8 tips for boosting your confidence with creativity

Creative thinking

We often think that creativity is about whether or not you can draw. It’s not. Creative thinking can apply to anything. You can be a spreadsheet superstar, a marketing maverick or a clever content creator.

If you reframe creativity as ‘problem-solving’ it will help you feel more comfortable and makes creativity feel like less of a dark art. Creativity is about solving strategic problems, spotting opportunities, making connections and making good ideas happen to deliver the best learning and development for your employees and volunteers.

All human beings are creative. Research shows that creativity is more about a state of mind. And when we are in a relaxed or playful state our subconscious keeps working away, making connections and solving problems. That’s why when I ask people where they have their best ideas it’s very unusual that people say, ‘sat at my desk.’They usually have their best ideas when they are not at work: in the shower, driving, walking the dog, asleep, talking with their children or even on the toilet.

It can be difficult to work in an environment when we are expected to deliver more for less, inspire audiences with different needs to want to learn and ensure that employees have opportunities for professional development.

Yet so many organisations put their employees under pressure to simply ‘be creative’ or offer up massively unhelpful phrases like ‘think outside the box’ but without providing any guidance about how to do that.

So here are some simple tips to develop your already excellent creative thinking skills:

Know yourself: You are already creative. Step away from your desk. Think about where you have your best ideas and make time to go there. If this means spending more time on the toilet then so be it!

Get more curious: According to Steven Johnson in his book Where Good Ideas Come From, creativity is making new connections by putting old ideas together in new ways. Therefore you need to expand your portfolio of knowledge so you have more old ideas that you can put together when needed. So get more curious about the world. Read more books, go on a course, listen to a webinar and attend that talk.

Break patterns: As we get older we repeat the same patterns. You’ll have experienced this when you feel like you’ve been on ‘autopilot’, for example, got to work and not really noticed how you got there. This inhibits our creativity because we simply repeat these ingrained patterns. To help break them, change your habits. Start with the things you do on autopilot. Change your route to work, listen to a different radio station, watch something different on TV, go to a different place for lunch. All these small changes will help to create new patterns, new neural pathways and help your brain to be more flexible at making new connections.

Ask why: When we’ve worked in an organisation for a while we accept the status quo, we accept ‘how things are done round here.’ Wear a different lens, pretend you’re new and start asking ‘why?’ When a new employee starts, ask them what they’d change.

Make it so: It’s actually much easier to say we can’t do something. That means that nothing changes. However, confident creative thinkers have a restlessness to solve problems and make things better. They are constantly seeking to ‘make it so’. The process of making the seemingly impossible possible also helps to flex your creative thinking muscles.

Ban idea killer phrases: You know them. Those phrases like ‘we tried that before and it didn’t work’ ‘we don’t do it like that here’ ‘we don’t have the budget’ ‘the board will never sign it off’. Stop using them. They may be true. However, the world changes fast and something that historically wasn’t the right solution might be now.

Say ‘yes and’: Encourage confidence in creativity by making a small change to your language. Rather than using an idea-killer phrase (even ‘yes but…’ is negative) change your language to ‘yes and’. ‘Yes and’ encourages people to keep thinking creatively, solve problems and keep making those new connections and creates an environment where creativity can flourish.

Practice: Like any skill the more you practice the better you get. The small changes you make every day will add up to powerful confidence in your own creativity.

If you liked these tips you might also like the Lucidity Network – a place for people pushing to make change happen, a place to learn, a place to share and a place to connect. Check it out and join us here.

A version of this blog originally appeared on the Charity Learning Consortium.

We drew pictures before we wrote words

Creativity

Why is it when I ask people if they see themselves as creative, most people say ‘no’? Yet when those same people are given the opportunity to be creative the creativity that flows from them is astonishing?

Last week we hosted a Lucidity Network event with our partners Not9to5 on creativity at work, starring artist Jenny Leonard at the brilliant Spaces in Angel Islington.

When our guests started to show up and they saw tables with pens and paper in preparation for them drawing things, I know several people reached for some courage in the form of wine!

We are all creative

We are all creative. The biggest barrier I’ve found if that people don’t believe that they are. Think back to being a kid (or think of your own kids) we used to create all the time. An empty cardboard box could be a castle, a spaceship, a shop counter or an aquarium.

