Practice Creativity

 

Imagine someone asking you "How many hours a week do you spend working?" or "What do you do?" you are likely to answer something like, "I am a full-time student and I work part-time at a department store," or "I am a full-time mom of three boys," or I am a professor," or "I am a computer analyst", etc. Your answer describes the daily routine of what you do for a living, which is a job that gives you income, a social identity, a certain professional status and, sometimes, public recognition. However rewarding, very often a job includes duties, tasks and requirements that we are obliged to perform, whether we like them or not. Our freedom to do only what we like in our job is almost always limited. This is a main reason why so many people suffer from job-related dissatisfaction and see their work as the necessary evil they must endure in exchange for a monthly paycheck.

Now, imagine someone asking you "How many hours a week do you spend creating something that gives you joy?" or "Do you have a creative habit that helps you handle stress?" Think of your answer: you may take a little longer to give a reply and, when you do, you may say something like: "Hmm, you know, I'd like to be creative but, truth is, I'm too tired", or "Well, I'd love to have some time for creativity, but I'm too busy with other things," or "It would be awesome to have a creative habit but that's a luxury for the rich and I have bills to pay" or "Me, creative? But I'm not an artist, I am an office manager!"

If your answer to the question about creativity resembles any of the answers above, it is high time you changed your attitude toward your ability to be creative. In this chapter, you will be introduced to a number of mythic characters and real people who consider creativity not as a luxury, but their birthright. The truth is that we are all born with the ability to be creative, just as we are born with the ability to think, dream and imagine. But, while some of us continue to honor creativity throughout our lives and enjoy the benefits of a creative habit, many others betray our creativity as we seek joy in habits that are not only non-creative but, oftentimes, self-destructive.

The prices we pay when we stifle our right to be creative are as high as those we pay when we stifle our dreams. In my practice as a psychotherapist and coach, the majority of clients complaining about feelings of depression, insomnia, panic attacks, low self-esteem, or sense of meaninglessness are the ones who ignore their dreams and their own creative impulses. Over the years, I have helped a number of people reconnect with their natural ability to create, watching them enjoy the benefits of their creativity: a recovered self-confidence, an improved ability to handle life's daily stress, freedom from depression, and a sense of fulfillment that no medical treatment alone can ever catalyze.
As you are working through the fourth phase of this method, it is essential that you experience the joy of developing and maintaining creative habits. Reconnecting with your creativity will allow you to be spontaneous and daring as you suspend judgment about the outcomes of your creative efforts. Your benefits from becoming creative will be a sense of sustained pleasure, inner freedom and independence from other people's approval. The more you allow yourself to be creative, the more self-confident you will be and the better you will like yourself.

CREATIVITY 101

"To create" means "to cause to exist"; "to bring into being something that has never existed before". Everything created is first imagined. Therefore, creativity is the human activity in which we use constructively our imagination by giving material form to our creative ideas. I In this context, a creative person is not only prolific in ideas but also active in materializing creative ideas in the real world. This creative input enriches not only the individual life of the creator, but also the world at large.

Creative people are not necessarily professional artists. They come from all walks of life and their creativity applies to all aspects of our civilization: they may be scientists discovering the hidden laws of the universe or new cures for terminal diseases; business people creating breakthrough opportunities in national economies; lawyers excelling in their field thanks to their creative problem-solving ideas; visionary politicians leading nations to freedom and prosperity; teachers creating innovative methods for the classroom; farmers creating breakthrough methods of farming or breeding; cooks creating culinary masterpieces or revolutionary cooking methods; administrators guiding organizations into success through creative leadership; police detectives solving mysteries and incarcerating criminals thanks to creative thinking. Age, level of education and socio-economic status do not matter: a creative person can be a child, an adolescent, an adult, or a senior. He or she can be single or married, divorced or widowed, childless or with children. Individual differences may be unlimited. But there are three characteristics, listed below, that all creative people share in common, which you must also develop as you work with this method:




a. Creative People Honor their Creative Impulses

Creative people know the relationship between creativity and productivity, and they are careful to keep them in balance. They nurture their creative needs by taking the necessary time and space to access imagination and stimulate creative thinking. And they bring their creative ideas into fruition by being productive. They also honor their creativity by protecting and nurturing their ideas and by following a discipline that involves hard work, concentration, isolation, unusual decisions, sacrifices, dedication to the creative purpose, and trust in their inner voice. Nevertheless, in spite of the demands of the creative process, staying loyal to their creative pursuit is never a burden for creative people. The joy from seeing their completed creation is so pure, that it redeems all the strenuous efforts exerted during the process.

Examples of movie characters portraying creative individuals abound. Some of them are introduced in this chapter. I encourage you to see the respective films and notice how different those characters are, yet how similar in the way they honor their creative impulses. These characters represent simple people yearning for the joy of creating, much as we all do. As you watch the films, let them inspire you to reconnect with your own creativity and feel the joy that you see them experience in the films.
Working Girl, is the story of a young woman's determination to bring her creative ideas into fruition, having to protect them from being appropriated by her boss. Tess McGill, the main character, is a thirty-year old administrative assistant who lives in Staten Island and commutes every day to her work in the Manhattan financial district. On the ferry, she reads and, in the evenings, she takes classes. Tess wants to become something more than a secretary. She is bright, talented, informed, and, most importantly, she has creative ideas about mergers and acquisitions that she presents to her new boss, Katharine Parker, hoping to be appreciated and offered a better position in the company. But Katharine has different intentions: when Tess offers her a brilliant idea that will save a large company from a foreign takeover, Katharine steals it and presents it to her clients as her own, advising Tess to not mention it anywhere else.

