Let Go or Be Dragged: Change and Creativity

Last week, I had writers' block. My husband sent me a single text with a time-tested solution: go for a walk. Loosely translated, he might have told me to find inspiration in the wind blowing through the trees, new connections in the colors of my neighborhood graffiti, and a different perspective in the diversity of the coffee shop around the corner. When the well of creativity is dry, even the smallest change fills it back up. 

I did not find the answer in the graffiti around the corner. However, I came back from my walk and easily finished the piece on which I was working. Perhaps it was serendipity - I stepped out of the dogma in my mind blocking creativity, changed my view, and made a connection between ideas. The root of the solution is change. If you want to be creative, make a mindful change.

Mindful change is not change for the sake of change. Mindful change is the act of becoming different while being present within. When IBM told us to THINK, Apple told us to Think Different. We need to evolve again. Perhaps we should try Think Different Now. Mindfulness is the tool with which we are able to find inspiration for new ideas, make new connections, and explore different perspectives. The solutions for the future require you to be here right now with a fresh idea. If you want innovation, make a mindful change.

Change your environmentBoxed in or boxed out - the box is no place for creativity. Try an faceted octagon or a busy park or a quiet forest or a crowded subway. Change where you are mentally and physically. Stop and become aware of the structures in your mind or in your space that are boxing you in. The structures in your mind are the stories you tell yourself that limit your possibilities. The structures in your physical space limit your senses. Set yourself free from a limited environment to find inspiration.

Change your view. Try on the beginner's mind. Creativity requires a bigger view and innovation needs you to expand. When I am stuck on an idea while facing the ocean, I might change my view and turn around to see the mountains. Maybe the ocean view has served me and fueled my success, but a singular view can become stagnant. A beginner would see the whole picture for the first time. She would see the ocean and the mountains together. Allow yourself to observe something different to make new connections with what you see.

Change your perspective. Step into someone else's shoes. Innovations solve problems that are not only issues we face, but challenges that others face as well. The best and most sustainable innovations solve and serve at the same time. A change in perspective is a practice in compassion and empathy which leads us to a more creative life. Explore the diversity of experiences in order to gain a different perspective.

Everybody wants innovation and no one wants to change. Make a mindful change to set yourself apart from the rest. Practice what you preach. If you want to change your organization or community, change yourself. You already have the answers that you have been looking for - are you willing to go within to get them?

There is a Zen proverb that explains what happens: let go or be dragged. Let go of the perception of safety, of what feels comfortable, or you will be dragged into a life unfulfilled and a potential unrealized. If you want to be creative, let go. If you want innovation, let go. Let go or be dragged. In other words, change mindfully to keep growing.

Without new ideas, success can become stale.
— Anthony Bourdain, Chef/Author/Host