This is a guest post by Joel Curtis. Joel is a registered Psychologist with Endeavour Wellness. Joel owns a number of private practices in Sydney and provides expert content for several national media programs.
Take Charge of Your Life
Feeling like you are not in charge of your own life is an unsettling feeling. Worse yet, many individuals are not even aware that they are acting according to the scripts laid out for them by society, family and other outside pressures, without any true self direction.
“If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to it.” -Jonathan Winters
Being able to take direction is a positive quality, but there is a potential downside. Many individuals who are great at figuring out the formulas that will make other people happy, such as the teacher or the boss, may follow those formulas blindly without taking the time to decide what it is that they really want.
Take a second to look at your career choices by asking yourself the following questions:
Why did you choose the field you’re in?
Are you doing something that you honestly love to do?
Does your career enable you to have the lifestyle that you want?
Is there anything missing?
Could you be delegating certain tasks to others so you can focus on what you are truly great at?
What is one thing that you would like to stop doing?
What is one thing that you would like to start doing?
The goal here is not to craft some ideal vision that may not be attainable. Most of us have to do some things that we do not want to do each day. The point is to determine how much of your day-to-day work you consciously chose to put on your plate.
You may find that you got to where you are simply by taking the next logical step, or that you are doing things a certain way just because that is how they have always been done. Take some time to reconsider your options if you need to.
Take decisive action
If the previous exercise identified any areas of your work life that need some adjusting, make the decision to change them. Depending on how much you need to change, this can feel a bit daunting. Here is how to make it more manageable.
“Pursue one great decisive aim with force and determination.” -Carl von Clausewitz
After you have a 5-year goal, decide what you can reasonably accomplish in the next year to move yourself towards it. You may choose to focus on networking, education, or a side hustle.
Break your 1-year goal down into smaller tasks.
No matter what your 1-year goal is, you will need to break it down into actionable steps in order to achieve it. For instance, if you need an additional certification, that can be broken down into the steps of researching programs, applying to programs, scheduling out study time, etc.
Each of us can become more creative. Inside YOU is creative genius, as unique to you as your fingerprints.
It’s up to you to unlock it.
Over many years, I’ve had the opportunity to interview numerous experts in the field of creativity and innovation. Whether learning from an entrepreneur or an artist, I have collected some of the best advice available on how to boost your creativity.
And these experts have shared with me what we get wrong when we think about innovation. There are myths that we believe to our own creative detriment. Don’t believe these limitations which lock you in to a dull, gray world!
“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” –Henry David Thoreau
I found it fascinating, and I kept returning to the prompts to push myself. Then, I reached out to Jane to talk about her research and experience into creative strength training.
Jane Dunnewold teaches and lectures internationally, and has mounted numerous one – person exhibitions of her art work around the world. The former President of the Surface Design Association, she has authored numerous books on textile patterning and surface design.
“You are perfect the way you are…and you could use a little improvement.” -Shunryu Suzuki Roshi
Yes, Skip, it IS possible. It would be disingenuous to say that everyone is capable of being creative at the same level, but EVERYONE is capable of learning to think (and behave) more creatively than they do right now. Of course there are people who are really creative, and they’ve embraced it. I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about the large percentage of adults who are “out of touch” with what it means to be creative.
Re-connecting with creativity happens in stages. The first step is acknowledging how you feel about your own abilities. You might not feel very creative. You might not feel creative at all. Either way, I’d be inclined to ask, “What about other people? How creative do you think they are?” Because most of us can see something creative about other people’s behavior more easily than we can see it in ourselves.
Once we begin to notice other people’s creative ability, it’s easier to acknowledge our own. After all, if everyone else has at least some modicum of creativity, by default we must, too! Accepting that creativity is in us, no matter how untapped it may be, is the first step in learning how to unlock its potential.
Copyright Jane Dunnewold. Used by permission.
By the way, I highly recommend actually writing down whatever you’re thinking concerning creativity – yours or someone else’s – because then you’ve tethered your thoughts to the earth plane. We’ve all had the bummer experience of having a great idea – one we can’t possibly forget. But then it slips out of consciousness, and no matter how hard we work to get it back, it’s gone. Writing captures thoughts and ideas in order to allow time to develop them.
The second stage is remembering creative approaches or ideas we’ve used in the past. Sometimes I use a few questions to get people started, like, “Can you remember making something as a kid, from odds and ends – maybe re-purposing something, maybe even a toy? What was it? How did you do it?”
Another good question? Games we invent as kids. What were the rules? Who made them up? These prompts almost always lead to memories of creative activity—changing a recipe, fashioning a quick fix for some household problem, coming up with a gift for someone that was off the wall. Most people are creating all the time. They just haven’t named it yet. So asking someone to recall small acts of creative action primes the mental pump.
The third stage encourages people to embrace being creative on a regular basis. Because, as is true of all learned behavior, practice helps us get better at whatever we’re doing. Athletes don’t come out fully formed and neither do musicians or spiritual guides. Each works repeatedly at improvement. Creativity isn’t any different. You may not ever be the most creative kid on the block, but you can get a heck of a lot better at it if you intentionally seek opportunities to be creative in your approach to work or play – or Life, for that matter – and then embrace those opportunities.
Cultivating strategies to enhance the ability to think creatively include asking questions when you face a situation where the “same old, same old” doesn’t feel like the best solution. The questions could include:
What’s boring about how this is usually resolved?
