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How To Be Creative

How To Be CreativeCreativity is a topic that most people associate with people in the arts; namely musicians, actors, painters, designers, architects, chefs and other professions within music, film and TV. If you would like to discover how to be creative, then you’ll be pleased to learn, it is already within you.

Some people are lead to believe that they’re either creative types, or they’re not. Without sounding harsh and alienating you right now, this is a common misconception. Having said that, it’s the majority opinion and it is understandable why it is so which I will explain in just a minute.

Creativity is a subject that fascinates me as it is one where people often undervalue themselves and settle for less than their true potential in their working lives. When talking about their careers, friends of mine have often said, “I wish I had chosen something more creative.” Ten to fifteen years into their career, they are afraid of changing as it would mean a significant salary cut.

A survey carried out in the US recently revealed that two thirds of the population were dissatisfied with their careers. I expect this could be extended into the Western World as a whole. I was really taken back by that statistic but at the same time, it did not surprise me. We typically work 5 days out of 7 for about 48 weeks a year. Now that is a massive chunk out of our lives isn’t it? To spend all that time dissatisfied is an extraordinary length of time to be unfulfilled – yet, as a society, we accept it. We settle for the belief that work is work, and we’re never going to be truly happy at “work”. I’d say that the majority of my friends and family would quit their jobs in a heartbeat if financial security wasn’t a consideration. I’ll put a quick caveat in here; those who work in public services such as doctors, nurses, teachers, police and firemen tend to be more fulfilled as they choose their careers for different reasons than those in most other professions.

A couple of years ago, I watched a talk on TED (if you don’t subscribe to TED, I highly recommend you do) and watched a talk by creativity expert, Sir Ken Robinson. I was glued to it and watched it again and again. I then decided to read his book, The Element. I’d recommend a read if this topic is of interest to you. If you’re in any way unfulfilled at work, then definitely read it! Sir Ken Robinson’s belief is that we’re all born creative, it’s just that we’re “educated out of our creativity”. A famous quote from Picasso is “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

Sir Ken Robinson told a fascinating story about a girl called Gillian Lynn. At primary school, she was a fidget, couldn’t concentrate or focus, and kept on disrupting the class. Her teacher called in the mother to suggest that she send Gillian to a special school. Rather than acting on this advice, Gillian’s mother decided to take Gillian to see a psychologist. During the session, the psychologist observed Gillian for about 15 minutes, and then asked the mother if the two of them could leave the room to have a chat, leaving Gillian alone in the room. On their way out, the psychologist turned on the radio to play music and the two of them observed Gillian from a window where Gillian could not see them. Immediately, Gillian started dancing. The psychologist turned to the mother and said “You don’t need to send your child to a special school, you need to send your child to a dance school” – and that is what she did.

When Gillian was at her dance school, she started to perform well in all of her other subjects and developed her dance skills. It transpired that she needed to move to be able to think. She needed to move, to be able to think. (That’s not a repetition typo.) She has since had an incredibly successful career as a dancer, she is a multi-millionaire, and has recently worked alongside Andrew Lloyd Webber as the choreographer of Cats, Phantom of the Opera and Aspects of Love. Sir Ken Robinson ends this account by saying “Nowadays, the same child in school would be put on medication [for ADD/ADHD] and told to calm down”. An incredibly powerful story, right? Gillian Lynn isn’t the only person that needs to be able to move to be able to think – our minds and bodies are aligned when we’re moving. However some people need to move much more so than others.

I can relate to this completely; at school and university I really struggled to concentrate and I’d disrupt the class by cracking jokes. I was told by teachers I had the concentration span of a goldfish. One teacher wrote in a school report “Neil is so laid back, he’s almost horizontal” – whilst my friends and I found that hilarious, you can only guess the reaction from my parents. When doing homework, I would find any distraction possible to avoid sitting at my desk – that often involved sitting at the piano (which I only pursued at school until I was 16, even though it was my only A at GCSE) – or sometimes I’d go as far as cleaning out the garage to avoid sitting at that dreaded homework desk.

However, when I’m moving and doing something practical, I can be 100% focused for hours on end. I’ve always been practical; I’d be forever building things as a child and would avidly watch builders work on our family home. I can work my way around any practical problem and I’ve taught myself most interior building trades. My huge vision after university 10 years ago was to start my own contracting firm to venture into property development. Unfortunately, this was not considered a secure route to financial security and I did not pursue my dream.

So how are we educated out of our creativity? Let’s start by taking a look at our education system; on a whole, we’re encouraged to learn in a way that makes us all the same, to focus on subjects that are geared towards “financial security” in “secure jobs”, rather than develop our innate talents and unique strengths. Through no fault of their own, our parents also guide us to financial security – of course they do, they love us and want us to be safe. We’re pushed through school doing important exams at 16 and 18, making decisions at 16 for our A Levels (in the UK) about what we want to do with our lives! On a whole, we are then encouraged to go to university and study for something that will again, lead to “financial security”. Where degrees were guaranteed to secure you a job 10 years, ago, you now need a Masters. Where a Masters would secure you a job 10 years ago, you now need a PHD etc. Sir Ken Robinson calls this “Academic Inflation” and believes that the whole education system is flawed – and I wholeheartedly agree. There is not enough emphasis on the arts subjects, the creative subjects – and encouragement for people to develop their innate talents and strengths.

Each and every one of us has the capacity to add value to the lives of others in one form or another, but the education system and our society as a whole does not appear to support this. This is why the majority of people wind up living their lives unfulfilled and never living their dream. This then leads to health problems – sometimes serious health problems – as a result of stress. This of course can have a knock-on effect on our relationships and our lives as a whole.

