Creativity is today’s topic! Last week, I spent a bit of time focusing on stepping out of one’s comfort zone and had a wonderful response from our readers. The natural progression from that, I think, is to start to be more creative – in relation to the entire landscape of your life, and the way you lead your life.
The natural initial question is to ask; what actually is creativity?
It’s a good question. We can all be creative; to some, creativity is about making new connections – and that is literally physiologically true within our neurology. Creativity is the mind’s growing edge. It often involves a lot of discovery. By creating new connections, you build your brain power and develop mental and interpersonal flexibility, which can begin to heighten your ability to do a huge array of things with more and more ease.
Imagine this (albeit metaphorically); every time you link two things together, you create a third entity. That new connection can itself then connect with other ideas, additional possibilities. Imagine the impact this can have in your imagination and throughout a system such as your brain!
Neil Armstrong first stepped onto the moon in the 1960s (though there are a few foil hat wearing individuals who are incredibly creative and believe it happened in a film studio). That event changed our beliefs and thoughts about the universe. It also altered thoughts and beliefs about human inventiveness and skill; this event helped us to recognise that if we want something enough, we can find ways to do something that we may have believed to be impossible before. I reckon this gave many people some powerful and liberating thoughts and beliefs about human capability. I loved it when the Mars Rover landed on Mars and the way that it meant we started entertaining the idea of getting people to land on the planet too!
Being creative on an individual level has the same potential: when you connect things together, you go beyond both of them; and you have the possibility of forming new beliefs about yourself and your potential. When I am studying and researching, I feel like my brain is literally growing and stretching. That’s not too scary is it?
I love watching my children playing. When they are drawing, painting or moulding huge blobs of glitter putty into seemingly rude shapes, whilst singing happily to themselves, they seem to be in another world. They have such vivid imaginations. I can remember when I used to play football for hours and days on end as a youngster in the school holidays with my friends on the green outside my house, I was not just imagining scoring in the World Cup final, I really was actually there at Wembley Stadium scoring that goal; I am telling you I was there! Children are amazingly creative, each of us has been a child (some still are!). Children show their creativity in the way they discover their environment and make their own meanings of it. Many children create new worlds while playing with toys. They don’t need elaborate or sophisticated toys, equipment or props, the meaning comes from within them.
You need to give yourself permission and time (and energy) to make new connections and links, which is what creativity is all about. It is about the process rather than the outcome or the final product. You can be creative at home or at work, when changing habits, updating behaviours, resolving issues, or just making life happier in any way you can. You can be creative with words, ideas, thoughts, materials, food and the kind of fun you have. You can be creative with your surroundings or with your internal world.
In addition to this, creativity creates something new. That’s right, even if every ingredient is already known to you or is familiar. An insight for example, is creative because the new conclusion is gleaned from information you already had; it is the new perspective that makes the difference.
Above all, being creative returns us to that state where we are scoring goals in World Cup finals. It is about being absorbed and enjoying doing what you are doing, paying attention to detail, having a grand vision, being excited and playful, wondering what would happen if…
Creativity is important not only for artists, inventors or designers. It’s key in our daily life, both in work and personal areas. It helps us to find better solutions for the challenges we are facing. Enable us to think broadly about ourselves and our future. It simply gives us more opportunities and choices which can shape our life.
What is interesting, is that being creative it’s not something one is born with or not. Although children tend to be more creative than adults, creativity is a skill that can be developed quite easily. That’s what this article is about, increasing your creativity.
Are creative people simply born with this ability to connect existing ideas and concepts? Research suggests no; creativity is not something innate in someone. For example, a poll of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business found that 73% believe creativity can be learned. Creativity, according to those polled, is more of an attitude than a talent.
With that in mind, here are 8 ways of increasing your creativity:
- Use Your Environment:
University of Minnesota researchers has proven through a unique study that a chaotic (untidy, messy) environment can improve our creativity. Your desk is a good place to start, regardless whether it’s in your office or at home. Place objects on it that you really like or those that can bring some good memories. Pictures of family, friends or some interesting event you had in the past will definitely work. Souvenirs from your past travels or even toys can help as well. Be creative on choosing what you will be looking on a daily basis and pick objects you really like. Feel free to change it from time to time, to keep it interesting.