Yet somehow as we get older, we worry more about what other people think and about getting things ‘right’. We draw less. Drawing is a way of communicating. It’s a visual language. Human beings drew pictures before we wrote words. It’s not a case of being able to ‘draw’ its about being able to create and communicate.

Jenny helped us learn to create and communicate though a series of drawing exercises. Everyone had some A4 paper and a pen. Let me give you a flavour of what we did.

First everyone was asked to draw circles. There was no ‘right’ we just drew in whatever way we wanted. We compared circles. Everyone’s page was different. Not surprising, yet it actually was weirdly surprising at how different everyone’s circles pages were. It also helped people to relax, signalling it wasn’t about who was good at drawing. (In fact if you choose to use drawing in a work context you might choose to create a level playing field so no one can be a ‘good’ draw-er, for example you could get everyone to tape their pencil to a stick and draw from the end of the stick not the pencil. Or ask people to draw with their non dominant hand or draw with their eyes shut).

Then we drew something super simple, the wine glass on the table, then we built up to draw a frog, before really going for it with a dinosaur.

The next task was to create a character, any character that came to mind that might feature in a story. Then we passed the paper to person to left and they added something else to the picture, before passing the paper to the left again for the next addition. The final pass to the left involved making a speech bubble and writing something in it.

Take-aways

Once people relaxed into the tasks the fear feeling in the room shifted to a playful dynamic.It was fun. There was laughter and people were happy to share their creations.

The drawing exercises engage a different part of our brain to when we write. They help us to play. The more we play, the more we invent. In fact psychologists as far back as the 1970’s have linked creativity to being more about your mindset than anything else and that we are more likely to be creative when we are in a playful mindset.

Innovation and creativity is about collaboration. The rich insights we get from others input makes the sum of the parts more valuable than working away on your own.

If we can use some of these exercises in our work it can change dynamics and encourage and inspire creativity. They might even break the cycle of the same old ideas churning round and round the boardroom and provide breakthrough’s into new, exciting and different ideas. You just have to be brave enough to break the ‘how we do things here’ patterns and give it a go.

Join the creativity at work webinar

If you want to learn more, practice creativity and build your bravery for using drawing to help your colleagues explore creative thinking and problem solving, join us on the creativity at work webinar on Saturday 15 February at 11am. This webinar is just £10 and you also get a free months membership of the Lucidity Network which through coaching, training and events helps you to be braver, be more creative and make more impact. Here’s your link to sign up for your creativity at work webinar. 

You are creative (whether you believe it or not)

Creativity

Over the years I’ve asked 1000’s of people whether they think they’re creative. It doesn’t matter where I am in the world, the response is always the same.

If I ask the creative people to put their hands up most of the room look away, or at their phones. A handful of people sheepishly half put their hands up. About 1% of the room proudly shove their arm up in the air and ‘admit’ to being ‘creative’.

Somehow, creativity has become the territory of the ‘creative people’. Why are so many of us embarrassed to admit that we might be creative?

Whether you believe it or not you are creative. Creativity is not about whether you can draw or paint. Creativity is about making connections and putting old ideas together to create something new. And creativity is fundamentally about solving problems.

Maybe if I asked ‘how many of you are good at solving problems?’ I’d get a different response.

Creativity can often be perceived as ‘fluffy’ or a ‘nice to have’. This is a flawed perspective because creativity is an important survival strategy. Changing demographics, increased competition, economic and political uncertainty and advances in technology are just some of the factors that affect every individual and organisation on the planet.

Today, organisations must be creative in the way they respond to the changing needs of their customers, clients, colleagues and the market environment or they will not survive.

How we access our creativity is different for all of us. The majority of us don’t have our best ideas when we are at work, stressed at our desks or put under pressure by our manager to ‘think outside the box’.

That’s because, for the vast majority of people, creativity isn’t something that we can simply switch on. Most of us have our best ideas when we are relaxed or in a playful state or with time to properly think. Often the best ideas happen when people talk, build on each others ideas, have time to ponder and collaborate to solve a shared problem.

Whilst all human beings are inherently creative, the way our brains process information can sometimes inhibit our creativity.

Our ways of thinking become more ingrained as we get older. Every experience we have reinforces our established neural pathways. This makes it harder to deviate from what we know, and think creatively – or from a different perspective.

