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Today, we will explore the ever-elusive Creativity.

As human beings, we have an innate capacity to be creative, to put things together in new and novel ways. And yet, this capacity is often weakened or hard to reach because the mind is over-taxed with internal and external distractions.

You have probably had a situation when you couldn’t see the answer to a problem that required a new approach. You thought about it, did some research, and chatted with colleagues and friends but no answers came. The problem was still unresolved and weighing on your mind as you went to sleep. In the morning, as you were in the shower getting ready for a new day, the idea popped into your head. AHA! There is the perfect answer and it is so simple. And you wonder, “Why didn’t I come up with it earlier?”

Sound familiar? What happened? Here’s a hint: It wasn’t the magic of shower water. In those early minutes in the morning, before your mind becomes overloaded, there is some space. And in that space, your brain has the chance to access its innate ability to be creative.

A constant stream of thinking gets in the way of the creativity and wisdom that lies deep within you. The good news is that you can train your mind to be in a more spacious relationship to those thoughts rather than letting them overwhelm your brain.

See for yourself:

  1. Identify a situation or an issue that could benefit from greater creativity. See if you can formulate an open-ended question that, if answered, might lead to an innovative solution or approach.
  2. Then, set aside some time with no distractions (e.g. turn off your phone and close your laptop), and allow your mind to focus on the question you developed. Pay attention to the stream of thought and let go of thoughts that are distracting or judgmental or critical. This letting go practice is analogous to noticing the thoughts arising and saying ‘not now’ to help them dissolve. See if you begin to notice some spaciousness in your mind.
  3. Repeat your question silently and notice if some possible answers begin to arise. Try not to edit what arises, just let any and all possibilities be known. Is there a creative solution that feels right? If not, try this practice again later in the day or tomorrow. Be patient and consistent.

In some recent work I was doing with a leadership team, we were trying to break through a dry period where the team was not coming up with good answers to a strategic question. The low hanging fruit had been taken and they needed some new ideas. The team had been working in small groups and were reporting out what they had uncovered using a mindful leadership approach when the senior officer stood up and announced that ‘I get what you are saying, we couldn’t find the answer because we weren’t asking the right question.’ Sometimes, creativity isn’t only needed for the breakthrough solution, sometimes you need spaciousness in your mind so you can be sure you have the right question!

Practicing in this way begins to strengthen your ability to access your own creativity and your capacity for innovation. You can try this practice while sitting in a quiet place, or perhaps while taking a walk around your building or in some nearby open spaces. Remember to be patient, your mind may take a little time to get used to this newfound openness.

This was part three of a four part series. Links to the other blogs can be found below.

Part 1: See Past Your Filters

Part 2: Are You a Compassionate Leader?

Part 3: Training Your Mind’s Ability to be Creative

Part 4: The Incredible Myth of Multitasking