What are the roadblocks to the problem’s solution?
What’s the craziest solution I can think of right now?
What would ___________ do? (Not Jesus, but someone you really admire and believe is a creative person! What would that person do under the circumstances?)
Maybe you’re not problem solving per se; you’re just thinking about your life and wishing you could be “more creative.” If that’s the case, then answer these questions:
Is there something I’d really like to learn to do?
Am I afraid to try it? Why? What am I afraid of?
Can I accept trying something even if I’m crappy at it, if I think it will be fun?
Each of us can craft questions that suit our own situation and personality. But ask a few of the above to kick things off. Get a feel for how to advance beyond usual thinking where problem solving or personal use of time is concerned.
“Find your own rhythm. Seek your own alignment.” -Jane Dunnewold
Copyright Jane Dunnewold, 2005, Used by Permission
I LOVE this question! Stamina = strength, right? Athletes build physical stamina, and you might think “creative” stamina only applies to artistic types. But anyone can build creative stamina by showing up and by working with the three stages I described above. Just don’t turn away or give up when the going gets rough. I’m reminded of the movie “The Shawshank Redemption”: Tim Robbins cogitating, strategizing, working endlessly, bit by bit, to escape from prison. Creative stamina isn’t as harrowing as that, but it does involve good-naturedly returning to a situation with resolve. As an artist, it means not getting a “poor me”’ attitude when things aren’t going well in the studio. It would be easy to look at what other accomplished artists have done, and give up. Just shelve it. But don’t. Keep working. And there’s always more to do. The end goal is elusive. This is the story of authors who send manuscripts to 50 agents before they find one who will give them the time of day. This is the story of actors who try for roles until they’re totally beat, but go to auditions anyway – and eventually land a part.
People who don’t think of themselves as creative assume what I’m describing has nothing to do with them. But it does. Building creative stamina means figuring out what you care about and then engaging with it creatively—whether you love to cook, and the vegetable soup isn’t quite right, or you love to garden, but the ground is hard as a rock. Maybe you don’t even know what creative passion is, but you keep showing up and trying things on for size.
“If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased.” -Katherine Hepburn
Whether you’re in a large business or you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve seen that how products and services are marketed has changed dramatically in the past several years. Our social, mobile, always-on, data-driven, analytical, highly-personalized world is changing at a pace never seen before.
How your message reaches the world is changing as fast as the technology changes. And the role of marketing has shifted, requiring marketers and business leaders not only to understand traditional marketing but also to mine data to make decisions.
Adele Sweetwood has just released a new book, The Analytical Marketer: How to Transform Your Marketing Organization. As Senior Vice President of Global Marketing and Shared Services for SAS, she guides marketing strategy and go-to-market programs. Her research and 30 years of marketing leadership make her the perfect executive to explain the shift in messaging and what to do about it. I recently asked her about the changing nature of marketing and analytics.
“If you don’t like change, you’ll like irrelevance even less.” –Eric Shinseki
Deliver A Great Customer Experience or Risk Extinction
Data analytics is all the rage in helping executives make decisions. How is it transforming traditional marketing?
Being a customer-centric business was once the exception, not the rule. Now businesses across all industries need to deliver a great customer experience or risk extinction. Marketing can lead this transition by defining what a meaningful interaction looks like for that business’s consumer. The best marketers today have a keen sense of, and clear focus on, the demands of the customer, through sophisticated analytics and data-driven methodologies. In our digital “always on” world, where we’re continually collecting copious amounts of real-time data about our customers, marketing is in the best position to own and leverage that data to understand and service the customer in ways that weren’t possible before.
“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.” –Arthur Conan Doyle
Since we learn that a numbers-orientation is left brain whereas creativity is right brain, is it really feasible to be equally skilled at both?
I don’t believe anyone is exclusively left-brained or right-brained. Being more analytically-oriented or more creative can certainly be innate in someone, but with training, new skills can be learned and developed. Marketers have traditionally worn many hats, so flexibility has been a long-standing component of the job. While a member of my team may not need to tap into her entire skillset every day, she absolutely needs a wide variety of skills that include analytics, social media, storytelling, and creativity to be successful.
You say that marketing is traditionally reactive: Launch, wait, try again. What’s changing?
The reactive approach to marketing simply doesn’t fit into a customer-centered business culture. Marketing now is more about science or math that is driven by an influx of data, channels, mobility, and, most importantly, changing customer demands. Analytics is driving campaigns. As a marketing department, that means leaning more on the work of folks who help analyze behavioral data and the digital footprint of our customers and prospects.
In fact, some of the most interesting work within our marketing department at SAS comes from those focused on data forensics. This is the practice of using data discovery to establish the facts of a marketing activity, a campaign, or a broader initiative. But beyond the basics of data digging, data forensics incorporates intangibles. They are the piecing together of anecdotal and qualitative tidbits along with quantitative data to develop a rich picture of what is working and what isn’t. With that data and analysis, we’re creating campaigns that are more focused on where customers are in their decision journey and what they are looking for. We’re not blasting an email campaign and waiting for results – we’re a step ahead.
There’s no telling where your next idea will come from. One of the many reasons I love to share quotes is that they often inspire us or cause us to think differently. Here are some quotes about innovation for the next time you need a spark.
“Innovation is taking two things that already exist and putting them together in a new way.” –Tom Freston