Now let’s go beyond desk area and focus on where you work. Your wider environment is very important. Many companies invest significantly in ‘relax areas’ and provide to their employees with things like bean bags, table football or Lego bricks. All to make sure that employees stay creative when they have a break. You can do very similar things if you work at home. What would give you a shot of joy and stimulate your brain to think differently for a short period of time. Then do it when you stop work for a few minutes.
Even if your office is really cool, it’s good to avoid routine. To stimulate thinking out of the box, simply move and go for a meeting somewhere different, even outdoors. Nice park areas or coffee houses can make the difference, I often meet coaching clients at my beach hut, it is wonderful! Go change your environment from time to time.
Finally, the people we surround ourselves with are key. Spend time in a group of people that will help you to think creatively. An open-minded approach, challenging our view and diversity within the group always help!
- Your Mindset:
Find the right frame of mind. Explore what states you associate with being creative. Discover properly what it is that triggers and maintains you being creative. In line with the notion of using your environment in the previous point, ask yourself; what’s your best time of day? The best environment for you? Do you need to be alone, or with others, or alone in the midst of others? Do you need sounds or silence or background sounds? Build a profile of your creativity state, then make time and space for it on a regular basis instead of waiting for some divine intervention and for it to just happen on its own (though we’ll discuss this later too!).
As a creative individual, you may experience anxiety. Sometimes it may seem disruptive because it makes you feel a tad empty, disjointed, unclear or without direction, however, they are often useful.
In the Creative Attitude by Abraham Maslow, he stated “If you try to be rational and controlled and orderly in the first stage of the process, you’ll never get to it.” The chaos has its place. The muddle you feel is often an important condition that precedes the emergence of a new idea. You can compare this period to the way light reflects in a prism. It comes in, is broken, and emerges in a dazzling new form that changes as you change your perspective of it.
Don’t try to superimpose a sense of order on your thoughts and feelings in the initial periods. Complete harmony during the initial stages of creativity can sometimes lead to nothing being produced. A bit of internal grappling is often very valuable.
Also; think simple! We do have a tendency to over-complicate from time to time. If you have a new idea, try to describe it in one or two sentences to get it clear. Once you have it in that form, it is worth to write it down. Use your notebook or smartphone notes quite often. People generate many ideas but forget most of them. Routinely write them down as they come and look at full list, let’s say, on a weekly basis will ensure you capture most interesting things. I use the Evernote app, it’s free and shares the files across all your devices.
Another important point is not to fear failure or being wrong. Really, there is no such thing. Creativity is all about spotting opportunities. Some of them will turn out to be not the best ideas but feel confident in looking at new solutions. Ultimately, even if one in ten ideas becomes great, you will forget about nine that were average.
Finally, stay open-minded. Do not disregard any idea, because it is initially looking silly. That approach will allow you to widen your perspective and spot new opportunities.
I’d consider exploring Problem Solving Protocols to really get a good sense of examining your options, exploring your options and not editing out or disregarding thoughts that could be great ideas that serve you well. Grab a book on the subject (Solving Life’s Problems by Nezu, Nezu and D’Zurilla, for example) or have a read of this article for a simple introduction: Apply Problem Solving To Yourself and Solve Your Own Problems.
- Become Exponential and Do Things Differently:
Make creativity part of all that you do.
Although brainstorming yourself can be good exercise, it will never replace the dynamic of doing it with a group (you become exponentially more than the sum of your parts!). Do collaborate with people that can share a different perspective. True creativity can sometimes be a result of synergy and building win-win relations with others.
Not every idea is perfect, especially when you started to think of it. Try not to be a perfectionist and allow an area for mistakes. Overall, if you are aiming to be creative, it’s better done than perfect in theory. As a result, you see many good solutions that can be improved once initially implemented.
Borrow ideas and improve them! The world is full of great ideas that were never implemented. If you spot something interesting, build on that and find your own way! Make sure all is done appropriately and remember that synergy can bring amazing outcomes.