I recently heard an analogy that our neural pathways are like roads. When we’re young they start as meandering pathways that can merge and criss cross. Then, as we get older we favour certain paths and those pathways get more ingrained. We form habits. Our thinking travels those established pathways more and they become more engrained. Those meandering pathways become super highways which are very hard to deviate from. If you’ve ever done anything on ‘auto-pilot’ you’ve experienced this.

And when we’re on auto pilot we’re not questioning anything, not challenging the ‘way things are done here’, not looking for better solutions and not thinking creatively. That’s why, despite being naturally creative animals, we need to practice our creativity and keep our neural pathways open to new ideas. We need to slow down, make time to ponder keep the meandering pathways accessible, enable connections between old and new, allow for exploration and different thinking. We must learn to challenge ourselves to keep off the superhighways of ‘how we do things here’ and keep making new connections and having new ideas and solving problems.

So practically, how do we improve our creative thinking and problem solving skills? What do you actually need to do?

I’m glad you asked. If you’d like to improve your creative thinking and problem solving skills then join the Lucidity Network as we often talk about and create online events focusing on how you can build your creativity skills to get better results in your work. Here’s more information about the Lucidity Network and how to join.

The amazing benefit of hiking on your health, happiness and productivity

A guest blog by Tim Fox.

It is easy to get wrapped up in day-to-day life and to fall into a sort of routine. We wake up, we go to our jobs, and we come home. Now and again, we’ll maybe go out and have a drink with friends or something. It is a proven fact that humans are creatures of habit, and falling into a routine is just a regular aspect of life.

But what if I told you that making a small change to your regular routine, can have a phenomenal impact on your health, happiness, and productivity? You might even be surprised to know that it’s something simple. The answer is hiking. Taking hikes, even small ones can have wondrous health benefits! Let us tell you more about it.

  1. Vitamin D

There are so many health benefits that come, just from being outdoors. Being outside means we get to soak up vitamin D, which is a necessary nutrient that we need to be healthy. When we are out in the sun, this nutrient is naturally and readily available. This is important to know because vitamin D occurs very rarely in foods. We can always take vitamins or supplements, but nothing beats soaking up that natural sunshine.

Vitamin D helps you absorb calcium better, which means stronger bones and healthy bone growth. More important still, deficiency of this nutrient has been linked to various cancers and even depression. If that alone isn’t reason enough to get more sunshine, then I don’t know what is!

  1. Decompress and Relax

Another wonderful thing that hiking and nature do is it helps to decompress and relax naturally. The science behind it isn’t exact, but many scientists say that it simply has a positive, psychological, effect on us. Taking some time for the outdoors can decrease stress, boost creativity, and improve mental clarity.

Many tests have even shown that it even lowers blood pressure. Our jobs can be hectic, our lives can be busy, but disconnecting from all that now and again and enjoying nature, can be very beneficial for both our mental and physical health.

  1. Endorphins

When it comes to the outdoors, nobody can argue that hiking is one of the best activities you can do. Not only are you getting that healthy sunshine and the relaxation that comes with being outside, but you are also getting exercise too, which is also very beneficial for your health.

Exercising gives us endorphins. Endorphins interact with receptors in your brain that can give us a feeling of positivity. These endorphins can also reduce stress, help keep us healthy, and also help us to lose weight. When you combined these endorphins with nature’s natural ability also to boost mood and mind, you get the ultimate combination of both health and happiness boosters.

    4. Experiences

Hiking also has some other wonderful experiences too! Apart from being very healthy and relaxing, it can also be fun and engaging. There is so much to do on a hike. You can take pictures and capture the beauty of the outdoors, you can bird watch, or you can take in all of the lovely flora and fauna in the area. Stop and smell the roses.

This is what makes hiking one of the best activities that you can do! It keeps you healthy, boosts your mood, is fun, and the creativity boost you get will make your day easier and feel so much less stressful. You don’t even have to hike a lot. Life is busy, and we all know this. Even a short ten- or fifteen-minute hike through a park can have more health benefits for you than you realize.

  1. The Colour Green

Another interesting tidbit about hiking and nature deals with the colour green. Perhaps this colour also has something to do with nature’s phycological effect on us. An interesting study at the University of Essex concluded that being around the colour green actually made people feel lower exertion during exercise and also reported fewer mood disturbances too.

The people who exercised around different colors did not feel the same way. So perhaps there is something about the colour green that has just a little bit of magic on our psyches.

