At our last Creative Power of the Mind event we heard from John Scott an ex Design Director and now Coach who explored his journey and dealing with the pressures of being paid to be creative on demand.
Scott’s story started back in 1998 when he was a 2nd year student studying Interior Architecture and design. One evening, sat at his drawing board redesigning an interior space, he had a vivid memory from childhood. He recalled how, as an 8 year old boy, he’d been fascinated by an open staircase that he’d seen in a friends living room that day and drew plans redesigning the interior of his house to accommodate one.
The significance of this had an impact. Here he was 14 years later doing exactly the thing he was so innocently compelled to do as a child yet in between there was no conscious career planning to move in this direction. He sees now is that it was the result of a series of unrelated but insightful decisions based only on what felt right at the time.
Fast forward to 2014 however and things no longer felt as simple. Now, as a design director, he had deadlines to meet, clients to please, an industry to stay relevant in, business sectors to keep abreast of, a team to manage, a board to report to and an image of himself to maintain.
Managing these stresses, pressures and worries left little or no time or trust in letting inspiration happen, in letting instinct guide him or allowing himself to just waiting for what felt right. In short there it seemed there was little that was trust worthy or reliable outside of his intellect and experience.
He knew intellectually that being in a stressed and busy frame of mind is not conducive to creativity but he had no real answers as to: how do I stop it? Until he had an insight into his own experience.
Two creatives – which one’s the master?
Imagine that when it comes to getting an idea or understanding a thing – your mind has two ways to go about it.
Intellectually: gathering information and facts, what’s right-wrong, analysing, judging, rationalising, looking to past for evidence, structuring and justifying, getting it right on paper, logically.
Insightfully: A-ha, Eureka, spontaneously, with wisdom, intuitive, clarity, gets to the heart of things, custom made to fit the challenge, comes with a feeling of KNOWING.
‘I see now that looking for answers was an intellectual response. I realised that I’d turned creativity into a thing that I was responsible for doing and not as something natural that just happens in the absence of to much ‘trying’ or ‘doing’.
Everything changed on this insight. I saw that all the things I was trying to do to harness creativity, to control it, apply it, manage it were all things I was doing that were getting in the way of it just happening. It made sense of why most of my best ideas seemed to come out of nowhere”.
As Einstein said:
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind a faithful servant. We have forgotten the gift and made the servant the master.’
An insight into your brief-problem is the real key to unlocking it and to access that you need to create the space for insight to occur. So how do you do that?
Creativity on demand needs space
A busy mind is not a creatively productive mind. That might seem at first glance a little counter-intuitive. But think of it this way. When your mind is full of thoughts, one thought pings off another and pretty soon you are in a ruminating state of mind with a lot of repetitive thinking and uncomfortable feelings – pressure, stress, overwhelm. There is simply no room for anything fresh and new. Instead of adding more pressure (thought) try letting the pool of your mind get still, letting go of lots of thinking – especially any of those troublesome thoughts (What if I fail, can I really do this? I don’t know what I’m doing, the client will hate it, it didn’t work last time). There’s no real presence in any of that – just a lot of past or future based thinking. All of which do not give the mind any space for lovely fresh insight in the present.
We can tend to fixate our minds on certain thoughts and take them to be true – about ourselves, how life works, what our clients want, how the idea needs to be. Creating a space for insight however, requires less parameters not more. Can we be curious about limits and boundaries, especially the stuck ones about ourselves? This requires being open to thinking anew on a problem – a simple letting go of being right about what we already think and fundamentally being ok with NOT knowing.
‘I now have no commitment to my ideas only a commitment to staying in the space where ideas come from. This is a wonderful and impactful place to be. It’s not only helped reduce the pressure I put on myself to deliver creatively but it’s also the perfect place from which to collaborate from. I no longer put pressure on myself to ‘be’, to ‘know’ or to ‘do’ something’.
If you always think what you’ve always thought, you’ll always get what you’ve always got
We humans do not like not knowing. We invest a lot of our time, energy and effort in trying to know, have all the answers and second guess ourselves – all in in attempt to be right. If there is one thing that truly creates a space for fresh insight into any challenge – it’s the ability to sit with and be ok with not knowing the answer. To take all the pressure OFF. For that ‘not knowing’ to be absolutely perfect and for allowing that space to generate exactly the perfect insight for what is needed next.
In the end being creatively insightful is a function of having faith in the face of ‘not knowing’ – faith in one’s capacity to be creatively insightful, backing yourself and trusting the connection you have to that state of insightful flow to show up when you need it.
‘I trust that whatever I need to be, do or know will occur to me in the moment and if it doesn’t, knowing now how the mind works, I have the confidence to not worry too much about it as a powerful idea or insight is only ever a thought away’.
Our next speakers Jamie Brooker and Johan Brand know a lot about trusting ‘not knowing’ – having set sail in the direction of changing the world through technology with very little idea about what or how – other than passion, purpose and a set of human values. Fast forward 5 years and they are the Founders of Kahoot! An award winning educational App dedicated to making learning awesome with over 50 million users. Find out about their journey and their insights along the way.
Over the next six months I am conducting a series of talks about the Creative Power of the Mind at Studio7 in Shoreditch. Each session will involve a conversation with someone who makes a living using their creativity. Through our conversation we will uncover universal truths about create power of the mind that are applicable to all aspects of life.
The next Creative Power of the Mind 2 takes place on September 5th, 7-8:30 p.m. at Studio7 Shoreditch
Limited tickets to all talks in the series available at www.studio7shoreditch.com
Elizabeth Lovius is a Leadership Coach who helps leaders access insight, build relationships and lead real change for good. Elizabeth is an award winning facilitator, a speaker on the power of the mind and author of the creativity workbook: Facilitating Genius. She is also Leadership Coach at NowGoCreate and has contributed as Creative Coach to Claire Bridge’s book In Your Creative Element.
Claire Bridges is facilitator of CR’s Mastering Creativity, CPD accredited six-part online learning programme.