It is not too long before Tess finds out that her creativity is being exploited. She vows to protect her idea and use all means available to make it happen, even if this means that she will pretend to be Katharine. While Katharine is away recovering from a skiing accident, Tess assumes Katharine's identity and follows through with her plan, fighting to see her idea become reality until the very end, even after her true identity is discovered and she is exposed as an imposter. But, thanks to her persistence and willingness to take risks for her own creative idea, Tess does not give up. Exposing Katharine minutes before she signs the deal with the clients, she proves that the idea was originally hers, and wins. When Oven Trask, the client, asks Tess why she had to do this and risk her reputation, her answer is:

"You can bend the rules plenty once you get to the top, but not while you're trying to get there. And if you're someone like me, you can't get there without bending the rules."

Oven, admiring her courage to fight for her idea, responds:

"You've got a real fire in your belly, Ms. McGill.

Tess's answer to this complement only means that fighting to protect one's creativity is never easy:

" I'm not quite sure what you mean, sir. I've got something in my belly, but I think it's nervous knots."

Tess McGill is not an artist. Her creativity is not expressed through poetry, writing, or painting, but through brilliant ideas creating multi-million dollar breakthroughs in the financial world. But, just as an artist who fights to protect her work from being appropriated, she fights to have her idea recognized as being her own. She is diligent, thorough, brave, and she loves what she does. She does not rest until she sees it take form in reality. And, considering her limited means, she thinks and acts creatively throughout her ordeal against all odds, until the truth surfaces and she fulfills her dream.

Another tribute to creative people is the epic Titanic, which is filled with characters honoring their creativity till their last moments, even as they are drowning with the "unsinkable ship" into the abysmal depths of the North Atlantic. The story is told eighty four years later through flash backs by Rose de Witt, a survivor, as she is sitting in her pottery studio. Rose is a hundred and one years old and she is still creating pottery. Surrounded by her works, she recalls her fateful travel and introduces Jack Dawson, a young artist and the love of her life, who died during the tragic voyage. She spent only hours with him, but their love became immortal.




As she recalls their moments together, Rose brings us eighty-four years back to "the most erotic moment of her life", that she lets us witness it: hours before his death, Jack is drawing a nude of her wearing only a necklace with a big, blue diamond. The beauty of a seventeen-year old Rose in love is immortalized in the drawing, seen through the eyes of the artist. "I couldn't stop shaking" old Rose confesses, alluding to the erotic intensity of the experience that stayed with her forever. Jack's art captured a lifetime of love that survived his death. For Rose, his art did not only create her drawing; it created Jack's immortality.

As Rose remembers, we live with her the tragic scenes that unfold as the ship is about to sink. We are shown five musicians of the ship's orchestra completing their last piece of music. We watch the unknown musicians bid their last farewell and walk away; except for the violinist, who stays in the same place and starts playing solo. As the other orchestra members hear him play, they stop, return and join him in the piece. Amidst a crowd of screaming passengers running in vain to save their lives, these musicians peacefully accept their imminent death and choose to celebrate life with their music, until the dark ocean swallows them playing their last note. Defying death by remaining creative till one's last breath is one of the most powerful messages in this epic, which is also a tribute to inner freedom, immortal love, and the inexorable right to honor one's truth.

b. Creative People Regard Creating as Healing

Creative people are healers. They create to bring wholeness to the inevitable wounds inflicted by life. Their creative output is their answer to aggression, deprivation, unfairness and injustice that, unfortunately, abound in reality. Through creating, they contribute toward increasing beauty, harmony and love, without which life cannot exist. Creativity is their only weapon against the afflictions of depression, boredom or loneliness and the source of strength, courage and hope. Creative people do not allow the burdens of life to discourage them. They create in spite of the daily pressures and dramas to conquer pain, fear, poverty, illness and, even death.

"When I dance, something happens and I sort of disappear" says Billy Elliot during his interview with the Committee of the Royal Ballet Academy. "It's hard at the beginning, but then something happens and I start flying. I feel free. I disappear into the air like a bird, like electricity. Yeah, like electricity..."

Billy calls "electricity" the divine light that sparks in him when he is immersed in the creative process, enlightening his existence and the world around him. Through dancing, his essence becomes one with The Creator as he, little Billy, disappears. The joy of dancing heals his grief for his diseased mom, his worry for his ill Grandma, his sadness for being mistreated by his brother, and his sorrow for being rejected by his father. Billy's wholeness is in his dance. That is when his daily life becomes secondary and he feels truly alive.

There is no process livelier than the creative process. Its essence is the very stuff of Life, which is Nature's will to push beyond limitations in order to accomplish Creation. And, once the creation is accomplished, there is no joy deeper for the creator than the joy of sharing it with the world. A modern myth describing how the creative process brings wholeness not only the creative agent but also to those who commune with the creative outcome is Babette's Feast.

