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Three Ways to Foster Creativity

All of us have things we want to accomplish. They might be simple tasks such as planting a garden or composing an email, or they may be more elaborate such as writing a business plan or coming up with an idea for a big project at work. Whatever the aim, some level of creativity is

All of us have things we want to accomplish. They might be simple tasks such as planting a garden or composing an email, or they may be more elaborate such as writing a business plan or coming up with an idea for a big project at work. Whatever the aim, some level of creativity is required. And where there’s creativity, there is often some block or obstacle preventing us from completing or even starting our project.

Author Kim Hermanson wrote in the Greater Good newsletter about a client she coached that wanted to begin her own consulting business. She had the talent, skills, and technical knowledge, but she was having trouble organizing a business plan as she was suffering a creative block. The problem likely stemmed from the stress she faced from a troubled marriage, a terminally ill father, and a stressful, full-time job. Understandably, this client’s attention was taken up with intense feelings that were keeping ideas from flowing freely, and, in essence, she was just trying to survive.

Many researchers view creativity as a form of intelligence and define it as the ability to come up with novel ideas. Other types of intelligence are practical intelligence, which can be defined as the ability to evaluate information, and analytical intelligence, which is the ability to solve problems. All three forms of intelligence are important in a person’s overall well-being and their success; therefore, it makes sense that we understand how to maximize all forms of intelligence, including unblocking creativity.

Creativity demands freedom. To be creative, we need to give it both attention and energy, which we cannot do if we are preoccupied with things such as a terminal parent or working two jobs while caring for our small children. Our brains are simply not wired to focus on many things at once. We must first clean up our mental workspace by finishing existing projects and resolving unfinished business.

Creativity comes from within. Forcing creativity is like telling someone to be funny on command. It doesn’t work that way. To be creative, we must first understand what inspires us. In the case of Hermanson’s client, she desired to start her own business because she was unhappy with her current job, which is an external pressure. Instead, she should have been asking herself if gaining independence would bring her joy. She needed to make the process about doing something she loved, not avoiding something she hated.

Think big. Start with the biggest dream possible and work from there. If you begin a project with very narrow goals and expectations, you are greatly limiting your potential outcomes. Instead, allow yourself to dream when looking at any task. This will get the ideas flowing. From there, your plan can be refined to fall within reasonable parameters. For example, when I talk to my children about composing a paper for school, I tell them not to edit the first draft as they write. Instead, write freely. There is a time later for grammar and punctuation. Get the bones, the framework, down first without restricting yourself, then clean it up. I find the best ideas come to me when I am uninhibited.

Whether you are the world’s next creative genius, working on your opus magnum, or are simply trying to organize your kids’ crazy schedule and figure out who is getting them to overlapping practices, creativity is critical for with new ideas. Being creative is not just for artists and poets. It is important for finding new ways to do things and seeing possibilities. Everyone has the need for creativity, and everyone has the potential to be creative. Don’t limit yourself when looking for solutions. Start big and work from there. Give yourself the freedom to come up with many ideas, even if some seem ridiculous. You only need to settle on one good solution to a challenge.