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The Importance of Thinking Like a Four-Year Old

April 3rd, 2018 · 2 Comments

Alice Artwork 2018

This is a drawing done by Alice, my four-year-old granddaughter. She was exuberant as she made it, yet concentrated hard. She presented it to me as a gift, slowly and proudly naming and describing each color and shape.

How many of us do that as adults?

How often do we have the exuberance and passion and confidence to put color or line or words on paper, or music in the air, or dance on the floor and take pride in it?

How often do we create something for the simple joy of creating and to feel the joy of being fully alive?

Would we ever give our creations to as gifts? Or play our music for our friends?

Too often, if we even show something we’ve made to someone else, we diminish it, saying, “It’s not that good.”

Worse, we give up altogether and leave creativity to others.

How many times have you heard a friend say, “I’m not creative”? I’ve heard it countless times and even said it myself until I discovered that that very statement stopped me in my tracks.

We lose a huge source of joy–a simple, available, cost-free way to come alive– when we disconnect from our natural creativity.

What happens to us, to our enthusiasm, to our pride in our creations? Where do we lose that exuberance and passion? How is it that we begin to compare ourselves to others, to hide our creations, and then ultimately to stop creating altogether?

How in the world does that happen?

We can certainly trace it back to clueless teachers, parents, older siblings. A school system that grades our art and song and dance. Or chooses academics over creativity, even when studies show that programs in the arts improve brain development and student performance.

But does that even matter now that we’re adults?

A lot of the problem happens in our very adult, very reasonable heads—we give ourselves the very messages that thwart us.

And that does matter. It matters a lot, because we can do something about that.

Your creative brain will shut down whenever you switch into critiquing what you’re doing. Creativity and critical analysis are different brain functions and don’t work at the same time. They’re both good and necessary, but they need to be separated.

We have power over when we analyze what we’re doing and the stories we tell ourselves about our creativity. And that’s really good news.

So next time you’re tempted to criticize or deny your creative endeavors, or to not even try to attempt something you might be secretly yearning to do, remember how it felt to do something with the exuberance of a four-year-old.

Let’s think like they do. Let’s all reclaim Alice’s artistic exuberance and joy. Let’s reclaim a four-year-old’s passion to create, just because we’re alive and have two hands capable of putting crayons to paper!

Creative expression is such a precious resource for feeling fully alive. And we all have it.

All you need to do to reclaim it is to give the critical part of your brain a rest and let the creative part take over.

So grab your paints and brushes or your guitars and harmonicas. Sign up for a class that interests you. Tie on your dancing shoes.

And then think like a four-year-old.

 

Tags: creativity

What stuff do you really need to be happy?

July 24th, 2009 · 10 Comments

A friend recently posed this question to me:  if I had to live on a deserted island for one year with no possibility of escape or rescue, what five things, other than basic survival things like food, water, and shelter would I want to have with me.

deserted-island1Here’s my list:

The Tao te Ching (unless there is electricity, then my Kindle, but that seems like cheating)
Paper
Pens
A watercolor kit with paint and brushes
A camera—I know, the electricity thing again, but we won’t be super-strict with the rules.

As I thought about this, I realized I could have fun and stay really absorbed.  And that alone is a happy thought.  I’d keep a journal, of course, and then write all the things I never get around to, teach myself to paint, and take lots of interesting pictures.  My island, as I imagine it, has interesting shells and rocks and birds and plants and driftwood for creative inspiration.

Through it all, I’d read the Tao to keep inspired.  Maybe I’d understand it better at the end of the year.

After doing this little exercise, these questions came to mind:

What possessions really add to our happiness?
What do we really need for entertainment, for inner growth, for self-expression?
What would we be willing to give up if resources were really limited?

What would you bring along with you?  And how would it be to be alone with yourself?  Post your answers in the comments section.

Tags: happiness

Ten Reasons to Cultivate Your Creativity

May 3rd, 2009 · No Comments

colored-pencils1.  It’s pleasurable.

2.  Creativity is associated with positive emotions such as happiness, joy, and love. Contrary to popular myth, the negative emotions of fear, sadness, and anxiety stifle creativity.  Don’t believe it?  Read this.

3.  It’s practical and useful for problem solving.  When you need to solve a problem, you have more options to choose from if you can access creative solutions.

4.  It helps you access all of you. Creativity uses both right brain, wholisitc and image based brain processes as well as left brain, logical, verbal, sequential thinking.

5.  It requires you to take risks, which develops courage and confidence, and courage and confidence are handy things to have.

6.  It develops efficiency.  When you are comfortable thinking outside the box, you can get to new solutions more easily.

7.  It encourages you to experience “flow,” where you are so fully immersed in what you are doing, that you effortlessly lose your sense of time.

8.  It relieves boredom.

9.  It makes life way more interesting.

10.  Because you are creative.

Tags: creativity · flow · happiness