I’m a big fan of Sir Ken Robinson. I’ve always enjoyed dry British humor, and love to hear him speak.
Robinson often discusses the limiting nature of our schools because of their narrow focus on math, reading and writing. In one speech, he celebrated the work of Howard Gardner and his book Multiple Intelligences, which expands what we think of as the traditional areas of intelligence like Math and English to a list of 8 criteria, including competencies such as visual, musical, intra-personal and kinesthetic.
The essence of Robinson’s argument is that we must all tap into the inherent creative genius we each have. And, to do so, we need to broaden the focus of what we teach and celebrate in our schools and our world. His punch line is that he believes there are far more than the 8 intelligences Gardner mentions; Robinson suggests the actual number to be around 8 billion, the total number of people alive in the world today.
For me, my daughter is a perfect example of this uniqueness. She is always happy and lights up every room she’s in. I call her my sunshine, and not just as a nickname – she shines with a light that genuinely makes others feel comfortable and happy. This is a million-dollar trait, and one that may very well allow her to live an extraordinarily happy life of great impact. Whether or not she’s a good student, ever writes a book, or completes a differential equation, she’ll add incredible value to the world and the people in it just by being her unique self.
Creativity is not limited to magnificent inventions and works of art. You don’t have to be Einstein, Mozart or Richard Branson to be creative.
Creativity exists in all of us. Heck, I believe accessing it is a fundamental human need that falls just behind oxygen, water, and food. Either we’re being creative in our lives, or we’re withering away. It’s the primary energizing force of our existence!
Pablo Picasso once said, “All children are artists. The problem is how to stay an artist when the child grows up.” In other words, it’s easy for us to drift away from our creative pursuits as we get older, even though the benefits of indulging them haven’t changed.
Creativity is something we need to incorporate into everything we do. It enables us to write powerful thank-you notes, have stimulating conversations, make meaningful connections with others, wear great Halloween costumes, give thoughtful gifts, tie our shoes in unusual ways and brush our teeth unlike anyone else.
Each of us is a creative genius. The key is to allow this intelligence to infuse our lives with energy and passion.
Here are six ways to be more creative that will allow you to remain the artist you were born to be:
1- Maximize each moment by staying engaged
There’s no better strategy for fostering creativity than simply staying present and engaged. Too often, we numb ourselves with shopping, TV, video games and social media. My first suggestion is recognize when you’re retreating from life. Make the decision to put your phone away and be where you are with the people you’re with. If nothing else, this keeps the mind open and active with the capacity to generate new ideas and be creative in the moment, rather than getting absorbed in one of the all-too-easy distractions that life and technology offer.
2- Find greater inspiration in unusual places
Yoshiro Nakamatsu is a Japanese inventor who currently holds over 3300 patents, the most by any single individual in the world. Perhaps just as interesting, though, is his unique method of generating ideas: He has an underwater tablet and pen. For some reason, being underwater is a source of creative inspiration for him. He submerges, and the ideas flow.
I’m not joking, but studies have shown the number one time and place people generate new ideas is while going to the bathroom. This is followed very closely by when they’re taking showers. Maybe it has something to do with water, but more likely it is those moments when our minds are allowed to relax and just be. So, be alert for moments of inspiration at the most unusual times and in some strange places – and be prepared so as to never let a good idea fade away!
3- Stimulate big ideas by reading more
I always tell my kids that people who read live a thousand lives. I can’t take them all over the world and I can’t always introduce them to new and interesting people, but I can give them a great book and all of that will be at their fingertips. I only wish they’d listen to me, because I know of nothing better for any of us than opening a book and immediately expanding our lives and minds.
There is also nothing I do that unblocks the channels to my creative capacity better than reading. It opens my mind, teaches me new things and gives me new and critical perspectives that allow me to evolve. Just the act of leaving the reality of your own life and opening doors into new worlds and knowledge allows the mind to relax. Like fertile soil, the relaxed and welcoming mind becomes the breeding ground for thoughts and ideas that can grow into astonishing things.
4- Access your creative capacity by getting quiet
Brian Tracy once gave me a wonderful tip. He was discussing ideas for solving critical problems in life, and his advice was to go somewhere quiet with no distractions. No real surprise so far, but he continued and was very specific: Turn off all electronics, then simply be quiet for 30 minutes and reflect on your challenge. Without fail, the guidance and answers you need will come to you.
More times than I can count, I’ve found him to be right. The capacity that we human beings have is utterly amazing. When we give our minds the chance, we find that all our answers are within.
5- Strip away the noise through communing with nature
I once took on a challenge from Deepak Chopra. He urged his readers to live like Thoreau on Walden Pond, by going out in the woods and shutting everything down for a day. I took him up on the challenge.
I packed a bag of food and water and went out for an 8-hour day in the woods. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but it was actually extremely difficult. For the first 4 or 5 hours, I was going crazy. I found it impossible to shut off the constant flow of thoughts and urges to walk back to my car to check my phone or grab some music to listen to.
Sometime after lunch, something amazing happened. I settled in. My mind slowed down. That night and the following day ended up being some of the most creative time of my life. It was almost like I hit the Control-Alt-Delete keys in my mind, allowing it to reboot and start anew.
Chopra actually recommends doing this for multiple days. If you’re like me with 3 children and more than a few commitments, see if you can at least carve out a day to escape everything in your life. Allow you mind and body to reboot and, if you can, do this multiple times each year.
6- Open the channels of creativity through meditation
I think you can see that all of these recommendations have a common theme: finding ways to relax the mind and allow the channels to open up for new ideas. And there is no better tool, in my opinion, to accomplish that than meditation. If you’ve read my other blogs, you know how big a fan I am of this practice. Not only does it allow us to treat anxiety, manage anger and live healthier, it also fosters a fertile environment for generating new ideas and developing strategies to solve the problems in our lives.
One of my great heroes is Albert Einstein. To me, he expressed his creativity as much as anyone who has ever lived. He made science a form of art. He once said, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” If we want to live a life we’ve never had, we must do things we have never done. In other words, we have to tap into the wonderfully abundant creative capacity given to us at birth. I hope the strategies above help you do just that so you can remain the artist you were born to be!