How to Be More Creative: 3 Ways to Recapture Your Childlike Creativity

30 06 2009

Did you know that by the time we are 40, we are expressing less than 2% of the measurable creativity we demonstrated as a child?

Children are naturally creative. Think of all the ways a child can take an ordinary object and turn it into something extraordinary. Like how a tattered t-shirt can become a magical cape that makes you fly, how a sandcastle turns into a mystical land full of castles with dragons and princesses, or how an imaginary friend stirs up adventures to pursue.

When we are childlike, we give ourselves the space to play with new concepts, to see things from a shifted perspective, or to imagine something entirely new. As adults, we express less creativity than we did as children because of: 1) having years of exposure to the “usual” or “accepted” approach, and 2) being limited to the practicality and logic of our adult minds.

There is a lot of creative value when we approach the world with childlike wonder and imagination. So how do we maintain the creative spirit as we grow up?

There are some key characteristics that are more abundant in children and add to their creativity. When we can recapture some of these characteristics and apply them to our creative process, we help open our minds to more imagination and creativity.

Characteristics of Childlike Creativity

  • Curiousness
  • Playfulness
  • Imagination
  • Open-mindedness
  • Adaptability
  • Questioning
  • Spontaneity
  • Wonderment

“The best place to go with a child is in their imagination.”  Amie, age 16

3 Ways To Recapture Your Childlike Creativity

1. Let Your Imagination Run Wild
An active imagination is at the heart of creative thinking. For the young child, fact and fantasy, dreaming and waking, wish and reality, are all without clear distinction. In a child’s world it’s finding how a t-shirt can become a magical cape; in an adult’s world it’s looking at how to make a man fly, cure disease, or walk on the moon.  When you let your imagination loose without the confines of the common approach, you open yourself up to new ideas and creative possibilities.

2. Be Curious and Open-Minded
Believe no idea is a bad idea—consider and be open to anything. Curiosity and open-mindedness prevent stagnation in creative enterprises; without these qualities, some creative longevity is lost.

In Rob Eastaway’s book, “Out of the Box: 101 Ideas for Thinking Creatively” he says that there are three stages of life:

From 0 to 4 years old is the “Why not?” stage.
From 5 to 11 years old is the “Why?” stage.
From 12 onward is the “Because” stage.

When we remain curious (why/why not) we keep our minds open to new perspectives. As we get older, we enter the “Because” stage and start to lose the “curiosity and wonder about the world that leads us to ask those crucial questions, “Why?” and “Why Not?”

3.  Think Outside the Box: Embrace a New Perspective
As adults it is easy to get trapped into seeing things from one perspective—mostly because we are exposed to the usual approach and how things are normally done. When we can look at things from a different perspective, we can see a new way to do things—this is where innovation happens.

I just read a story about a little girl who was watching her sister’s dance recital. After watching the ballerinas dance on their toes for a while, she turned to her mommy and wondered, “Why don’t they just get taller ballerinas?”

To help gain a new perspective, ask yourself:

  • Is there a new way to approach this?
  • What hasn’t been tried before?
  • What am I not seeing?
  • Who can I talk to that might have a fresh perspective?

The greatest thing about creativity is that there is always room for new perspectives and learnings, no matter what age.

  • A pen and paper are all you need to create a new world. Michelle, age 13
  • You should never jump out of a tree using trash bags as parachutes. April, age 10
  • Childhod is not preparation for life. It is life.  James, age 9
  • I like to draw because it makes my mind flow. Todd, age 10 Read the rest of this entry »

How to Practice Mindfulness and Increase Inspiration and Creativity

2 06 2009

What keeps us from accomplishing what we desire, from finding inspiration, or from following through on our endeavors? How can we open up our creativity, imagination, and inspiration?

There are many obstacles that get in the way of our creativity and ultimately our ability to follow through on our ideas—scattered thinking, over stimulation, lack of focus, stress, being judgmental, presumptive, or self-critical…just to name a few.

One way to overcome these obstacles is to condition your mind to be more present, focused, and thus open to inspiration (it’s hard to be inspired when you are stressed or regularly distracted by lots of external stimuli). The practice of mindfulness is a great technique to consistently use to begin to overcome these obstacles.

Mindfulness has been around since the time of Buddha, but has lately been getting some mainstream attention as a beneficial practice with real tangible results. In fact, just earlier this week, an article about mindfulness was on the front page of discussing its benefits in reducing stress.

So what is Mindfulness?
The most basic definition of mindfulness is ‘paying full attention to what you are doing, moment by moment’.

In a nutshell, mindfulness is the practice of being attentively present. It is called a practice in the same way that we say that people practice the piano because it takes time to learn and cultivate. While mindfulness is the simple ability to relax and bring forth an awareness of what is happening in the present, it can be hard to do. Especially in the day and age of reduced attention spans and constant stimulation.

Mindfulness can be highly effective in helping bring calm and clarity to the pressures of daily life, and help direct our minds and bodies to be more focused.

Examples of Some Practical Ways People Practice Mindfulness

  • Focus on deep-breathing exercises (i.e. inhale for 4, hold for 8, exhale for 6)
  • Consciously direct focus on an ordinary task, like eating a piece of food or doing a chore around the house, and solely focusing attention to that one task.
  • Take yoga, tai chi, or other similar classes where you focus on the relation between body, mind, and spirit

So how can mindfulness benefit creativity?
When we can be more mindful in the process of creating—whether with words, music, art, brainstorming, or innovation—we are able to focus with a clear mind and open ourselves up to a space where inspiration and creativity can flow more abundantly.

By being mindful, you are able to put yourself in a place where you can gain perspective. You are focused. You are curious. You discover something new. An idea is sparked. Inspiration strikes. A distinction is made. A perspective shifts. You are able to open yourself up to new possibilities. You are not distracted.

By practicing mindfulness in daily activities, you will begin to condition your mind and body so that you can learn to be focused and have mental clarity in other areas of life as well, including opening up your mind for inspiration and creativity.

Exercise: How You Can Practice Mindfulness

  1. Choose one routine physical activity that you perform most days and experiment with doing it mindfully. This means doing just this one activity while you are doing the exercise, for example not listening to the radio at the same time. It is also best to let go of any concern about the results or in finishing quickly. Remain in the present as best you can. What do you notice? What do you feel? Activities you might choose include brushing your teeth, washing the dishes, or some routine act of driving or walking.
  2. For one half-hour period during the week, maintain some regular attention of your posture as you go about with some normal activity. Without straining, assume a posture that is alert and upright. Notice what happens to your mood, thoughts, feelings, presence, and degree of mindfulness as you do this exercise.

Article from CNN on Mindfulness and Reducing Stress