“We may have found a cure for most evils; but we have found no remedy for the worst of them all, the apathy of human beings.” – Helen Keller
A favourite expression of my daughter Millie is, “I’m absolutely, positively, bored to death.”
And she’ll flop onto the floor with a look of woe to prove it.
The truth is there usually is plenty to keep her occupied. But she is six and like many six-year old’s, is hard to please. She’s only truly satisfied if she’s doing something entirely different each time round.
To be honest, I happen to believe that children don’t need to be kept occupied at every waking moment of every day. There are times when kids – all of us in fact – just need to chill. Incidentally, one of my favourite expressions.
And in Millie’s case, it often works. After a few moments of just letting her be, she’ll go back to being a Fairy Princess, or whatever else she fancies being or doing at the time.
Boredom is not something that we need to be afraid of, or kept at bay at all times. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with embracing it and simply allowing your mind to wander for a moment or two for the sheer heck of it.
What’s more, we need to allow ourselves to become bored to allow our imaginations to wander, which in turn, often leads to creativity. (See, for example “Boredom at work can make us more creative” by Dr. Sandi Mann and Rebekah Cadman).
The problem is that society in general, doesn’t agree. We’re made to feel that we ought to be doing something all of the time. Why else is there a demand for 24/7 connectivity? We’re so efficiently plugged in to everything and everyone, that it increasingly feels as if we’re just busy being busy. In a constant state of distraction.
So we’ve ended up with a society that values pretty pictures over meaningful experiences; demands blind obedience to follow fashion or the latest trends; tells us that we must have the latest must haves.
And we’re still found wanting.
We’ve become so bogged down by the daily humdrum of working for material possessions, that we’ve lost the ability to lose ourselves in fantasy and unlimited possibilities.
We’ve lost that ability to be truly creative.
Live life intentionally and creatively
But some people would have you believe that creativity is some sort of magical gift, bestowed upon a select few. Is that true?
Creativity is described as “the use of imagination or original ideas to create something.”
So, whether that’s the generation of something physical, or whether it’s new ideas, concepts, or simply establishing new associations between existing ideas or concepts, it’s the process of tapping into your imagination to do it.
And everyone has one of those!
Although creativity is often associated with artistic endeavours, it’s also an essential part of innovation.
Creativity refers to the act of producing new ideas, approaches, solutions, or actions. Innovation is the process of generating and applying those creative ideas in a specific context. For example, an organisation might convert them into useful services, products or business practices to meet new requirements, or market needs.
“Innovation is creativity with a job to do.” – John Emmerling
So it’s probably more a part of our daily lives than we give credence to. We all need to come up with new ideas, approaches, solutions in some or another.
But what if you feel you’re not creative. Can you develop more of it?
Absolutely. Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Professor of Business Psychology at University College London, argues that anyone can be coached to become more creative, although for some of us, it might take a little practice.
In his experience, that includes exercises in creative thinking such as embracing new ideas, or taking on challenging tasks. It might also include meditation and relaxation, and increased intrinsic motivation – doing more of what you love; among many others. (Source article, “You Can Teach Someone Creativity” by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Harvard Business Review)
So how can you and I adopt more creativity in our daily life?
There’s always more than one answer
Albert Einstein said that “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
If you couple that quote with another of his, “the important thing is to not stop questioning – curiosity has its own reason for existing”, then in my mind, that’s a great excuse if ever there was one for not having to worry about finding the ‘correct’ answer.
In life, there’s always more than one answer. So try looking at things from a completely different perspective.
I love Keith Sawyer’s 8-step approach, detailed in his book “Zig-Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity” (This is not an affiliate link – just one of my favourite reads. He also happens to be a jazz pianist. With jazz being the other love of my life, my interest was piqued even further!)
His 8-step process is:
You don’t take a linear approach to these steps. Instead, you ‘zig-zag’, make tiny incremental changes. The beauty is that you take your time in mastering each step and zig zag between then as you go along.
Questioning happens to be an important part of the process. When you master the art of asking (the right questions), you’re always on the look out for new inspiration, new ways of looking at challenges – and you’re receptive to any new questions that arise unexpectedly.
Dare to be a wild child
By “wild”, I don’t mean party like a giddy teenager and drink till you drop (unless you really want to, of course).
I mean resurrect that rebellious attitude and unleash the insatiable lust for life you once had as a kid.
Whether your idea of ‘wild’ is trekking through sweaty jungles, conquering snow-capped mountains, or simply feeling blades of grass tickle your toes, the fact that you’re intentionally doing something to alleviate the symptoms of tedious living will help to unleash your creativity.
The point is to break the routines that do not serve you and awaken your spirit to something fresh, new and unexpected.
Routine is an enemy of creativity, so change the routine and creativity will follow.
Do something that you’ve never done before
Even if it scares you, or makes you look silly.
Think of it as unplugging from the matrix and rediscovering that there is a magnificent world outside your little cabby-hole bursting with possibilities.
Explore unfamiliar places, meet weird and wonderful new people, collect unusual and compelling stories to tell.
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Scott Adams
It’s all about surprising yourself by allowing new, exciting and profound experiences into your life.
When we take inspired action, we are instantly zapped to a wondrous wilderness where anything can happen – and usually does.
Whether you need to boost your artistic skills or are yet to discover your unique gifts, there will never be a better time to realise your potential and just do it.