Action
What did you take away from the Old Sioux Legend?
How can you use this legend to spark your creativity?
What would you like to explore this year, this spring, that you have been holding yourself back from exploring?
I challenge you to spring clean your mind and explore the endless possibilities of what you see and what you allow yourself to find. All it takes is one thought, one idea, one spark and your big deep breath to say "I can do it."