What Inhibits Your Creativity?

2771080459_b58b7c4ed9_mThe world is currently in a state of near panic, and creative solutions are needed to solve the problems.  Notwithstanding the recent uptick we’ve seen in the financial markets over the past few weeks, there are still a lot of frightened people out there.  Scared for their jobs, scared for their neighborhoods, scared for the future.  Rapid change can stifle creativity in the best of times, and right now is definitely not the best of times.  Without the ability to innovate, we face a set of problems that seem insurmountable.  The current economy is just one example of a crisis.  We all face them, as a society and personally.  The challenge is how to deal with the issues that we have when they seem as though they can’t be overcome.

What do you fear in your own life?  Some people may be worried about external factors such as our economy, but there are many other situations that can paralyze a person.  Self-doubt, potential health issues, and almost every other situation that causes fear can be traced back to one root cause:  uncertainty.  Uncertainty plagues us because we like to be in control and able to determine what’s going to happen next.  When external factors take that ability away from us, we naturally feel out of place and powerless.  These feelings typically cause one of three reactions: we occupy ourselves with trivialities and time-wasters, we push ourselves to the breaking point with tasks that keep us from addressing real problems, or we just refuse to engage in any activity that could help rectify the situation.

None of these types of activities are going to help solve any problem.  What needs to happen when a challenge presents itself is for an individual or group to sit down, take stock of the situation calmly, and come up with creative solutions to the issues that they face.  This approach requires free thinking, teamwork, and a spirit of cooperation (among other things), all of which are typically lacking in fearful individuals.

So, how to address this?  There are several techniques anyone can use to overcome fear and generate creative solutions in the midst of a crisis:

  1. First things first:  focus on what’s actually happening, not what may or may not happen. This is really difficult to do, but it’s crucial if you’re going to make it through.  Sit down when you first are confronted with a situation that causes you to panic, and outline the problem as it actually is, not as you imagine it to be.

    Often times, when we allow a problem to fester in our minds, we either let our imagination play out all kinds of false scenarios, or we refuse to acknowledge the true extent of the issue.  It becomes a nebulous blob that we can’t get our arms around without putting all the facts down on paper.  Here’s an aid I like to use.  It’s one I learned in the Army when preparing to do just about anything:  Task, Conditions, and Standards.

    “Task” is a one-sentence definition of the challenge at hand; what needs to be overcome.  “Conditions” are a listing of all the environmental and personal factors involved (for instance, in the Army, if we were going out into the field for an exercise, we’d list the weather forecast for the length of the exercise, the equipment we had available to us, any enemy forces arrayed against us, etc.).  “Standards” are how we would determine whether or not we successfully achieved the Task.

    This should encapsulate all the issues involved, and allow you to think more clearly about the true nature of the problem at hand.

  2. Continue (or start) having conversations with other people who are impacted by the same situation, and who are willing to take the approach you are. It’s going to do you no good to keep this all to yourself.  Remember the old saying:  “None of us is as smart as all of us”.  Some of the best creative ideas occur in brainstorming sessions, and those require more than one person.  However, it’s also not going to do you any good to constantly talk with people who aren’t interested in finding creative solutions to the challenges you face.  If your conversations are held with people who are reacting negatively, they won’t help you at all.  In fact, they’ll probably harm whatever sense of well-being you’ve been able to generate by addressing the true nature of the problem in Step 1.

  3. Finally, make sure you take time to keep yourself sane. Do things for yourself, and don’t allow the challenge you’re facing to take over your life.  Make sure you get enough sleep, exercise, eat right, hang out with friends or your kids, pray or meditate (if that’s your thing).  If you need some time alone (and you’re not worried you’ll obsess about your problem), then make sure you take it.  Conversely, if you want to hang out with a bunch of friends, do that, too.  Just don’t allow the drudgery of overcoming whatever it is you’re overcoming to turn your life into one big, depression-filled mess.  Don’t neglect yourself.

I know it doesn’t often seem like it when you’re in the midst of a horrible downturn, but things tend to turn around.  Economic issues sort themselves out eventually, most folks find gainful employment at some point, people find love again, etc.  This isn’t to belittle the challenges that people face; it’s definitely hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel sometimes.  I’m only saying that, with perseverance and some effort toward conquering your fears (using the tools presented above), you’ll come out of whatever challenge you’re currently facing with your head held high.  And, oftentimes, you’ll be better off than when you started.

photo courtesy: curran.kelleher

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