Recent research on aging shows a clear link between developing creativity and having a joyful, enriching midlife and beyond. For third agers to be more effective, productive and fulfilled in their lives, they need to break the barriers to creativity. Here are five new ways of thinking, speaking and acting that I have discovered in working with Dr. Sylvie Labelle and Dr. Fred Horowitz, executive coaches.
1. Don’t allow the people around you, the environment and self-defeating beliefs to sabotage your capacity to be creative.
How often have you limited yourself by saying things like this?
– I was not born creative; I can’t learn to be creative now at my age.
– Creativity requires lots of talent; I am not talented enough.
– Being creative is too difficult for me.
– I am not clever enough to be creative.
– Creativity is really stupid; I depend on logic and reason to solve problems.
– Only certain people need to creative, such as writers, artists or musicians.
In many cases the environment in which you live or work blocks your creative thinking. How often are you faced with the negative judgments and critical comments of your family, friends and peers? As a result of these constraints, creativity becomes an underutilized capacity. Most of your thinking becomes robotic and operates in monologue, which gives more of the same kind of thinking.
2. Believe in your ability to be creative.
Research shows that creativity does not belong only to so-called creative types. Most normally intelligent people are capable of doing some degree of creative work. Through perception and understanding creativity can be deliberate. Creativity comes from many different elements: experience (which certainly you have a lot of), knowledge (that too you have accumulated over the years), technical skills, talent, and persistence in achieving goals. Creativity is a quality that can be learned, trained and practiced if you put your mind to it.
3. Live a created life.
According to Dr. Fred Horowitz, we can profit by thinking about creativity in four ways:
(1) Live a created life by speaking something new into existence (“I’m changing careers”, for example) not based on the past, yet honoring it. A created life is distinguished from a “reactive” life, in which we are at the effect of our circumstances, emotions, moods and thoughts.
(2) Generate possibilities, breakthroughs, a new future by saying something new that would not occur if we did not say it. This is distinct from predictions, which are past-based and give more of the same in the future.
(3) Generate ideas by engaging in conversation with people who do not share our points of view. It is a collaborative conversation, in which something new opens up through the process of dialogue.
(4) Become fulfilled on what is brought into existence by taking actions based on what we are committed to accomplishing. The actions need to “call us” – need to resonate with us, connect us with something beyond our identities.
4. Try new ways of thinking and acting.
Dr. Sylvie Labelle suggests new ways of thinking and acting differently without necessarily changing who you are. Here are some simple steps she recommends for breaking free of constraints:
* Do the opposite of what you are used to.
* Open up uncertain things for discussion.
* Do not focus on what other people think.
* Get out of your comfort zone.
* Do not rely on old solutions from the past.
* Take the time to look deeply into the problem or challenge
* Talk to others, both experts and non-experts in the area.
* Turn the problem upside down by asking what the problem is not or what is missing.
* Sleep on it by taking frequent breaks, distancing yourself entirely for a while or putting it aside while you actually sleep.
* Ask more questions.
* Visualize how different aspects of a problem fit together and storyboard or depict its components.
* Use a graphic organizer to chart what works and what does not.
5. Have fun and laugh more often.
Doug Hall, an eccentric and creative thinker, noted that fun is fundamental to creativity. In fact, he has come up with his own Law of Creativity Physics: without fun there is no enthusiasm or energy. He claims you can increase your brain power three to five times by laughing and having fun before tackling a problem.
Robb Correl offers these simple ideas for becoming a funnier person:
* You are funnier than you think, so be yourself.
* Take pleasure in the inconsistencies, incongruities and paradoxes that surround you. Stop complaining about things and start laughing at them.
* Let in more light in your life. In other words, lighten up and look at fun possible in most situations.
* Take on comically foolish perspectives, such as seeing a problem from the point of view of a Martian.
* Invent weird reasons why things are the way they are.
* Accept human weakness and frailties for what they.
* Accept all that is and avoid a lot of suffering in your life.
* Laugh “with” people and not “at” them.