Based on a short story by Isan Dinesen, Babette's Feast is set in remote Frederikshavn, a small Lutheran community on the Jutland peninsula in Denmark, in the second half of the nineteenth century. The villagers are fundamentalists adhering to a rigid puritanical dogma. Their life is dedicated to religious observance, reciting of the scripture, material poverty, and avoidance of all temptations of spirit and body. Their Spartan homes and churches are devoid of embellishments or furniture that might provide the slightest comfort. Their manners are restrained; wordy interactions are restricted as silence is enforced to maintain the spiritual tone of relationships; indulging in simple pleasures such as food or other, more complex, physical desires is simply unfathomable. For this community, joy is a sin.

One day, a French woman arrives at the village, offering her services as a maid to Martina and Philippa, the two unmarried daughters of Pouel Kern, the diseased spiritual leader and founder of this community. During his life, father Kern managed to forbid his daughters to have any relationship with the outside world, forcing them to abandon all prospects of marriage or career. Due to his intervention, Martina's ended her love for a young officer wanting to marry her, while Philippa ended on her own accord her friendship with a Parisian opera singer, afraid of the joy she experienced during their singing lessons. Years later, the same opera singer sends Babette to their home, who agrees to be their servant and work without wages. For fourteen years she does so, following diligently the community's rules, cooking simple meals, observing the silence, and helping the two sisters with their community service.

No one knows that Babette has been a gourmet chef in "Café Anglais," a famous French restaurant, until, one day, she asks the two sisters if she can prepare a lavish French dinner for the entire village, to celebrate their father's 100th birthday. Babette offers to pay for the entire feast, with the money she won in the Paris lottery. The sisters hesitate but finally agree, on the condition that the guests observe the vow of silence throughout the meal, so as not to indulge in pleasure. Babette orders the food from France and sets out to prepare the feast. Soon the ingredients arrive: live turtles for soup, game and meats for the main courses, a wheelbarrow full of offal, bottles of champagne and fine wine, and trunks with fine china, silver, crystal glasses, lace linen, and fancy candles. For days Babette works at the kitchen, creating a feast of love, a true art masterpiece that will forever change the life of the community.

As the evening of the feast arrives, the villagers congregate around a table where they taste caviar with mussels in vodka sauce, turtle soup, quail filled with foie gras and truffles, fine meats, expensive cheeses and exquisite deserts. As they raise their glasses to drink Veuve Clicquot, superb champagne, they cannot help it: moved by the spirit of the food and enveloped in the delight of its taste, they break the vow of silence and begin interacting. For the first time they realize that spiritual prosperity can be enjoyed through material abundance. As the joy of tasting Babette's food is lifting everyone off the ground into higher spheres, the retired General, Marina's discouraged suitor from the past, suddenly raises a glass to declare that nothing is impossible. Babette's abundance has brought to everyone joy beyond words, empowering their spirit with the hope that no opportunity in life is truly missed, as long as one wants to achieve a dream wholeheartedly. Her feast, creating such spiritual and emotional abundance for that deprived community also proved that the one who creates is never poor.

While the villagers delight in the majesty of the senses, Babette, alone in the kitchen, delights in the fulfillment of her dream: her culinary art has healed an entire village, banishing everyone's fear of joy. Looking at us, she reaches out with a plea that speaks for the desire of all creative people to create wholeness:

"From across the world there goes one long cry from the heart of the artist: Give me leave to do my utmost."

c. Creative People Pursue their Projects to Completion

Out of the creative projects you have begun over the years, how many have you actually finished? Remember, "to create" means "to bring something into full existence". If your creative projects are begun ideas that have never found completion, they do not count as creative endeavors. Sorry, but these are only abandoned efforts patiently awaiting your honest attention.
We all have "abandoned efforts" hiding somewhere at home, in our drawers, in our computer's hard drive, even in our mind: a screenplay that is twenty-five pages before completion; an incomplete needlecraft, quilt or knitting project; a bookcase we built in the garage but never varnished or placed in our son's bedroom; an antique car that we have been rebuilding for the last ten years; a foreign language that we never learned to speak fluently; a dance that we never learned to dance without stepping on our partner or causing public embarrassment; a recipe for the special cookware we purchased but never unpackaged; an idea to expand our business that we never pursued beyond writing it in our notepad; and so on.

What causes us to abandon our creative projects and betray the joy of creating? A usual explanation is that we stop the creative process because we give into "fear of criticism" or "fear of failure". This is only partially true considering that, in reality, we engage in many self-destructive endeavors, ignoring criticism and inviting failure in our health, finances, as well as personal and professional life: we indulge in junk food knowing that our cholesterol count will go up; we watch countless hours of television, neglecting to communicate with friends, family, and loved ones; we spend money compulsively, knowing that we are damaging our credit; we cut corners at work, knowing that we will eventually be discovered and called accountable; and so on. The truth is that the reason for abandoning creative projects is not our fear of criticism but our fear of commitment to a challenging process, period. It is in our nature to abandon a creative habit when arising difficulties cause discomfort and to indulge in destructive habits just because they are easy and immediately gratifying.

One of the most deceptive beliefs about the creative process is that it is a constant source of joy, freedom and success. Nothing could be farther from the truth: the creative process is as challenging as any other endeavor and it requires heartfelt commitment from the beginning to the end. Every creative project presents challenges, obstacles, difficulties and problems that suspend pleasure until we resolve them. This is why the joy of creativity is ten percent in starting a project, zero percent in persevering through its challenges, and ninety percent in accomplishing it. But, once the creation is completed, the experience of the creator from sharing it with the world is filled with pure delight. In western religious teachings, the Creator's profound, restful enjoyment from having completed the universe is described as the Seventh Day of Creation. Creative people seek this joy and, therefore, do not abandon their efforts as unwanted children; instead, they treat their creative projects as children needing to be parented until they become self-sufficient through consistent love and dedication despite challenges and rough spots.

