Thinking Creatively

I’ve been giving thought to creative thinking. I’ve always found it interesting that, though “Creatives” (artists, musicians, writers, etc.), tend to think differently, this is to say that generally, we are not linear thinkers and are more broad thinkers, we are not necessarily creative thinkers.

Wait, what!!? These are people who express themselves through creative means, how can they not be creative thinkers?

What I’ve noticed after working with and leading other creatives for many years is that though we are being creative, we can be very rigid in our thought processes used to create the final piece (myself included). Always approaching the piece from the same point of view, and in turn, approaching any other problem to be solved the same way.

I like to term it as creative thinking vs. thinking creatively. Creative thinking is when we are thinking about what it is we want to create or express, thinking creatively, on the other hand, means looking past what is directly in view to the open wilderness. It is breaking through our self-imposed barriers and turning our thinking on its side so that we have a different view.

When I was in the corporate setting, I heard all too often, “This is how it’s always been done,” or when meeting with members of the design team I led, and would ask what we can do to make our experience in the workplace more fulfilling, I would get blank stares or the immediate response or complaint about all that is wrong with “others.” These are a couple examples of what I mean by self-imposed barriers.

On the other hand, when we are thinking creatively, we can turn our view on its side and look at the problem to be solved from a different angle. As an example, I’m going to tell you a story that I have told many times before that illustrates this very well. I have always preferred printmaking and painting to express myself when creating fine art pieces. However, painting had always been a struggle for me, whereas, printmaking came to me naturally. As a result, I found myself wasting many canvases and much paint. I would always ask myself “What am I doing wrong or why doesn’t this work for me?” One day when I decided to create a new painting that I had an idea for I sat in front of the canvas, and as I was about to begin mixing my colors I stopped and asked myself, “What is it I do differently when I am printmaking versus what I do when I am painting?” This changed everything for me. By asking what I do differently as opposed to asking what it was I was doing wrong, I was able to think about my approach to painting in a very different way. So though these are very different media, I can now approach them in the same fashion and I no longer struggle to achieve the results I am looking for when painting.

This one change of view opened up a different way of thinking for me and has changed my perspective tremendously. I no longer look at the right and wrong way to do something, or the better or worse way, instead I look at what can be done differently. This replaces the negative thought process with positive thinking.

So, when we think creatively we look beyond our norms, remove our self-imposed barriers and give ourselves room to fully breathe and expand so we can see all the possibilities before us. Doing so opens up an almost infinite amount of the options and opportunities. It is then that the world we live in becomes so much more amazing, always filled with wonder, a willingness to explore and build an incredible life for ourselves.

For information about Visualities please visit me at visualities.us.

Exploring our Experiences

Arthur Ashe said, “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”

When struggling with a particular project and find yourself becoming increasingly frustrated, what do you do? What are your “correction” steps if any, what questions do you find yourself asking? Are they perhaps, “Why is it I am having such a difficult time with this?”, or, “What am I doing wrong?”  I would like you consider asking yourself a question that that allows a more helpful and positive outcome. A question that allows you delve into the process that is taking place.

Allow me to give you an example from my own experience. When it comes to painting, I struggled for years through every moment, rarely achieving the desired outcome and resulting in many wasted canvases and paints. I would constantly ask myself, “Why do I have such a difficult time with this?”

Then, one day, while thinking about this, I reframed my question and asked what is different about the way I work when I paint versus other medium. This changed everything. By entering into my process, fully paying attention, I was able to step outside of myself and watch how I do what I do. I felt as though I were learning something for the first time and was amazed at what I already knew. The struggle was gone. I now try to apply this to everything I do, so that the doing, the experience is my focus. In this way I am living in truth.

What question(s) can you ask yourself that will enable you to pay attention fully to your process, observing the experience inwardly and outwardly at the same time? Questions that have you living the process, actually experiencing the experience.

When you’ve found the right question for yourself, explore how you can turn your answer into a different model for yourself that you can apply to all you do. Imagine how that would be for you, to fully pay attention. Are there new possibilities before you that you hadn’t noticed? Do you feel yourself becoming excited by these possibilities? How might this change how you relate to others? How might it change how you relate to yourself?

When we begin to pay attention to our doing, fully experience our process, we may find ourselves exploring different ways of approaching what we do, through thought and action. The possibilities suddenly seem endless. And that, is very exciting.

For information about Visualities please visit me at visualities.us.

A Portrait of Self

Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” Henry Ward Beecher

In art the negative and positive spaces do not exist individually in a vacuum. They work together to create a whole picture. The same is true in life. Our positive and negative experiences do not exist alone. You cannot know one without having experienced the other. Together, these experiences, if we use them to create the scene, shape who we become. They also teach us how to respond to situations in our lives. We learn from a negative experience to find a positive, and from a positive experience how to use it to work through the next negative experience.

This does not necessarily mean all is black and white. When we take a step or two back in order to see the entire scene, we notice there are nuances, softness at some of the edges, the negative and positive blending from one into the other. This allows us to see how these  opposites work together to complete the scene. Like Yin and Yang completing the circle.

By only recognizing the negative I will always react and respond in a negative manner. When only recognizing the positive, I am not allowing myself to understand that disappointments in life occur, and may not know how to appropriately respond to the situation.

