My teenage daughter, who is interested in psychology and preparing for college, asked me recently: “Mom, what is the one thing that you can’t live without?” I immediately thought, love. And I think that is probably true. I have the best chance to live a successful and fulfilling life if I am in a committed loving relationship and have loving people and pets around me.
I shared my thoughts with her. She responded, “That’s great mom. You have love, so now what? What is the most important thing? What do you most want to do with your days and with your life?”
It got me thinking about how I best like to spend my days and the kind of work I do. I am happiest when I feel challenged and creative. If I had a mundane job doing the same thing eight hours a day to get a paycheck, I wouldn’t be happy. Creativity is the drive and energy behind my best-spent days and most successful endeavors. I am at my best when I have a new idea and I am “cooking”—my fingers tapping happily at the keyboard or literally cooking away in the kitchen.
Creativity. What is it? I like the simple definition from Merriam-Webster: “the ability to make new things or think of new ideas.”
When we think about our lives and how we wish to live, we need to make an effort to incorporate and nurture creativity daily. Because it can help you be successful. Think of innovators like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Thomas Edison and Leonardo da Vinci; they accomplished great things with their lives and affected the lives of people all over the world. What sets high achievers, such as this group, apart from the rest of us? Two traits they share are a willingness to take risks and to think differently—and in order to be an innovative thinker, one must use imagination and nurture creativity.
What can you do to unleash and tap into the creativity within yourself? Here are six ideas:
Something about writing frees us to express ourselves, gain clarity and come up with new ideas. Simply write, and don’t worry about what you are writing about or how good your words look on the page. Don’t edit; just write! If you need some suggestions, write a word or phrase such as purpose or my strengths. Then begin.
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
Whether you think you can draw doesn’t matter. Get a sketch pad and a variety of writing tools, like colored pencils and markers, charcoal and pastels or crayons. Like your journal writing, it’s not important what or how you draw so much as that you just do it. For some great ideas, I highly recommend Michael Gelb’s How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci. Toward the end of the book, Gelb has a wonderful section, “The Beginner’s Da Vinci Drawing Course.” This will help get you started. We all can draw—the purpose of it is discovery.
Try taking your journal and sketch pads outdoors. Exposure to fresh air, the sounds of wildlife, seeing the color green and enjoying the benefits of vitamin D from sunlight will all help you feel your best and be your most creative. When I have writer’s block, all I need to do is take my laptop outside to my beautiful back patio, and all of a sudden my brain is flowing with new energy and ideas.
4. Get moving.
Taking a walk or doing some simple stretches will help renew your body and mind. It’s hard to feel creative when you’re sitting at a desk all day. As soon as I get out and take a short walk, I feel better. Exciting and new ideas surface and then I can’t wait to return to my computer to write them all down.
“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”
5. Remember to play.
Just because we are all grown up does not mean that we don’t need to play. Dr. Stuart Brown, M.D., founder of The National Institute for Play, compares play to oxygen: “It’s all around us, yet goes mostly unnoticed or unappreciated until it is missing.”
By nurturing our playful sides, we feel more joyful and creative. Try these ideas to start playing again: Set an intention to play more; keep fun things accessible (like puzzles, coloring books, Play-Doh, a hula hoop, etc.); try a new fitness class at the gym or an art class in your community; or get goofy and horse around with the kids, grandkids, neighbors’ kids or pets.
“Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.”
—Joseph Chilton Pearce
Never stop questioning things, be a voracious reader, watch TED Talks, attend lectures, take courses and listen to podcasts. As long as we are learning, we are growing. Being curious and gaining knowledge will help us come up with ideas we need to prosper and succeed in life. Tony Robbins calls it “CANI”: Constant and Never-Ending Improvement.
“Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.”