An example of creative person who accomplished her project with amazing determination, overcoming criticism and personal attacks of national proportions, is Maya Lin. Her story is the theme of the documentary A Strong, Clear Vision, a tribute to her creative work with a special focus on her remarkable achievement, the Vietnam Memorial Wall. In 1981, as a 21-year-old senior architecture major at Yale, Maya Lin won first prize in the contest to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the northwest corner of the Mall in Washington D.C. She had proposed a simple, graceful, and abstract design of two 247-foot-long walls of polished black granite, set below grade and connected at a 125-degree angle, on which the names of all the more than 58,000 American dead and missing from the war would be carved in letters a little over half an inch high and arranged chronologically, according to the year of death or disappearance.

Lin's winning design did not enjoy the public acceptance one would have expected. As soon as it was publicized, it triggered the bitter criticism of a small but powerful group of Vietnam veterans about its color, proposed placement below ground level, and lack of heroic quality. The design was characterized a "black ditch" or "black gash of shame." A few conservative politicians supported the opposition until a compromise was reached. Following a number of highly publicized meetings, in which Maya Lin was personally attacked and repeatedly forced to defend her project, it was finally agreed to add to the monument an American flag on a 60-foot pole and a group of three realistically-modeled, seven-foot bronze figures of Vietnam-era American soldiers by another artist. Fortunately, these additions were placed far enough away from the wall so that its artistic integrity was not seriously affected.




Maya Lin withstood unfair, chauvinistic and, occasionally, racist attacks with admirable strength and inner composure. She never compromised the integrity of her vision or negotiated the principles of her conception: the Memorial Wall was a healing monument, offering visitors an intimate and contemplative experience as it allowed them to experience the deep sense of loss it conveyed. Lin's perseverance resulted in the phenomenal success of her project, once it was completed. The monument was dedicated and officially opened to the public on November 11, 1982, Veteran's Day. Since that day, more than ten thousand people per day visit the Wall; amongst them are Vietnam veterans, families of the fallen, and the public at large who experience profound healing as the names of the dead or missing, which seem to float on a transparent black plane, exert their power evoking strong emotion. Additionally, as the visitors can see their own face dimly reflected on the polished black granite, they are invited to enter a dimension in which life and death are two facets of one continuous experience. The monument, in silence, speaks to each visitor in a very personal yet universal way about life and death, grief and loss, and embracing what one cannot change.

Another remarkable woman who left a legacy of overcoming difficulties in order to bring a creative project to completion is Roberta Guaspari, the heroine of Music of the Heart. Based on the Roberta's real life, the film tells the story of a schoolteacher's struggle to teach violin to underprivileged children in East Harlem. After her devastating divorce, Roberta finds herself with two children and in need of work. A music teacher facing few opportunities for work, she becomes aware of an opening at an East Harlem public school. After convincing the school principal about the value of teaching music in her school, she is hired. Roberta begins her work in a problem-ridden environment, filled with burned-out, underpaid teachers, accustomed to expect very little of themselves and the school system. In addition the children, most from troubled families, have little support at home for academic achievement let alone learning the violin.

Roberta begins working with the zeal and stubbornness of a neophyte, as the children challenge her authority and question the value of her work. But she does not get intimidated. Showing determination, amazing inner strength and genuine interest in the children, she eventually wins their trust and connects them to the violin. As her students learn to play, their improving self-confidence has a positive influence on other aspects of their lives. Their parents, formerly skeptical about Roberta's function in their school, notice their children blossom and begin to respect and admire Roberta. She has earned everyone's trust.
For ten years Roberta's program flourishes, earning great reputation in the City until, in 1991, the school board seizes the funding. Roberta will not allow this to happen. Determined to give the biggest fight of her life, she summons the help of the parents, a journalist, and a number of the world's best violinists, and organizes an amazing concert at Carnegie Hall to raise funds and save her program. The concert, in which she and her students share the stage with artists such as Isaac Stern, Arnold Steinhardt, Itzhac Perlman, and Sandra Park, is a phenomenal success and raises funds that ensure the survival of her program for several more years.

Roberta Guaspari is a living legend. An Italian-American woman who made Harlem her home, she had been playing the violin since nine years of age. Music gave her peace, sanity, and inner strength when her divorce shattered her life. She brought her gift to inner-city schools and shared it generously with the children, empowering them to honor their creativity and always pursue their dreams.

THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A CREATIVE HABIT

In the next section you will be encouraged to develop a creative habit following recommended activities and exercises. As you discover and nurture your own creative habit, keep in mind its main characteristics. A creative habit:

1. Gives you energy.

2. Holds your interest.

3. Gives you the freedom to make mistakes and see them as learning experiences.

4. Challenges your thoughts, stretches your imagination, and generates new discoveries and problem-solving ideas.

5. Increases your self-confidence and self- acceptance.

REEL FULFILLMENT IN ACTION

A. MOVIE TIME! WATCH A MOVIE FOR FUN, LEARN A LESSON FOR LIFE

The following films portray different characters with one thing in common: their lives are determined by their willingness to be creative. Choose a film and watch it alone or with your groups. Answer the questions at the end of the list in writing and discuss your answers with your group. Repeat the same with more films of the list, as your time permits:

A Chef in Love (1997); directed by Nana Dzhordzhadze

Amadeus (1984); directed by Milos Forman

Artemisia (1997); directed by Agnes Merlet

Babette's Feast (1987); directed by Gabriel Axel

Big Night (1996); directed by Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci

Billy Elliot (2000); directed by Stephen Daldry

Camille Claudel (1988); directed by Bruno Nuytten

Chocolat (2000); directed by Lasse Hallström

Finding Neverland (2004); directed by Marc Forster

Frida (1988); directed by Paul Leduc

Frida (2002); directed by Julie Taymor

Immortal Beloved (1994); directed by Bernard Rose

Like Water for Chocolate (1992); directed by Alfonso Arau

Maya Lin: A Strong, Clear Vision (1994); directed by Freida Lee Mock

Music of the Heart (1999); directed by Wes Craven

Pleasantville (1998); directed by Garry Ross

Pollock (2000); directed by Ed Harris

Shall We Dansu? (1996); directed by Masayuki Suo

Shall We Dance? (2004); directed by Peter Chelsom

Surviving Picasso (1996); directed by James Ivory

The Agony and The Ecstasy (1954); directed by Carol Reed

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947); directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Titanic (1997); directed by James Cameron

Working Girl (1988); directed by Mike Nichols

Questions to Answer:

1. What role does creativity play in the life of the main character of the story?

2. How does the environment respond to the main character's creativity?

3. What other forces in the life of the character do oppose his/her creativity?

4. Notice that these forces may be not only external, but also internal.

5. How does the character stand up for his/her need to stay creative? How does he/she defend his/her creativity? List his/her actions and evaluate them.

6. How does the story reach you and what lessons did you learn about your own creativity?

7. What are you prepared to do to be more creative?

B. PRACTICE CREATIVITY: EXERCISES FOR YOU

1. Developing a Creative Habit

1. Think of something you have long wanted to do or something you used to like doing as a child but later abandoned because you got on with life obligations. It must be something that used to give you pleasure.

2. Set time aside and begin the process of developing a creative habit. At the beginning you may feel awkward, as though you were out on a first date. Do not give up; in time, awkwardness will dissipate and will be replaced by delight.

3. From time to time, check your progress of becoming creative by running through the five characteristics of the creative habit described above. Remember: you will know that you are becoming creative because you will feel inner joy and trust in your ability to resolve problems in unusual, new, surprisingly intelligent ways!

2. How Much Do You Avoid Being Creative? A Check-in

1. Use a daily schedule to count the number of hours you spend watching television in a week.

2. Also, count the hours you spend every day surfing the web, chatting on the internet, or reading and writing e-mails.

3. Promise yourself to spend half of this time on television and the internet and the other half doing something creative. Challenge yourself.

3. Dare to Be Creative: Some Ideas

1. Do something you have wanted to do by have been postponing for a long time. E.g.: learn how to cook, work on your car, decorate a room in your house, develop a business idea, learn how to dance, begin a collection, learn how to make jewelry, learn a foreign language. Follow your desire and listen to your heart.

2. Make it your habit to do something constructive or creative when you are in the grips of an unhelpful emotion, such as anger or sadness. Keep a log of your activities and progress. You will be amazed with the results in your life, in a very short time. (Hint: Watch Billy Elliot dance his anger off in the film listed above.)

3. Join a group or a class and learn to do something with your hands (e.g.: pottery, gardening, baking, making jewelry, welding, making furniture, knitting, etc.) Engage your body in the creative process, especially if you spend hours in an office.

4. If you like music, join a choir or learn an instrument. Organize music nights at your home. (A client of mine organized 'opera nights' in her home; her guests dressed up as famous opera characters and each performed their favorite aria. Then, they had champagne and a lavish, home-cooked dinner.)

5. Finish a project that you began and abandoned some time ago. When you finish it, have a party to celebrate your completed creation.

6. There are hundreds of books and video-tapes on craft-making. Borrow a few from your public library and read through them. Find a craft or activity that interests you and emerge yourself in it. Allow yourself to have fun in the process.

7. For Christmas, a birthday, or for a special a holiday, make your gifts for your family, friends or loved ones, instead of buying them: they can be hand-made cards, home-made cakes, a craft, a knitted sweater, a carved toy, a framed sketch, a collage, anything that excites your fantasy and gives you pleasure to create. Invite your family to do the same. Hand-made gifts are special and very meaningful not only for those who receive them but also for those who make them. They are less likely to be thrown or put away, and gain value as time goes by.

8. Take a cooking class or create your "Party of Chefs", in which you invite friends to participate in a collaboratively cooked dinner. Rent a cooking video, open your recipe books, and have a lot of fun creating in the kitchen!

9. Interview three people that you consider creative in any domain. Ask them about their creative habits and their relationship to their creativity. Ask them about the gifts they received from their creative habits. Ask for advice of how to develop and maintain a creative habit.

10. Write the names of three people who drain your creative energy due to their actions, words, or attitudes. Resolve to limit your contact with them to the minimum, and use your time to develop a creative habit.

11. List three activities that drain your creative energy or consume your time from having a creative habit. Resolve to stop engaging in those activities immediately and save your creative energy.

C. THINGS TO REMEMBER

● Creativity needs practice to grow into a habit.

