with

Mike Bellah

What assumptions about yourself or your world are limiting your discoveries? What have you seen as acceptable or possible at midlife?

 

 

 

 

Creative people are able to associate ungrouped things and disassociate grouped ones.

 

 

 

 

We, too, need the creativity to defamiliarize things, to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.

How to Jump-Start Your Creativity

If the ability to adapt is the key to survival in the animal world, the same is true for humans. In fact, the ability to change may be the defining characteristic of successful midlifers. This is a season of life where, more than ever, we must adapt to dramatic fluctuations in ourselves, our families and friends, our jobs, and the world around us.

And if change is essential for success, creativity is essential for change, for creativity defines change. To change we must decide what we will replace with what, a question not easily answered.

For most of us, creativity comes slowly, especially if we feel pressured by time and circumstance. Under stress, our creativity can seem as lifeless as a dead car battery. Although we think as hard as we can, there just isnít enough creative juice to generate ideas.

So if your creativity, like mine, sometimes needs a jump-start, here are a few thoughts Iíve gleaned from both science and literature to help us see new possibilities in life.

Explore a new paradigm

Scientists define a paradigm as an established way of looking at things that keeps us from seeing them in any other way. Before Copernicus, most people saw the earth as flat. Sailing around the world was not an option because the world wasnít round. New-world discoveries could not take place because the ruling paradigm declared them off-limits.

What assumptions about yourself or your world are limiting your discoveries? What have you seen as acceptable or possible at midlife? How have you defined your interests, abilities, and roles? Try seeing yourself from the perspective of someone who wants the best for you but who comes at life from a different paradigm (for instance, someone outside your field or profession). What advice might he or she give you?

Make new associations

Cognitive psychologists say that we all approach the world with a schema, a way of grouping things. Certain things always belong together; others never do. Creative people are able to associate ungrouped things and disassociate grouped ones.

Robert Fulton combined a steam engine with a sailing ship. Henry Ford separated the horse from its carriage. Try making a list of the key elements in your life and group them (things such as your skills, training, location, present and possible jobs). Then, place new things together and separate grouped ones. Do you see any new possibilities?

Revise the Familiar

Literary theorists call it "defamiliarization," the ability to look at the familiar in fresh ways. Authors who do this well write some of the best fiction, for ordinary life is really quite extraordinary. We, too, need the creativity to defamiliarize things, to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. We need to revise the familiar (the word "revise" means to "re-see"). So try looking at your "ordinary" skills, interests, and routines through the eyes of a stranger. Are there opportunities you are missing?

This final point is the most important, important because it changes you on the inside not just the outside, and important because it leads to the discovery of some of lifeís best gifts, those you already possess but have yet to notice.

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