Updated: Jul 30, 2019
Do you consider yourself a creative? Or, do you believe that title is only given to the designers, artists, painters and writers? But consider this, what if creativity is in our DNA and could be one of the most underutilized skills we can access to boost our confidence, to show up and be seen, get unstuck, and lead our teams to flourish?
Going back to the basics, Merriam-Webster defines creative as, “marked by the ability or power to create.” And to create is to make something. Some fun eighth grade science illustrates how our core being is naturally creative. Most of our body is built of cells that die and regenerate, so we’re always remaking. Science tells us that every seven to 10 years, a good chunk of your body is remade from brand new cells. How freeing! In everyday life, maybe more of us are makers than we realize. Putting new ideas towards a project, entering code to develop a new system, and making new relationships to help expand your organization’s business are all ways we are renewing and creating.
At our core, we are naturally creative. We just tend to overlook it.
Think back to maybe a time when you felt creative. Whether it was a walk at lunch, a brainstorming conversation or baking a new recipe, did you feel expansive, excited, light, and airy? Imagine how much you can create with that feeling! Why do we often feel the opposite, heavy and constricted, at work?
Bland is not the opposite of creative
Author and professor, David Emerald, tells us in his book, The Empowerment Dynamic, how to shift into a creative mode from its opposite – a victim. In victim mode, we’re in a place we believe that we have no impact over our circumstances. Also known as learned helplessness, this feeling shows up when we feel we’ve been overlooked too many times by leadership. We fall into it when we throw up our hands at red tape in a corporate process, thinking there’s nothing we can do. We dip into victim mode alongside our clients when we both feel the frustrations of inefficiencies in our work systems.
How do we shift out of victim mode and into creator mode? Dr. Martha Beck (founder of my coaching training program) shared the advice of a top gun pilot. Should they ever find themselves in trouble flying at supersonic speeds, the worst thing they can do is freeze. The best thing they can do is keep pushing buttons and pulling levers for as long as possible. I can relate to this as a leader – something would go wrong and I froze with frustration from my circumstances. I felt like I could make no impact. If you’ve ever felt stuck, it doesn’t feel good and it’s hard to tap into our creativity in that mindset.
Two ways to tap your inner creativity
How can leaders shift themselves, and their teams out of this mindset of feeling totally stuck, and into the expansiveness of creativity?
Find the light. Happiness researchers focus on a little habit that can make big shifts in our mindset. Gratitude. Start with what’s working, right in front of you today. Pay more attention to the light places than the dark places, not only within yourself but in your team and organization.
Rumi, a Sufi poet, provides us a great metaphor for inborn creativity. “We wander from room to room / looking for the diamond necklace / that’s already around our neck.”
The creative solutions are already inside of us. It’s just that when we’re in victim mode, we’re wandering, using all of our creative energy to confirm the reasons we are stuck. To access our inner wisdom, reflect on a problem that you’ve overcome – work or home. How did you surmount this challenge? What skills did you use? What resources did you tap? Dig into this problem and reflect on the unique ways you overcame it. Now, how could you use those skills, talents, and resources to creatively tackle your current challenge and make something new from it?
Find the meaning. One of my clients was having a tough week. She was frustrated because her organization’s technology system was having issues, therefore, her clients were having issues. Nothing seemed to be working efficiently. However, I remembered in previous conversation, we chatted about her career goals. Something she described on her one-year plan was to implement a major process improvement project at work. As it turns out for her (and most of us!) the issues that cause our frustration are the same circumstances that fuel our ability to make creative solutions. To reframe her mindset into creativity, we used this situation find meaning. I asked, “How could all of these systems issues and bugs be serving as the perfect material, as the perfect set up to create your amazing process improvement project?”
In our everyday work, it’s tempting to feel frozen and use our creative energy to enhance our suffering instead of making the solution. Another way to tap into this wisdom is to write a letter from yourself five years from now - look back on today’s problem and describe how it was the perfect raw material to use for your creative solution.
Steve Jobs may be known for the simplest way to infuse more creativity into your everyday leadership. Take a walk. He was known to find creative solutions to problems by making walking meetings. Fresh air, different sites, and different scenery makes for new solutions. I challenge you to reframe your current efforts at work through the lens of creativity. Often, you are more creative than you realize! What simple things can you do to infuse more creativity into your own leadership and with your team so that you can have a little bit less stress, feel less stuck, and have more fun getting results?
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