● When are creative you feel free. When you feel free you have an open mind that allows others the freedom of being creative. This makes you attractive and, very often, irresistible.

● Creativity and Joy are twins.

Maria Grace, Ph.D., is an expert at teaching people how to learn lessons from popular movies to find the job, home, relationship, and healthy body and mind they want. She is a Fulbright scholar, licensed psychotherapist, sought-after public speaker and coach, and the author of “Reel Fulfillment: A 12-Step Plan for Transforming Your Life through Movies” (McGraw-Hill, 2005). “Reel Fulfillment” was praised by Publisher’s Weekly as one of the top “self help books out of the self-help box” for 2005-2006.

For more information visit http://www.mariagrace.com and [http://www.reelfulfillment.com]

6 Ways to Motivate Others

If you’re leading a group of people towards success, you must learn how to motivate others. If you concentrate on understanding what motivates others and you meet the needs of these people, you’ll be on the right track for a positive and enlightening experience for all involved.

 

 

Once a person’s base needs are met, they usually move on to working on certain needs of self fulfilment. For example, if someone is hungry, they won’t be able to concentrate on a critical thinking task. In this case you’ll need to make sure that this person has had lunch before the task needs to be completed. But how can you motivate them to complete certain tasks once base needs have been fulfilled?

Try one or more of the following ways of motivating people:

1. Treat People Kindly. As a leader you need to treat the people helping you with the utmost respect and kindness. Hand out praise when it’s warranted. You might not know it, but it’s a big motivation booster when people are treated right. People enjoy knowing when they’re doing a good job and enjoy working with people that treat others with kindness.

2. Give People Responsibility. If there are certain tasks that you’re allowed to delegate to others, by all means choose someone to take responsibility for that task. When people are fully responsible, they’ll be more likely to find the motivation to complete the task. This is because, as a part of a group, they may not feel like their hard work matters, but when they’re responsible it certainly matters. They also know that they’re being held accountable for the success or failure of the project.

3. Be a Good Listener. No one likes to feel like they don’t matter. Just because you have final say doesn’t mean that you can’t get some help with important decision making. People enjoy feeling like they’re making a difference. Always keep an open ear and you’ll be motivating your team to come up with solutions and creative ideas.

4. Set Stretched Goals. Think long and hard about how your goal setting abilities can teach you how to motivate others. You don’t want to set goals that are too easy. Your team might reach them quickly but they won’t be pushed to become the best they can be. On the other end, you don’t want to set goals that are unattainable either. Your team will quickly lose motivation because they’ll never get the feeling of having met their goals. You want to find a goal that would push them to achieve just a little more than they have in the past and keep going from there.

5. Get to Know People. You may not want to be personal friends with your colleagues, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get to know them as people. Keep lines of communication open and get to know your team by paying attention to their wants, needs, strengths and weaknesses. People are smart and they’ll know when they have a leader that cares and a leader that doesn’t. They’ll certainly be more motivated to work hard for somebody that cares about them.

6. Keep Everyone in the Know. Nobody likes to be left in the dark. Make sure that you’re open about your thinking and decisions with the people you’re motivating. Sure, sometimes there will be things that you’re not supposed to share. You just need to make an effort to spread the word around when you can communicate important issues.

Remember that when you’re working on motivating others, it’s definitely important to strengthen their sense of belonging. You’re leading a little family and when everyone’s happy, they’re motivated to achieve big things.

This article was written for the Life Optimizer Blog by Mark Foo.  Mark Foo has brought together 48 personal development bloggers and writers to co-author The 77 Traits of Highly Successful People eBook that spells out all of the success secrets of the very successful people. This eBook is available to you FREE and you can grab your free copy now at http://www.77SuccessTraits.com.

 

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Failure is the Line of Least Persistence

There likely will be setbacks and occasional self-doubts on the road to maximizing your charisma. You're going to need patience and persistence. But it's important to keep moving toward your goal.

I'm reminded of a friend who had a life-changing experience in a cross-country ski race in Minnesota. He had moved there not long before. In an enthusiastic, if not realistic, effort to adapt to the local culture, he bought some skis, practiced a bit, and entered an advanced competition. He took off like a flash at the sound of the starter's gun. But after the first quarter-mile in near-zero temperatures, he knew he was in over his head, hopelessly outclassed by other competitors swiftly gliding past him. He was soon alone in a frozen wilderness, and his thoughts turned gloomily to fatigue and defeat.

He had initially hoped to finish in a couple of hours. But as the cold seared his lungs and the exertion weakened his arms and legs, he all but gave up on his goal. If there had been a way to surrender, he would have. But being in deep snow in the middle of the woods, his only way out was to ski out. So he pushed aside the pain and pessimism, and kept skiing.

He imagined a lodge with a roaring fire that might be just around the bend-but wasn't. He imagined a rescue vehicle slicing through the drifts to pick him up-which didn't. He even imagined a helicopter dropping down to whisk him away-but, of course, that never materialized.

So on and on he skied until, at last, he came to a sign: FINISH LINE, 1/4 MILE. He couldn't believe it! Energized, he sprinted that last quarter mile and finished in a time not far from his original goal.

My friend often repeats that story, the winds more frigid and his muscles more aching with each retelling. It's become a part of his self-identity, and the memory of his endurance and ultimate triumph has gotten him through other of life's difficult scrapes and struggles. The moral, as he sees it, is that if you keep slogging ahead, refuse to give up, and stay as positive as you possibly can, you'll accomplish your goal, or something very close to it.

