“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” CreativityAlbert Einstein

Tomorrow I am due to run a workshop for a media company on the nature of creativity. As I have been pondering on this, it occurred to me that it would be cool to share some of the insights that have come to me around this in a blog, so here we are!

For me I notice that creativity – the ability to access new and fresh thoughts and insights – seems to be something that is innate. It’s a by-product of us being comfortable in our own skin and with our own experience of life.

For me this is why I often seem to have insights when I am out for a walk or taking a shower. It’s not that these situations have anything particularly special about them. It’s more that fact that more often than not, I find myself in these situations without being too engaged with the noise in my mind. There’s a sense of spaciousness and potential, and an opening in my beingness that seems to keep the floodgates of creativity open. Frequently, in these situations I find myself having to stop what I am doing to allow myself to follow the flow of this creative impulse. Today is one such day!

So what is it that gets in the way of this flow? Here’s what I see.

Years ago when I was an IT Consultant I developed a reputation as a “Mr. Fix-it” and would often get asked to go and lend a hand to an application team when it was stuck with a performance issue.

Invariably, it was obvious to me when I would meet the team that there was often a sense of frustration or worry about whether they were actually going to get the application fixed.

I also noticed that the problem usually got solved in much the same way each time.

Either I, or someone on the project team, would at some point (and often quite unexpectedly), have an insight about the nature of the problem and see clearly what to do about it.

Now quite often that insight came to me first. Not, I hasten quickly to add, because there was anything particularly special about me or my skills. Whilst I did have a good working knowledge of the architecture of what was being built, actually it was the developers, as you might expect, who knew the system a whole lot better than me.

No, the reason I had the edge was because for me I really had nothing riding on the outcome. I was just there to lend a hand to the team and I had no worries about what the consequences would be. I was comfortable with the fact that things could go either way, and that there was a possibility that we might not fix the problem. This kept me in space of openness and helped me to ask the right questions and connect with new thinking quickly.

The developers, on the other hand, had a lot more noise that kept the gates of creativity closed. They were more attached to the outcome, and had more fearful thinking about what the client might say if they couldn’t fix the issue. Being so involved in the noise and scrabbling around to try and feel better about it actually kept them from seeing the obvious.

However, occasionally one of them would drop out of being in that noise, and see something. It was analogous to you or I losing our car keys and frantically trying to find them, and then when we have given up the search and accepted the keys might be lost, we suddenly find them staring at us in the cupboard that we just checked an hour ago!

So what can we do that can enable us to stay in this relaxed place of spaciousness more? Well for me, it’s not so much about doing something as realising some things that are true for all of us as human beings.

The first thing is realising that fresh thinking and access to wisdom is the default setting and that we connect to it from the space of the unknown.

The other thing is realising that sometimes life doesn’t go the way we would like. Sometimes stuff that is undesirable to us happens, and we are going to have thoughts that make us feel like crap about it.

But the problem isn’t that we feel bad or that the unexpected happens. The problem is that we have a problem with feeling bad about the unexpected! And the more our experience looks like a problem, the more we take ourselves away from the source of our deepest creativity and into the noise of our head, and the more of a mess we tend to make of handling the unexpected too!

What if it was safe to allow ourselves to feel bad? What if we could find a place of creative spaciousness even when we feel anxious, fearful and low?

For me this is something that I am seeing more and more now that I have a deeper understanding of the 3 principles. You see it looks to me like it is perfectly safe for me to experience all my feelings and emotions, because they are a reflection of my thoughts and not my circumstances.

Moreover, I don’t need to be in some perpetually ‘positive’ state to be more creative. And thank goodness, because it also doesn’t look to me like it is possible, since I don’t have that much control over my thoughts anyway! It fact, it is thinking that I need to be in a positive state that actually takes me away from my creative energy!

By simply having an awareness of where my experience comes from, and an understanding that there is always a potential for new and fresh insight, I seem to organically find myself much more in a place of creativity, even when I am finding myself feeling low. It tends to allow me to have access to deeper wisdom even when the unexpected happens, exactly like it used to when I was an IT Consultant all those years ago. It seems to allow me to navigate those unexpected situations that arise much more insightfully and creatively than perhaps I might have once before.

How might you be blocking yourself from connecting to that deeper creative potential? What are the experiences in your life that you tend to get caught up fretting over or trying to manage? Do you worry about what others think about you? Do you worry about the unknown and how you might manage it? Do you worry about making mistakes and things not working out well? What if all your feelings about these things were legitimate and were safe for you to experience without you having to change them? What if in seeing that these feelings were thought created, you could begin to navigate all these things much more wisely and creatively?

Please comment below!!

You might also like to see this TED talk by “Eat, Pray, Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert. She has a lovely sense of humour, and the content really resonates with me and my experience of the nature of creativity.

with lots of love,

john x