Finally, leave the comfort zone! Try something new: hobby or responsibility in your work area. Keep your reality changing and learn from new experiences. If you already tried that, you can go to the next level: put yourself in challenging situations. It can be very positive surprise how much creative we can become under such environment. All in all, leaving comfort zone can always offer us new opportunities. Here are three articles all about stepping out of your comfort zone:
Think of different ways to do the familiar. Change the order in which you do things, use different things, use your less favoured hand; as soon as we break routine, we move from a state where we are on auto-pilot to one where we are alive and alert. You exercise unfamiliar brain connections and help build new links in your brain. A glorious feeling!
Look out for the difference that makes the difference. When you encounter something that strikes you as different, ask yourself what it is about it that is so different or new or unusual. Where does the key difference actually lie?
- Games and Exercises:
Very soon, I’m going to share a self-hypnosis technique to enhance creativity here. Until then, start using visualisation techniques. That basically means using our imagination more and keeping it in good form. Moreover, if you visualise something you are working on (future meeting, new project, new product or relation you are building), you spot more details that can highlight a solution you were looking for.
Another approach might be playing the 30 circles game. Start with drawing 30 circles on a blank sheet of paper. Then, within 1 minute try to create something from them. Do not focus on quality, but on quantity. It is a great warm-up for the creative part of our brain.
Role play scenarios with others to explore them. In a way, it’s similar to visualisation but thanks to another person, it has elements of brainstorming as well. You’ll see you will not only prepare for the upcoming situation but also see it from many different angles. To make sure it happens, change roles and person with whom you perform that.
Be as playful as you can be. “Play” is a loaded word, and when used in relation to adults the context is often perceived as negative. In order to create, play should be an indispensable ingredient in your life; that is, often you will need to play with materials, concepts, perspectives, and to direct yourself away from those things that are real – to fantasize. Carl Jung the prominent psychotherapist once said; “Without playing with fantasy, no creative work has yet come into being.” Here are a couple of great articles to read to really recognise the evidence of playfulness and laughter being so useful in so many others way too:
Part of the reason children are so innately creative in their actions and their speech is that they engage frequently in fantasy. If you are a painter or sculptor, play with your materials. If you are a writer, play with dialogue, become your characters, assign Aunt Martha’s speech habits to seven-year-old Jason. If you’re a dancer, try dancing the way your name feels, the way a fire siren looks in the air, the way an orange sounds. State the experiment to yourself, then try it out. I know, I know, that all sounded a bit interpretative dance-like and suddenly inhibition kicked in… But that inhibition stifles creativity! Go interpretive dance moves!
- Ask Questions Of Yourself and Your Environment:
Ask yourself “What if?” and “What else?” and “How else?” Always go beyond what you first thought – find more and more different ideas. By asking more, you allow yourself to be more creative.
However, do remember that your creativity benefits at times, from having to function within limits. Rollo May, in his “The courage to create” states that “the creative act arises out of the struggle of human beings with and against that which limits them.” One might argue that the more limitations one has, the more creative one must be – and the stronger one’s creativity becomes.
When and/or if you hit a problem, pretend your usual solution is not available. This can work in many different ways. If your PC crashes today, how else might you do your work? If you usually debate face to face, what would happen if you wrote your feelings down instead? Some solutions may be no better than the ones you’re used to; others may offer you brilliant new opportunities. Do something different.
To practice that, see how many different results you can get with the same ingredients. I am sure many of you know that there was a cookbook called “Recipes 1-2-3” by Rozanne Gold, in which every recipe is made out of only three ingredients.
Be sure to take time out and relax: trying too hard, attempting to force a creative product, idea or activity is problematic and often kills the creative process. There will come a time when your conscious work must stop and you experience a short interlude of relaxation. This is a crucial time. Studies have shown that during the crossover from the period of conscious work to the period of relaxation, the very idea the creative person has been hoping for and searching for emerges. The break away from the concentrated effort allows creativity to breathe, surface, and bring you the gifts needed to spark your work. It is important to understand that this product arises from the alternation of intense concentration and relaxation.
Here are a couple of articles to highlight this and help you too:
- Solitude – The Importance of ‘Me Time’ and How It’ll Make You More Successful.
- Using Self-Hypnosis For Specialist Relaxation.
7. The Disney Creativity Strategy.
I want to mention a strategy that is well talked about in NLP circles, and is one I have used for many years with my own business.
