(n) the act of improving yourself
(n) Improvement of one's condition through one's own efforts.


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Creativity as Self-Improvement
- Part Two -

In order for you to become more creative, you must first realize you are a little bit creative already. In fact, the mere fact that you recognize creativity when you see it reveals that you have within you an understanding of the creative process... and nearly every science has shown that in order for there to be understanding, there must first be a corollary somewhere within you. In other words: It takes one to know one. All we’re going to do is help you increase it.

Still don't believe me? Maybe if I jostle your memory a bit. Do you remember the time you used a ruler to reach something under the bed? Or what about the time you couldn't find the light switch so you opened your cell phone to illuminate the area? Or when you gave your toddler a boost with a stack of books? Or carried your dirty laundry downstairs in another piece of dirty laundry, like a pillow case? These are all examples of a form of creativity called lateral thinking; applying an object to something other than its original design.

So, you're creative already. And at one point you began to wonder, “Is there a way to practice creative thinking so that it comes more naturally to me? Are there techniques I can adopt, just like I did when I was first trying to walk, or address an envelope, or make love, that will give me a creative boost?” The answer is yes, and below I will summarize the techniques which are common to method of creative improvement. Do yourself a favor and experiment with them by bringing each one into practice every day, even in the smallest of circumstances, just to give your mind a "feeling" of how it is to be more creative.

Improving Creativity, Rule 1: Postpone Judgment

The most important rule for creativity as self-improvement is to listen and observe without placing the object, the situation, or the person in quick judgment. In other words, hold off on any concrete categorization that might inhibit you from seeing the various angles and decreasing your options. For example, instead of saying to that old throw pillow, "you do not go with my drapes,” leave the possibility open that maybe it really does. Perhaps it just needs something else in the mix... a tassel, a companion pillow, or a slightly different bulb in the lamp to bring out the yellows. This same system works for relationships. Maybe it's not that the other person wrong, but that their current needs are simply in conflict with your needs. Therefore, perhaps you can each find your own tassel to ease the conflict, or bring in a companion to intermediate, or do something to change the tone in the room and see what becomes of it. But regardless of what you do, there will be no creative solution unless you commit to POSTPONING JUDGMENT and permitting yourself to see options.

Improving Creativity, Rule 2: Ask Better Questions

Now that your inner judge has set down its gavel until further notice, you can really have fun exploring your creative options. The best way to do this is to ask a series of What-if or What-else questions. What if I substituted something here? What if I combined some things? What if I put this object or person to another use entirely? What if I re-arranged something? What else can I add, get rid of, alternate, or ignore entirely? What else might be lying at the heart of the problem? What can be connected, interchanged, or overlapped? And my personal favorite, What can I do to create an entirely different problem, but one that might be more solvable? This phase can also be called Brainstorming, but all good brainstorming is comprised of nothing more than ASKING INTERESTING QUESTIONS of the situation.

Improving Creativity, Rule 3: Test a New Point of View

A story is coming to mind about a man who was changing a flat tire in a strange town. After removing the punctured tire, he stood up to grab the replacement tire and accidentally kicked the loose set of lug nuts into a rain sewer, forever out of reach. After unleashing a stream of invectives at his own stupidity, he sucked it up and started walking in hopes to find a garage or an auto parts store where he could buy a new set of lug nuts. Practically speaking, this was probably the only solution, right? Of course... IF you bought into his point of view that he no longer had any lug nuts. But the truth is however, he had lots of lug nuts. He had 15 other lug nuts on his other three wheels, five on each. Realizing that he was operating from a rather limited point of view, he flipped it 180 degrees, then tested it. Wait a minute. Maybe I already have what I need. And as a result, he saw the solution right before him. He removed one lug nut off each, installed his tire, and drove to the next garage with no more problems. This required no heady questions, no genius, no special skills... only a shift in his POINT OF VIEW.

Is there something in your life, your work, your relationship that would benefit from a simple modification of your point of view? Test it. Flip it upside down. Take the opposite stance, or one of several views in between. Having trouble finding an alternate point of view? Ask a colleague for their opinion on the matter, all of us have one-- and then test it out on yourself, starting with Rule 1, Postponing Judgment!

If it's not obvious by now, improving your creativity as a means to self-improvement is less about technique than about overcoming certain habits and emotional reflexes. At the core of these is permitting yourself a little bit of mobility in your mental processes, doing it without fear, without prejudice, and without giving into the obvious. If you can do this on a daily basis, in challenges large and small, you will have the discovered the personal power and allure of being more creative. And who knows… maybe cool besides.

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