‘A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.’
It’s widely believed that one must be born creative to be creative and those who were not born that way should make their peace with not having ingenuity, playfulness and spontaneity in their life. However, it isn’t true — as I’ve written in my previous post, all of us were born to be incredibly creative. The question is whether we can preserve our creativity while we grow up – what is pretty difficult to do, most of us can’t – and if we have lost it how can we get it back.
In order to bring to life our intuition, lightness and longing to create – things that we have suppressed for years or for decades – we need to let our child-self arise and create freely. To make this process easier we will learn a few things from the most creative creatures on earth: children.
What are the things we will pick up from them?
Children’s notion of the world is not as solid as adult’s. They don’t think that every problem can only be solved according to their previous experiences and that if the methods they know don’t work, it’s better to give up. If a child can’t solve a problem in one way they will try something utterly different. If that doesn’t work either, they try something else. The bottom line is that they can think outside the box and come up with dozens of new ideas.
Meanwhile, we grown-ups tend to get stuck in our fixed problem-solving patterns. We know our life-situations and difficulties so well that pretty often we can’t see them clearly at all.
If you face a difficulty try to step back and look at the situation from an outsider’s point of view – like you were an alien who just met the exotic life and problems of humans – to find new, original solutions to the problem.
2. They do one thing at a time
Children are always 100% involved in what they are doing. And how many things do they do at a time? Only one. But they do that one at full stretch, pouring all their attention and energy to it.
Multi-tasking is the worst thing that one can do if they want to be productive: while they give half of their attention to this and half of their attention to that they don’t pay any real attention to anything. When you do more than one thing at a time you don’t really get involved in either of the tasks you are dealing with, thus you can’t enjoy them. Not to mention that the quality of your work will be at the very least questionable.
Next time you engage in a creative activity give your full, undivided attention to it. Doing one thing at a time will boost your productivity and you will experience the amazing feeling of be in the Flow.
3. They don’t judge
Children think and create without having doubts and fears. They don’t question themselves. They don’t compare themselves to others. It doesn’t even occur to them that the drawing or the LEGO castle they are working on won’t be good enough. They know that whatever they are working on, the outcome will be awesome.
Perfectionism is the number one killer of creativity. I don’t say it’s wrong that you want to do a good job. Of course you want to. You should want to. What I’m saying is that when you work on something, don’t focus on the outcome and, in particular, do not focus on your fears regarding the outcome but on the activity itself. Learn to switch off your self-criticism that constantly tells you that you are not good enough.
Become your own supporter, instead of your own worst enemy. Let yourself create freely and joyfully.
4. They are OK with making mistakes
This relates greatly to the previous point. Children can handle their failures. They must. What if toddlers told themselves: ‘well, I’ve tried this walking thing a couple of times but it seems really hard and it’s so embarrassing that I fell a couple of times, so I’m just going to stick to crawling” and then they would spend the next 70—80 years of their lives on all fours? Would be sort of unreasonable, wouldn’t it?
If you start to do something new, be apologetic and gentle towards yourself. Know that you will get better and better in this activity if you give yourself enough time and credit to get better in it.
5. They have time
Give some time to creativity. According to many artists and scientist some of their best ideas arose when they were not working. If you start a creative project have long (maybe even several days long) breaks every now and then.
Throughout these intermissions, on an unconscious level your mind will still be working on the issue and then, out of the blue it will come up with a great idea or solution shouting ‘Eureka’.
6. They live in the now
Children don’t dwell on the past and are not anxious about the future. They are always in the here and now and intuitively try to make the best out of every moment.
This state of mind is a bit tricky to achieve for adults as we need to pay the bills and take care of ourselves on our own.
Yet, if you let your daily worries and tasks go for a few minutes every day and let yourself to be in the moment to play and laugh, you will be able to deal with challenging situations more light-heartedly and will find a creative, unique solution to them.