Creativity is not a noun. I mean, technically it IS a noun. But being creative is not a thing. You can’t just reach out grab it. Nor does it take to announcements like, “Today I’m going to be creative!”
As business owners, we do this kind of thing a lot, don’t we? That’s because, by virtue of having a business, we use our left-brains a lot. And our left-brains want to grab creativity by the horns. To figure. that. shit. out. To make it work for us, our desired results, and our goals.
But creativity will have none of this. And the harder you try to left-brain it, the more it eludes you.
Creativity is a Wild Animal (Your Business Mind Hates That)
My first dog showed me this from day one. When I found her, I was walking down a gravel road, and she was watching me from a mound of dirt in an old churchyard where, I found out later, she’d been dumped.
I talked to her. She started to follow me.
But when I turned around to face her, she’d stop. If I walked towards her, she’d tuck her tail under her butt and walk away from me.
If I quietly went on my own way, she’d follow me. She eventually got closer, and ultimately she followed me home, where I fed her. But I could not force my agenda or be impatient.
This is creativity.
Anytime you try to turn around and catch creativity, it turns away. Your will is not the determining factor. Your openness is.
And though this kind of patience and release makes it sound almost impossible in a business that feels rushed, pressured and pushed, creativity can be cultivated. Creativity is one result of being receptive and quiet.
Here are 11 ways to foster creativity in your business and yourself…
1 – Take walks
It’s easy to be driven about working out. You go to the gym. You run a half-marathon. So, a 20-minute walk just doesn’t seem all that productive.
Well, take a walk and allow the world to just be. Watch things. Smell things. Notice birds. Let the world unfold and show itself to you.
Begin a daily practice of walking, and you’ll recognize that this is also when insights unfold and ideas show themselves to you.
2 – Write in your journal
Yes, I still keep a journal. With a pen and paper. I do morning pages. And a business journal.
I encourage long-hand, pens, paper…yes, the non-digital real deal. It’s obviously your preference here whether or not to write in pen or on a keyboard. But studies have shown that writing by hand makes for better learning and memory.
3 – Sit With Not Knowing
At a recent Uplevel Academy Gold Mastermind Retreat, I taught a thinking-tool called The Obstacle Upleveler.
One full segment of this activity required my clients to sit with the problem they had chosen to bring to the table. Allowing some space for not knowing.
At this point in the exercise, many of my most beloved clients were staring at me as if to say, “What the hell are you making me do here??”
What I was making them do was something very few business coaches teach anymore:
I was making them experience a trust in their own wisdom – while turning away from the left-brain’s insistence that it can figure everything out.
Even with all the dirty looks coming my way, I didn’t waver. I know the value of sitting through “not knowing.” And I got to witness it firsthand as the exercise continued. The breakthroughs began to happen. Eyes lit up.
Whether you’re writing an article, creating a new package, or facing a restructuring of your team, your creativity must be given space to not know.
When you are “trying to be creative,” you are doing just that. TRYING. When you instead, sit with the discomfort of not knowing – releasing your tendency to pound yourself into submission – then creativity will peak its head out. An idea will come. A delight will arise. And you’ll be off and running without knowing “how you did it.”
4 – Schedule non-negotiable creative time first thing in the morning
In my Uplevel Your Productivity program, I teach something I call The 5 Energies of the Entrepreneur, which helps my students get wildly clear about how they use their own focus.
One of those energies is creativity. The fact is that creativity is a high-value resource and requires a deep level of focus and lots of uncritical space.
The best time for this – for many people – is first thing in the morning. Begin getting serious about creating the space for creativity and make your mornings for YOU – not for clients or meetings or team. Carve out a pre-determined amount of space, and make it non-negotiable.
Do not try to stuff your creativity in the spaces that remain in your day after everything else. Make the time up front. And then show up.
5 – Give up TV
In a recent survey I did of the students in my Becoming360 program, one of the consistently shared stumbling blocks to being productive (and creative) was television.
True, there are some amazingly creative TV shows these days.
But more often than not, people use TV to dull their senses and numb their mind. They aren’t enjoying their favorite show and turning it off. They’re lapsing into hours and hours of dull passive stimulation. Not exactly the environment our creativity needs in order to flourish.
Turn it off. Or better yet, get rid of the damn thing.
6 – Make a Vision Board
30,000+ people have downloaded my eBook on vision boards. I don’t need to say much more I suppose. But I know that I teach vision boards a little differently from most of the success guru types. Maybe it’s a softer approach. Maybe it’s a bit more wisdom focused. But I hear from my readers all the time that my approach seems to work for them.
7 – Love and Gratitude Lists
Way back when I was a songwriter, I wrote a song called Loving Hands. It was born out of a journal exercise I did where I just wrote a long list of all the things I love. That song became one of my most requested songs. I think that was because in our rush to drive forward, we forget the power of delight. Delight is a total creativity-bringer. Call it a Gratitude Journal or just a Love List, but make a practice of recognizing and appreciating your life.
8 – Get up early
This one’s random. There’s something about the still of the morning, the dark of dawn that seems to allow the space for creative softness to just be. Don’t demand that creativity shows up just because you’re up at 5am. That doesn’t work (See #3) – but beginning your day not in a rush will set you up to be more creative and less reactive. (Same letters, different spelling. Totally different results.)
9 – Listen to new music
Catch your brain off-guard and find a new genre of music, set up a station on Pandora and have at it. My super-scientific way of explaining what happens: New experiences shuffle the brain. Brain shuffling makes more pathways for ideas.
10 – Go see a play or live music or live anything
Live performance is an exchange. As an audience member you are not passive. (As with TV.) You get to participate.
I know this because I performed for 15 years. And now – in a time when many people mock live events because it’s easier to do everything digitally – I put on events nine times each year. Every event is different. Everything is about the audience.
In other words, you get more energy from live shows.
Go see the symphony, even the small local symphony. See a play. See some improv. There is so much life on a stage, so many improvisational moments, so much about authenticity. You can’t help but take it in. (Same goes for art galleries, exhibits and all shows.)
11 – “Sit down and shut up”
Once I shared a quote from the iChing with my acupuncturist, who responded by saying, “Ah yes. The iChing. 64 ways to say ‘sit down and shut up’.”
The need for silence is undeniable. And the disdain this noisy culture has for quiet is fascinating. (When I told people I was going on a 7-day silent retreat, many of them looked at me in utter horror.)
The thing is, it is in silence where we can hear the voice of our creativity. Maybe not at first. (Which is why so many people seem to despise it.) But it will come.
You don’t have to do 7 days. Try driving with no music on. Make dinner in silence. Walk in the woods without headphones.
Just be quiet. Creativity and creative solutions are not thoughts. They are insights. Insights need space to come alive.
Help me out here! What are the ways you nurture your creativity??? (leave ’em in the comments!)
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