How To Be Creative

If you think about it, we all have ideas. Everyone has ideas; it’s just that very few people act on them. A recent study revealed that the greatest attribute of highly successful people was speed of implementation. For the majority of people, we don’t implement our ideas and take action. We procrastinate. Procrastination is “the thief of time”. Time is our most precious commodity, yet most of us waste it. We say: “Someday” – which of course leads to a little town called Nowhere. (That’s world famous peak performance coach, Tony Robbins’, quote by the way, I won’t pretend claim ownership of that one.)

There is part of our brain that plays a major part in this – our reptilian brain (our survival brain) that is there to keep us in a safe and familiar place. It wants to keep us in our comfort zone – which ironically for many, really isn’t that comfortable. In fact, it can be pretty miserable but we’re afraid of stepping out of it – knowingly, or unknowingly, consciously or subconsciously. The reason we do not step out of it, is that we’re afraid of failure, or we have limiting beliefs – and guess where those they come from. They’re engrained in us from childhood, growing up, through education and from society. We’re not born fearful – we’re born creative. As children we have spectacularly vivid imaginations. Unfortunately, slowly but surely as we grow up, for most of us our curiosity, imagination and our creativity is suppressed.

Thankfully, our creativity is never completely crushed. We can bring it back to life and reignite it. Here are 10 ways to reignite your creativity which I came across on Psychology Today.

  1. Exercise your body. Take a leisurely walk or engage in a vigorous sport.  An active body gives rise to a receptive, observant and free mind. Ideas and insights surface when your body is moving – when your body is aligned.
  2. Do nothing. Daydream. Unplug for a while and wonder. Be bored and see what bubbles up in your mind. Insight involves being receptive to what rises from within. Richard Branson has a lot of his ideas when lying in his hammock and allows himself to daydream.
  3. Play or listen to music, old and new. This can take you back to a time when you were vital, free, spirited, full of desire and your true self. Joy and the desire to jump up and dance means a primal or past part of you is emerging
  4. Listen to podcasts or radio shows. When you identify with someone else’s experience, especially someone who overcame an obstacle, it can motivate you, set you on a proper path, and move you to a better place.
  5. Clean a closet. The removal of clutter can clear the mind and help you uncover what you need to see in your space and in yourself. When you handle sentimental objects and remove junk, you move closer to what matters within.
  6. Read a book. Read poems. Biblio-therapy is a valid treatment. Literature offers healing insights. If a character, idea, image or situation hits home, it feels good. Some people do better with books than a treatment room. It costs less too.
  7. Note how your mood and identity is affected by your online and offline activity. When you login, do you feel titillated? Addicted? Connected? Out of control?  Competitive? Left out? Popular? Unsure? Swamped? Overwhelmed? Informed? Practice the “connections” that enhance your wellbeing and that of others
  8. Talk to a trusted friend or wise family member. How many times has a friend or mentor helped you see yourself more clearly? How many times has this caused you to change your ways?
  9. Understand your emotions and your desires. What makes you happy? What makes you laugh? What makes you cry? What makes you angry?  What moves you or causes you to feel alive inside?  What gives you energy?  Is there a pattern?
  10. Induce “light bulb moments” or “that’s it!” or “aha!” moments by mastering a body of knowledge. Creative insight will come to you when you focus on one thing, one major goal.  As scientist Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favours only the prepared mind.” When you have a deep understanding of a field, you can reconfigure the elements in a more effective way and have an impact.

Creativity is a major subject area covered in one module of a training program I have written called Procrastination To Profit. It is aimed at newbie entrepreneurs and “wantrepreneurs” to overcome procrastination and to develop laser-sharp powers of focus and productivity. This leads to increased sales and therefore profit. Procrastination and lack of focus are closely linked and dictated by our reptilian brain – our survival brain. Our reptilian brain is the source of procrastination and it feeds off distractions.

This program teaches you how to manage your reptilian brain which can work for you, or against you. For most of us, it unfortunately works against us.  For more information, go to ProcrastinationToProfit.com. Learn how to harness your powers of creativity and put them into action so you can create the life you want to live, rather than be a statistic of those two thirds of the population who are dissatisfied with their working lives. (It comes with a 60 day money-back guarantee too so you have literally nothing to lose!)

Neil Cannon

Founder of WaysToFocus.com

Creator of ProcrastinationToProfit.com

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  1. […] focus I thought it would be useful to present some ideas about…how to have ideas. Creativity doesn’t necessarily have to be the creation of something brand new. It may be that you […]

  2. […] may remember my post on creativity last week with creativity expert, Sir Ken Robinson’s account of Gillian Lynn. In brief, her […]

  3. […] born with. Unsurprisingly, they’re unfulfilled. I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago called How To Be Creative, that two thirds of the population are dissatisfied with their working lives – a shockingly sad […]

  4. […] environment – and sometimes day dreaming. Richard Branson has a hammock on which he is most creative and he dreams up many of his ideas. When we are working on a certain problem and getting […]

  5. […] Einstein said “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer”. The 3rd point from these 5 ways to focus on your creativity was related to developing the skill of focus. In today’s world where multitasking is accepted as a way of life, this not only hinders our ability to focus on one task long enough to make a success of it, but sabotages our creative side. With creativity, whilst day dreaming and mind wandering are definitely required, so is the ability to develop focused attention. As you may be seen before, multitasking is not only ineffective but it has been proven to be damaging to our brains as well. For more ways to develop your creativity, check out this article called How To Be Creative. […]

  6. […] engaging in your favourite activities as much as you’d like to be? Are you making use of your creativity? It’s easy to get sucked into the societal way of thinking, do the 9-5 grind (or 8-6, or […]