When seeing the whole picture as such, we are able to weigh the pros and cons in our decision making processes more objectively, at the same time reflecting on our experiences so that we can make the best decision for ourselves at that time.

By paying attention fully to our experiences, we notice the nuances, the hard and soft edges, the blending of one experience into another, we add, layer by layer, to the painting that is our life, a self portrait of who we want to be in the world and begin to live in truth.

For information about Visualities please visit me at visualities.us.

That Which Happens

Victor Frankl, authDisguisedor of Man’s Search for Meaning said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Events, large and small, happen in our lifetime that play a part in who we are, and become. When something upsetting happens, quite often I’ve heard, “I can’t believe this happened to me!”, or “Why is this happening to me?”. What I have learned over the years is, things do not happen to us, they happen and we are part of what is happening. It is what we do with what is happening, how we let it affect us that makes the difference.

When unintended or unwanted situations beyond our control take place, how we choose to respond to the situation, can bring positive or negative results. We can choose to be upset or angry about what is happening, use it as an excuse to keep us where we are, or, we can use it to motivate us to something greater. Something meaningful, enjoyable, propelling us further towards our growth.

Let’s say you are in the process of starting your own business, you are making many connections, finding there is interest in what you’re offering. The ball is rolling nicely when other circumstances in your life begin to come up. Needs of family and loved ones, personal needs that must be taken care of, etc. Suddenly, you find yourself unable to devote the time you’d like to building your business. This can be very frustrating. What do you do? Give up, or see it as the type of situation that happens in life and know that once taken care of, you will get back to where you were. 

How we respond to that which happens in our lives teaches us something about ourselves. If we pay attention to our response or reaction, we can notice if we are allowing ourselves to grow and move forward, or if we are staying cemented in place. In doing so, it is important to be honest with what is noticed.

What I mean by this is not to simply say, “oh this happened, but I’m fine,” and disregard what is emotionally and intellectually happening. Rather, observethe situation as it has happened or is happening, and notice your reaction. Does the body tense, or nervously move about, or is it relaxed? At the same time, is the mind calm, or is it filled with angry, or sad, or perhaps happy thoughts. There is no right or wrong in what is noticed. It’s what is done with what is observed that matters.

As an example, when the company I worked for was purchased by another, there were quite a few layoffs, including members of my staff. This was the first of 3 more rounds to come, the last of which were my remaining staff and I. Mind you, we saw our team reduced from 9 to 3 over a period of several years, so this wasn’t unexpected. Paying attention to the reactions and responses to this I noticed how some became angry, blaming, expecting others to do something about the situation for them, etc. Others, myself included, though sad and somewhat frightened, saw the positive aspect and began to plan what they were going to do. The difference between the responses is the difference between moving forward and staying stuck.

Though the circumstances were out of the control of those affected, their responses were completely in their control. Taking that next step, or staying still as opportunity passes by.

How do you respond to situations or change? Are you moving forward?

For information about Visualities please visit me at visualities.us.

Taking the Steps Toward the “Unreachable Goal”

hedef baars ve birlik beraberlik ruhuIs there a goal or goals you would like to attain that you just can’t seem to work on reaching? A goal that sits in the back of your mind just out of reach.

If you are you ready, willing, and able to pursue this, the question to ask is “What’s stopping me?” Take a few moments to think about this. Take the question in and pay attention to the answer(s) that comes to mind and whether or not it feels genuine. If it feels comfortable with who you are, where you would like to be then the answer is genuine and from your truth. If the answer doesn’t feel quite right somehow, then perhaps, your answer is simply an excuse not to take the necessary steps. If this is the case, I ask that you look deeper, discover why you do not want to answer the question. The answer to this is the answer to the original question.

You may have already asked yourself this, found what is holding you back, and yet, you are still having trouble moving forward. In this case I ask how is this stopping you? There is a difference between these 2 questions. The first identifies the obstacle itself. This question asks that you look at how the obstacle is keeping you from moving forward.

For example, I was writing an article for a graphics trade organization of which I am a member. I found myself caught up in the minutia of the details within the details and repeating points using different words. Knowing I am trained in graphic and fine arts my coach first asked me what my process is when I write. He then asked how is it different from my process when I am creating art. I thought about the answer for a bit and the light clicked on. I knew how I was going to change my process when writing and instantly felt the frustration dissipate. By exploring the processes I used in each, I recognized that I was not using the same creative process for each. Once I made the change the writing became much easier and felt more natural.

Now, back to the question of how. Once you have your answer, ask yourself what steps you can take to attain your goal. What does this look like for you? For example, will you need help from another, or do you need to take a class in order to reach your goal? You may need to ask advice of another to answer these questions. Next, “What is a realistic time frame to make it happen?” And, most importantly, “How will I be held accountable?”

Without accountability, it can become too easy to put off what has to be done for another time. It also becomes difficult to track your progress. Ask yourself, “Am I able to hold myself accountable in a way that will keep me moving towards my goal? If yes, ”How will I do this?” If not, “Who can I ask to help me with this?”

These are beginning steps towards reaching your goal. Reaching these goals requires work. Work that may be difficult, but well worth the effort. It all begins with the question you already have the answer to.

For information about Visualities please visit me at visualities.us.