Conclusion

Even if you can only spare a couple of hours a day, you should engage in hiking outside. Hiking will provide you with peace of mind and keep you healthy. But before you go hiking don’t forget to take few essentials especially water and best hydration bladder to keep you hydrated. Based on the evidence and from those who spend time outdoors, it is a wonderful way to stay healthy, happy, and get a creative boost that you won’t find anywhere else.

Since the age of 10, Tim, a writer at Outdoor With J, has enjoyed camping in the great outdoors. Although he loves the peace and quiet of the outdoors, he also likes his creature comforts. Tim’s mission is to make camping a fun and comfortable experience for all.

Three tips to avoid burnout

Constant busy can lead to burnout

The danger with busy is that if you’re not careful, your constant busy can lead to burnout.

I’ve commented on busy as a badge of honour before.  Like when when someone asks how you are, your default response is ‘busy’ or ‘soooo busy’.  We fear that if we’re not really busy, we’re judged as being a poor leader, lazy, or not doing our best.

Your constant busy can lead to burnout.

A burnt out leader will struggle because burnout drains your energy. It prevents you from thinking clearly, and from inspiring and motivating others.

Burnout is serious. It’s a combination of professional exhaustion, general disillusionment, and a lack of motivation and interest.

It’s not just the odd day when you feel a bit under par. The effects of burnout build up over time, and impact individuals over the long term.

Symptoms of burnout vary from individual to individual, and include insomnia, low energy, a loss of interest in work, headaches, and irrational irritability with colleagues, friends, and family.

Burnout results in low productivity and low creativity. You’re less likely to spot opportunities when you’re feeling burnt out. And even when you do, you don’t have the attention span to act on them.

If you’re constantly exhausted, anxious, annoyed and overwhelmedand you prefer to watch generic television shows and eat chocolate than hang out with your friends and family, it may be a signal that burnout has got the better of you.

You can prevent this. You have to put strategies in place to look after yourself – and encourage your team to do the same – to prevent burnout happening in the first place.

You have to put your oxygen mask on first before you can help and lead others.

If you’re in danger of burning out, a quick fix like a spa day or a holiday might help. But it doesn’t offer a sustainable solution.

To prevent burnout, you must implement strategies and habits that create lasting change.

1. Get moving

Do more exercise. Your body and mind will be able to handle the effects of stress more easily if you take regular exercise. This isn’t about doing a mega workout at the gym. It’s more important to find exercise that you enjoy and that you can make a habit. Check out this excellent atricle on no gym workouts from our friends over at Groom and Style.

It’s one of the reasons I got a dog because it means that I have to walk every day. Research shows that in addition to improving fitness and cardiovascular health, walking outside can also increase your creativity and well being.

Walking helps me to think straight and get my thoughts in order. If I walk at the start of the day, it helps me to plan my day and prioritize urgent tasks.

Doing exercise can help you to sleep better and when we’re rested we’re capable of making better decisions about pretty much everything from work problems to what we eat for dinner.

2. Do something all-consuming

For some people, this is about practicing mindfulness and focusing your awareness on the present moment. For others, it might be immersing yourself in a good book or a film.

For me, I prefer improv. Several years ago, I was running a workshop on stepping out of your comfort zone. I believe that it’s important to lead by example, so I challenged myself to step out of my comfort zone and do something that scared me.

I signed up for improv classes. In my experience, it’s better than therapy. When you are practicing improv, you can only think and be in the moment.  You have to fully apply yourself to be able to respond to the others on stage.

Find your thing that is all consuming and means you have to switch off from everything else, and do it often.

3. Ask for help

As leaders, we sometimes feel that there is an expectation to know all the answers. This can make us feel stressed and under pressure. It’s not your role to know all the answers.

It’s more important to ask the right questions and have a network of people to go to who will have some of the answers. Build your troupe of people who you can ask for help.

These are not the people who tell you you’re amazing no matter what, these are critical friends who have your best interests at heart and will be candid and kind. Go for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and connect with people regularly to build your networks before you need them.

Do these things regularly. Make them a habit.

Your constant busy can lead to burnout. This is not you being selfish, this is you preventing burning out. This is you putting on your oxygen mask first so that you can better lead and help others.

If you’d like some help to better lead and help others check out the Lucidity Facebook community. A place to ask for help, share ideas and practical ways to be happier at work.  

A version of this blog was first published at About Leaders.