Nearly ten years after my wife and I got married we decided to start a family. Here it is ten years later and I’m convinced it was the best thing we ever did. Why? Actually there are many reasons, but the most important is that it has kept us young. I’m not talking physically young, I’m talking mentally young. As far as I’m concerned, maintaining the ability to look at things and enjoy life through the eyes of a child is one of the secrets to happiness. More to the point: nurturing your creative juices — in the same way we nurture them in our kids can keep you active and stimulated long after our children’s interests segue into dating and cars.
As it turns out — I’m not the only one who has realized that creativity is but one of the keys to staying alert, active and young. There are some great resources that can articulate this a lot better than I ever could. But here are a few tips (and in no particular order) on the subject just the same:
1) Exercise your creativity “muscles.” If you think about it, creativity is a lot like your biceps or any other muscle-group on your body. Creativity gets stronger when it gets plenty of exercise. According to an article on the Creative Mind website (www.enchantedmind.com) one way of improving your creative muscles is with problem-solving. Challenge yourself with creative problems and puzzles. Seek out people who are different from you (people from different places and people who hold different beliefs). Try to see things from their point of view. Seek out new experiences that force you to stretch your mind and emotions. Every week, try something new — a class, a lecture, an event — that’s not something you’d usually do. And guess what – in the long run, it’ll stimulate your creativity.
2) Creativity needs “food”. I’m not talking about a Happy Meal! Along with exercise, creativity also requires good “food” in order to grow. By this I mean in-puts: new experiences, books, music, and art. Expose yourself to other people’s creativity. Give yourself experiences that stimulate your imagination. Try a field trip some time. Who cares if you go by yourself? Follow your nose and pursue ideas and events that intrigue you. Make sure there’s space in your life to feed your curiosity. Remember, “When you’re green, you grow” so be an “evergreen” and keep yourself on the learning curve of life.
3) Change your inner voices. Ever have someone tell you “…You’re too old for this”…? Perhaps such a phrase even can from yourself. We never tell our children they are too old, so why limit yourself. You’re never too old for anything. Self-doubt is normal, but don’t let your inner voices stop you. You can change your “self-talk” any time you want. Start using affirmations (positive statements you repeat often to reinforce changes you’d like to make in your thinking). Develop affirmations that feel good to you, like, “I am a talented, creative person.” I’m full of old sayings today and another one is “Your body achieves what your mind achieves” in other words you will realize what it is you tell yourself. And the more you tell yourself you’re creative the more you will strive to be as such.
4) Quiet time is Good Time: No matter how full and chaotic your day is, treat yourself to some quiet time EVERY SINGLE DAY. Call it meditation if you want or time-for-reflection. Everyone deserves a time-out to re-charge their batteries. Even if it’s just 15 minutes. Psychology Today (www.pyschologytoday.com) recommends taking a long soak in the tub. I say take a solitary walk. The important thing is you guard your quiet time and take good care of it. In fact, put it on your schedule and look forward to it daily.
5) Reward creativity. If you do something neat and creative, pat yourself on the back! Creativity is worth celebrating. If you can congratulate your child for making a mud pie, then certainly you merit a high-five for your first attempt at ceramics.
And now some cool Stuff other people have thought of. The site Family Education.com (www.fun.familyeducation.com) has some great suggestions for being creative. Here’s a few that will challenge you. I know they did me.
Mind-mapping: a technique originally devised for taking more meaningful notes, which uses icons, images, and keywords to map ideas and relationships between them. You can learn more about this technique in the book The Brain Book by Peter Russell.
Storyboarding: an adaptation of the method used by movie makers to visualize the action in a particular scene from the screenplay before shooting. This technique can also be used for problem-solving or improving recall. A good book that explains storyboarding is Show Me: The Complete Guide to Storyboarding and Problem Solving by Harry I. Forsha.
Neuro-linguistic programming: NLP for short, this is a way of “re-programming the brain” using various techniques such as modeling and self-hypnosis. One of its leading proponents, who has added many of his own ideas to basic NLP theory is Anthony Robbins. You can learn more about him on the internet.
Our creativity should increase as we get older…not diminish with age. We need only look at our children for a few pointers to get us going in the right direction.