I could hardly argue with that. So even if you have trouble imagining success, keep moving along that snowy path in the woods. And before you know it, you'll have success beyond your imaginings.

Dr. Tony Alessandra helps companies build customers, relationships, and the bottom-line. Tony has a street-wise, college-smart perspective on business, having fought his way out of NYC to eventually realizing success as a graduate professor of marketing, entrepreneur, business author, and consultant. Dr. Alessandra earned his MBA from the University of Connecticut---and his PhD in marketing from Georgia State University. He was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame in 1985

Video – Teaching Design for Change

Designer Emily Pilloton moved to rural Bertie County, in North Carolina, to engage in a bold experiment of design-led community transformation. She’s teaching a design-build class called Studio H that engages high schoolers’ minds and bodies while bringing smart design and new opportunities to the poorest county in the state.

Emily Pilloton wrote Design Revolution, a book about 100-plus objects and systems designed to make people’s lives better. In 2010, her design non-profit began an immersive residency in Bertie County, North Carolina, the poorest and most rural county in the state.

 

 

 

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Video: Similar Story Telling

three simple, yet very powerful ways to use similar story.

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Strategies For Workplace Success: Confidence, Connecting, And Advocating

Millions of women across the country are building careers in today's workplace, but that does not mean that there are not still numerous challenges that many face as they look for success and opportunity. Sexism is still an issue in many work environments and female employees often need to do more than their male counterparts in order to achieve success. The glass ceiling is still an issue for many who are looking to rise up in the ranks, but there are some key strategies available from those who have already traveled this path that can lay the groundwork for success.

As Live Career notes, women are finding success in the corporate world, but issues of pay inequality and a lack of advancement opportunities continue to remain obstacles for many young women in the workplace. Despite these continuing challenges, experts do have a number of recommendations detailing how female employees can break through the barriers.

Embracing opportunities for education and connecting with others is key

Those who embrace the opportunity for as much training and education as they can get may well stand out and increase their odds for gaining significant career opportunities to advance at work. Many companies provide additional training or reimbursement for continuing one's education and the wise working woman will look for chances to focus on transferable skills that can help procure advancement possibilities not only at one's current company, but elsewhere in the future as well.

Developing strong interpersonal skills is critical for young women in today's workplace, as connecting with others and managing to stand out in positive ways are key for advancement. Networking is essential, and many experts point out that connecting with experienced female leaders who can act as mentors should be a top priority for young women beginning in their careers.

Exuding confidence makes a big impact

It is not uncommon for women to hold back in promoting themselves and their achievements in the workplace, sometimes being reserved in order to avoid labels like being perceived as being aggressive or bossy. However, experts do recommend some key strategies that can help young women stand out with confidence.

As Market Wired shares, communications expert Kimberly Gerber suggests some simple changes that can help to build up a positive image. For example, women may embrace posture shifts that exude confidence by facing audiences head-on and bending forward slightly from the waist. Looking others in the eye while communicating is critical and it can be helpful to set aside any anxiousness by focusing on the message that is being projected rather than the people who are listening.

Unfortunately, women frequently find themselves needing to strike a balance when it comes to assertiveness more often that what men typically face. Sexism is still all too common in varying aspects in the workplace and as the New Yorker details, this often comes to the forefront during negotiations. Women who are assertive in negotiating job offers, for example, seem to be dismissed or penalized more often than men, and this type of experience is frequently visible in other workplace aspects as well.

Be ready with solutions and be your own best advocate

While sexism is a very real problem in many work environments, and finding a balance when it comes to being assertive can be difficult, young women who want to advance and break the glass ceiling would do well to be aware of these issues and be strategic in how they are addressed. Women who are ultimately successful in their careers work at becoming comfortable with pointing out their assets and successes and do not shy away from advocating for themselves. It is wise to be prepared with solutions to problems and connect with others as much as possible.

Advancing in the workplace is not a guaranteed path for women, as breaking through the glass ceiling can still be difficult to make happen. However, young women entering the workforce these days can find opportunities and success with a strong focus and determination. Experts recommend looking for mentors, connecting with others, and building skill sets in order to stand out. Many women find themselves having to do things differently than what male counterparts may do, but success is achievable with some strategic moves and focus.

Author:  Gloria Martinez  I think it’s important to celebrate women-dominated industries. I created WomenLed.org to educate people about the many women-led achievements that have shaped our world.

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5 Steps to a Better Career

Figure out what you're good at

Each one of us has a unique combination of strengths, skills, and talents. But because it's hard to view ourselves objectively, we often have many more marketable qualities than we give ourselves credit for. Studies show that we most enjoy doing things we're good at, so when we take the time to figure out our skill set, we're well on our way to finding a job that excites and stimulates us.

Here are five steps to uncover your hidden strengths:

Step 1: Review Your Education and Experience

Your resume will give you an excellent snapshot of your education and previous experience. Since it probably doesn't include every job you've ever had -- for the purposes of this exercise only -- add them. Under each position, write down what you did each day, even if they were simple duties. Do the same for any volunteer work and/or hobbies. You can often find transferable skills in the most menial of tasks.

Step 2: Note the Skills Required for Each

Skills typically fall into four categories:

1. Communication and people skills - expressing yourself well, teaching others, relaying ideas, actively listening, and persuading.

