There was a monk who sought enlightenment. He strongly believed that he could reach it through meditation. He thought since it worked for Buddha, it would for him. He observed that people in the temple were busy doing different rituals. He thought to himself that he would not waste his time doing these rituals. He particularly did not want to wear a robe and other clothing ornaments, reserved for the monks of higher ranking. He meditated his whole life, but could not reach enlightenment.However, just before he died, he decided to wear his robe. As soon as the robe touched his shoulders, he reached enlightenment.
Creativity is very similar to this. You never know what will trigger it. People think that just because someone uses a certain way to enhance their creativity, it should work for them as well. Or if they used something in the past, it should work for them in the future. Creativity requires of us to be what we are, authentic and unique. Sometimes creativity requires everything we have, and then some more. Come to think of it, it does make sense. Creativity is about being able to see things the others may not. Or even see, hear, and feel in a totally different way.
When I first got into this industry of training and consulting, I wanted to define my role. After so many years working in this field, now I realize that my job is like any great leader, or a parent. That is, not just to solve or help solve my clients’ problems, but rather help them expand their model of the world. In other words, help them to be more creative.
The word Creativity descends from the Latin and Greek, which mean “to make” or “to fulfill”. At least, in our culture, this meaning fits just right. Most of the time creativity is used either to make, or to fulfill our goals and dreams.
Since it is such an abstract word, creativity can be used in many ways. Many other cultures define creativity differently. My outcome here is not to worry about how it should be defined, but rather how we can use it in our daily lives.
First and foremost, since creativity is such an abstract subject, it should be used in an abstract way. In other word, don’t contain it in a box. Most people in the field of creativity understand and use the concept of flexibility and paradox. However, the majority of people prefer patterns or consistencies in their lives. To simply put, paradox is one of the major aspects of creativity in action.
I was watching Star Trek last Saturday. The story was about an unknown phenomenon, which was attacking the enterprise. The more shields they put up to protect themselves, the harder the impact was. At last, Captain Picard ordered to divert all of their resources into the shield generator. In about 15 seconds before that unknown phenomenon was supposed to hit again, Data (the android) suggested putting the shields down instead. Many of the crewmembers thought it was suicide; nevertheless, they complied. As soon as they put the shields down, the unknown phenomenon just passed them by without causing any harm.
This is how life, and especially creativity can be. It may just be the matter of perception how we interpret things for it to work in our lives. When we are trying to solve a problem, we may be using all the great tactics in the world for it to be successful, but we may just be looking at the problem from a wrong angle.
Another important and misunderstood aspect of creativity is change. There are literally thousands of books out there teaching how to handle or deal with change. If we really look at it, change is where the major part of creativity completes itself. Someone may come up with the creative idea for something called computers, but putting it in action will create major change in their lives, not of just one person, but for the entire society.
Change is where the miracle lies, like the first ray of light in the early morning (time for a major change) or the last ray of light, just before darkness. Many cultures believe that these are the times (major change time), where miracles and transformations manifest themselves.
I was reading a book, where they were talking about life in Paris. One of the things that struck me the most was how the people who live in Paris take such pride in their work. This is the third step in the process of creativity and change. Being able to take pride in what you do, and I mean no matter what you do (as a profession, or in your personal life).
In Paris, whether you are a CEO of a company, or a waiter serving food in a restaurant, you take pride in your work. People in our culture do not even understand this concept anymore. For many people, work is something we do, which will provide us with the means, that we can use for pride and creativity.
The famous magician Houdini was not concerned with the commercial aspect of his magic. His biggest concern was perfecting his Art. He was able to make a huge elephant disappear in the middle of a crowd. For many people, disappearance of job, or change of environment may just be the very thing they may need to reach the heights of their creativity that they require to fulfill their destiny. Of course, they may not see it that way. In fact they may even sabotage it by disbelieving it. For Houdini, his work was an art and his biggest source of pride. This is what made him one of the greatest and the most creative magicians of our time.