The Disney Creativity Strategy is for developing your dreams and giving them the best possible chance of becoming reality. It is named after Walt Disney (obviously), who often took on three different roles when his team was developing an idea; the dreamer, the realist and the critic. Robert Dilts, an NLP developer, modelled and developed this strategy as an NLP tool.
The strategy separates out these three vital roles involved in the process of translating creative ideas into reality, so that they can be explored separately for maximum clarity and effect.
Many companies have specialists in each of the three fields, and I have done consultancy work with companies myself, whereby I have asked different team members to take on one of the roles. You can also play all three roles yourself as I often do in coaching, with your own desired outcomes and goals.
However, the usual way to use it is to allocate three roles to different people (realist, dreamer and critic) to assess plans or tasks. Ask someone to act as the dreamer and tell you all the possibilities of the idea. Ask someone else to examine exactly what would be involved in putting it into practice (realist), and someone to take a hard look at it and really evaluate its strengths and weaknesses (critic). You may want to rotate the roles. If doing it on your own, be sure to keep the roles very separate and write them down.
- Alter Your Perceptual Position:
If you want to be more and more creative, it can also help to alter and vary the stance of your sense of self and use information already within you, in a different way. Your perception of any thing or any experience depends on the position from which you perceive it. I am going to mention three positions here that are useful to your use with building and developing your creativity.
In the field of NLP, for example, they are known quite simply as the first, second and third positions.
– In the first position you are in your own body, looking out through your own eyes, seeing things from your own point of view.
– Being in the second position means stepping into someone else’s shoes, imagining what it is like to be them, looking at the world through their eyes.
– The third position is taking the stance of a third person that is viewing events in which you are involved, a bit like being a fly on the wall (how many times have I wanted to do that?).
You see, taking different perceptual positions enables you to step out of what you are currently experiencing and experience your self in a fresh, new light. It can spice up your perception of so many things and make it easier to lavish lots of creative thought from an angle you may not have considered. Doing this also allows you to see yourself from a different perspective and gather different kinds of information about yourself and your own creative processes.
Taking different positions enables you to access information that you may have been overlooking. This is such a tonic for the creative process.
So, how about in addition to having your ongoing experience of life solely seeing from inside your own eyes in the first position, how about you wonder what it is like to be someone else in the same situation, from the second position? Look at your surroundings and life from a very different perspective, from the position of a neutral observer and see how that ignites the creativity in your brain.
Imagine how other people might see things; this is especially useful if that person was someone you know to have a good level of creativity and inspiration too.
Thirdly then, see yourself and others as if from an outside perspective, looking at the larger picture as in the third position. Then you can think of using this idea of taking different perceptual positions when you encounter any kind of block or when planning a project or evaluating a situation or if you ever feel stuck on something or you are ever in need of a bit more inspiration and want to find more things to enjoy about what it is that you are focused upon.
I have included lots of different strategies and methods for enhancing your creativity, please employ as many of these as you can and continue to work at it and then it will happen naturally and will flow more and more.
I mentioned earlier, the importance of relaxing from time to time so as not to stifle the creative process. I often find my best ideas come when I’m out running, driving, walking the dog, having a shower or bath or engaged in any automatic activity when your mind floats a bit. Creative people understand that at these times, ideas can come almost miraculously. Albert Einstein is cited as saying once “Why is it I get my best ideas in the morning when I’m shaving?”
The answer was of course that he was at ease, engaged in a simple activity that didn’t require masses of conscious effort, and his new thoughts were free to rise to the surface. I’ll show you very soon how to use self-hypnosis to help with this too.
Keep an active mind, explore, record and question. Creativity is an amazing thing that some people feel has to be “gifted” to you. All humans are capable of being creative, it’s just a matter of organising thoughts, and doing something about the things most people don’t think about.
If you’d like to learn more or if this has resonated with you in some way, then visit these pages:
1. Would you benefit from accessing your creative powers to excel in more areas of your life?
Coaching with Adam Eason.
2. Would you like a satisfying and meaningful career as a hypnotherapist and help others be more creative?
Adam Eason’s Anglo European training college.
3. Are you a hypnotherapist struggling to really find the creative spark needed to achieve the vision you have for your business?
Hypnotherapist Mentoring with Adam Eason.