2. Research & planning skills - identifying issues, brainstorming potential solutions, and setting goals.

3. Leadership & management skills - delegating and supervising others, motivating people, making decisions under pressure.

4. Knowledge-based skills - speaking another language or having substantial technical knowledge.

Write down the top three skills you needed for each job, hobby, and volunteer activity. Did your previous work as an office manager require strong organizational and planning skills? When you worked in sales, did your powers of persuasion help you rise to the top? Did your time volunteering at a pet adoption centre demand a lot of energy and compassion? Don't worry if you find yourself writing down the same skills for different roles -- you'll most likely see some overlap.

Step 3: Add Things You're Good At

Think about the activities you show a natural aptitude for. Are you the person everyone just assumes will plan the next get-together? Do other people complain about balancing their checkbooks, while you handle yours with ease? Really think about what comes easily and naturally to you. People often take their innate gifts and talents for granted and assume everyone else possesses them too, when in reality that's not always the case.

Do certain people compliment you over and over? Do they admire your hard-working attitude, your dependability or punctuality, or even how well you dress? Did past managers consistently praise you for having innovative ideas or achieving goals?

Remind yourself about any major difficulties or hardships you've overcome in the past. Potential employers love to see transferable strengths, such as determination and perseverance, in candidates.

Step 4: Ask Other People
Your co-workers, friends, and family, and even your boss can recognize strengths and capabilities you don't see on your own. Ask them for the first three qualities that come to mind when they think of you.

Step 5: Look for Similarities
Now that you have a full list of strengths to work from, group your skills together under common headings. For example, coordinating meetings at work, putting together your family reunion, and planning a neighbourhood party all fall under the umbrella of strong event-planning and organizational skills.

After you complete these steps, you'll have a much better sense of your skill set, which you can then use to effectively market yourself to potential employers. A great way to showcase your talents is to highlight an issue or problem you faced in the past, show how you used your skills and strengths to solve it, and then explain the end result (i.e. an increase in numbers or any quantifiable, successful outcome).

Once you understand the full scope of your knowledge, talents, and expertise, finding a job that meshes your skill set with your interests becomes much easier. You'll not only be more fulfilled, you'll also be more productive and command a higher salary. So, take time to figure out all you have to offer.

Author: Brooke Betts

50 Leadership Quotes to inspire and give perspective

Everybody brings their own perspective to just what makes a good leader, or what constitutes good leadership.

Each of us has their our own values and beliefs and experiences around the subject,

but that doesn't mean we cannot improve our own leadership

or our own leaders

or our own followership by learning from others.

Enjoy these 50 quotes about leadership that I love.  May they bring you new inspiration or that new perspective...

 

 

If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities. —Maya Angelou

When eagles are silent, parrots begin to chatter. — Winston Churchill

What you do has far greater impact than what you say. —Stephen Covey

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things — Peter F. Drucker

Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them. —John C. Maxwell

We're here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark. — Whoopi Goldberg

I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers. —Ralph Nader

As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others. —Bill Gates

A leader is a dealer in hope. —Napoleon

All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership. —John Kenneth Galbraith

 

Lead and inspire people. Don’t try to manage and manipulate people. Inventories can be managed but people must be lead. —Ross Perot

Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing. —Tom Peters

Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flow charts. It is about one life influencing another. — John C. Maxwell

Leadership is lifting a person's vision to high sights, the raising of a person's performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations. —Peter Drucker

>  A leadership checklist: 10 things to do right now to make it a great year

Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.    —General Colin Powell

The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It's got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet. —Reverend Theodore Hesburgh

If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea. — Antoine de Saint-Exupary

Where there is no vision, the people perish. —Proverbs 29:18

A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit. — John Maxwell

 

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant. —Max DePree

The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.  – President Ronald Reagan

You manage things; you lead people. —Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall. —Stephen Covey

To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart. —Eleanor Roosevelt

People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision. — John Maxwell

Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out. —Stephen Covey

People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives. – President Theodore Roosevelt

Leadership cannot just go along to get along. Leadership must meet the moral challenge of the day. — Jesse Jackson

Not the cry, but the flight of a wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow.        —Chinese Proverb

It's hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse. —Adlai E. Stevenson II

 

Earn your leadership every day. – Michael Jordan

A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be. —Rosalynn Carter

Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems. —Brian Tracy

To command is to serve, nothing more and nothing less. —Andre Malraux

The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there – John Buchan

>  Rock-Solid Leadership

Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better. —Harry S. Truman

It is absurd that a man should rule others, who cannot rule himself. —Latin Proverb

The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority. —Kenneth Blanchard

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. —Lao Tzu

Leadership is an action, not a position. — Donald McGannon

 

Leadership is the capacity to transform vision into reality. – Warren G. Bennis

My responsibility is getting all my players playing for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back. –Unknown

The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men, the conviction and the will to carry on. —Walter Lippman

A good leader leads the people from above them. A great leader leads the people from within them. — M.D. Arnold

Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it's amazing what they can accomplish. —Sam Walton

A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent. —Douglas MacArthur

He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander. —Aristotle

You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand. —Woodrow Wilson

A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd. —Max Lucado

 

 

... and my favourites ...

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. —John Quincy Adams

Average leaders raise the bar on themselves; good leaders raise the bar for others; great leaders inspire others to raise their own bar. —Orrin Woodward

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A Perfect Mess

Mess is not really the issue; it's our ability to tolerate mess that's the problem.