One day I was sitting outside watching a girl climb down the stairs. Her parents were around, and were keeping an eye on her, but she was climbing down these stairs all by herself. I bet in her mind this must have been an enormous task. I wanted to understand what her motive was to undertake such a dangerous journey. She was about one and a half to two years old. It was clear that whatever she was striving for was very clear for her. She not only knew what she wanted, but also where to go for it. Her father’s car, which was downstairs, had a toy she wanted.
It is a lot easier to be creative, and even courageous and motivated, to achieve things when the outcome is clear. This is the next step in the process of creativity. The fourth step in the process of creativity in action is the clarity of one’s goals or the certainty of one’s outcome and why they want to achieve that goal. The clearer the goal and stronger the reason behind (why they want it), the more creative or creator the person becomes.
People think that being creative is something they need to learn, not realizing that they have all they need right now to be creative. There is an Indian tale that goes like this. At the beginning of time God decided to give humans the highest form of power, which belonged to God himself. Of course, humans decided to misuse and abuse that power. Later, God decided that he wanted to reserve this power for just those who earned it. So God decided to call a meeting with his angels.
One of them suggested, “We should hide this power at the top of the mountain.” God said, “No, humans are very persistent, they will climb and climb and get that power. It is too easy.” Another angel suggested, “How about at the bottom of the sea?” God said, “No, humans will swim and swim and will get hold of the power.” Finally, God said, “I know, I will hide this power at a place where humans won’t even think about looking. I will hide this highest power within them and they won’t even think about looking there.”
And the tales goes on saying that is exactly what God did. Many of us do not even realize the potential humans are born with, and how much power we hold. If you pay very close attention and make fine distinctions, you will know that your unconscious mind is able to do almost an infinite number of things, independently of the conscious mind. Everything in the body is communicating with everything else, and it’s all taking place unconsciously. No matter what you think you are, you are more than that.
The book, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill said, “the definiteness of purpose and burning desire are the secret of success.” It may seem impossible but sometimes that’s all it takes.
Many years ago, when I first came across the concept of goal setting, I was quite reluctant about the whole process. However, I thought, “well what do I have to lose.” So I wrote down the list of my goals to achieve: – I want to go to Chicago, California, Houston, and many more places ….. Also, I want to go to college, be independent, have a great life, a great boyfriend, make good money, make a difference in the lives of others, and the list went on. At the end when I stopped, and looked back at the list, even I laughed at myself, and thought, “Like this will ever happen to me.”
You need to understand that it was the time in my life when I used to live with my parents, who were extremely protective. I had never even gone to the next town on my own, let alone going to the next state and be independent, making and shaking things in my life, and the lives of others. At that time I remember thinking that, “I better hide this list before someone else sees it and laughs at me”.
A few months ago I remembered this list and decided to analyze it. I discovered that I had accomplished all that I had on my list, and more. Many believe that having a clear outcome, especially a clearly written one, are like written spells that work like magic!
Everything changes. The only thing one can rely on in this world is the idea; it’s going to change. Now the question is, whether you are going to embrace the change, or are you going to try to go back in time and hold on to the “good old days”. It would be like swimming upstream in a fast flowing river.
When I was learning a form of Japanese Martial Arts called Goshinjyutsu, one of the techniques, which I loved during my training, was the concept of using the flow of change and momentum of your opponent. When you fight, you use your opponent’s strength and momentum to win the fight, rather than fighting against them. The process of creativity is a very similar concept; it is easier to be brilliant and ingenious, if one uses the flow of natural events, rather than investing time and energy fighting against it.
Finally I will finish this idea of creativity with this poem from the poet Rumi, which very eloquently explains the concept of paradox. It is the one of the most essential parts of creativity.
God’s presence is there in front of me, a fire on the left, a lovely stream on the right.
One group walks toward the fire, into the fire, another towards the sweet flowing water.
No one knows which are blessed and which are not.
Whoever walks into the fire appears suddenly in the stream.
A head goes under on the water surface, that head pokes out of the fire.
Most people guard against going into the fire,
And so end up in it …
The point is that creativity comes in many forms shapes and sizes. It’s just the matter of knowing that you already possess it; believe in it, and use it. At first, like any other form of art, it may a while. However, as time passes, and the momentum builds up, before you know it, you will be elegant and much more fluent with the whole process.