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How to Be Creative

the emergence at cosm

Do you consider yourself to be creative? Do you have a strong critical mind? What connection do you think there is between these two? Which has your education helped develop? Which does the world need you to have more of right now?

Reading the first chapter of the book Presence today I came across the words of Stanford business school professor Michael Ray. Mr. Ray teaches very popular courses on creativity. His courses start with three assumptions:

  1. Creativity is essential for health, happiness and success in all areas of life, including business.
  2. Creativity is within everyone
  3. Even though it is in everyone it is covered by the Voice of Judgement

I couldn’t help but be reminded of the work of Ken Robinson. Sir. Robinson has written some wonderful books on creativity, the modern education system and finding your purpose or “element”. I wrote about “The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything” earlier in one of my posts on FLOW. In his previous book “Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative” Robinson raises the very pressing possibility that “we are educating people out of their creativity.”

In an article on the Huffington Post Robinson writes, “First, we’re all born with deep natural capacities for creativity and systems of mass education tend to suppress them. Second, it is increasingly urgent to cultivate these capacities — for personal, economic and cultural reasons — and to rethink the dominant approaches to education to make sure that we do.”

Years ago I came across a popular story, perhaps from Robinson, about what happens when you ask school kids who in the room is an artist. The story starts out in a kindergarten class. The question is asked and every hand goes up. Then the question is asked again in the 1st grade classroom, then 2nd grade and on up through senior year in high school. In elementary school the number of hands going up quickly drops towards half and then less. By high school there are only a few hands and by the end of high school a room is lucky to have one hand go up. Often all of the other students agree and say “yes, she is the artist.” What happened? Is school to blame? And does this narrowing of identity really have an impact on our health, happiness and success?

Mr. Ray tells the authors of Presence about “a study by Howard Gardner’s Project Zero at Harvard that involved developing intelligence tests for babies. The project also tested older subjects. The researchers found that up to age four, almost all the children were at the genius level, in terms of the multiple frames of intelligence that Gardner talks about – spatial, kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, mathematical, intrapersonal and linguistic. But by age twenty, the percentage of children at genius level was down to 10 percent, and over twenty, the genius level proportion of the subjects sank to 2 percent.

Everyone asks, ‘Where did it go?’ It didn’t go anywhere; it’s covered over by the Voice of Judgement.”

The solution offered by Ray? Become aware of the Voice of Judgement, the voice that tells you “that’s a stupid idea” or “you can’t do that” and choose to disregard that voice. In a sense we must practice willful disobedience within our own minds. The key is simple awareness. Much of what he describes sounds just like meditation, albeit meditation with a specific intention. The first, hardest and most powerful step is simply deciding to notice this voice and label it. That’s it. As I am found of saying, consciousness is curative. When we decide to bring awareness to something with the intention of loving and healing ourselves the solutions do become apparent. We don’t have to be fearlessly creative to begin. We simply have to open up to the possibility that deep within us there lies an immense capability to be creative. We must consider the possibility that our education, training and cultural conditioning has been unbalanced and has favored critical reasoning (the Voice of Judgement) over creative imagining.

If you would like to re-invigorate your creative side and are having a hard time doing so perhaps it is time to look for, label and summarily dismiss your Voice of Judgement. The Voice of Judgement relies 100% on the past to determine what it thinks is possible or reasonable. Being creative, being an entrepreneur or an artist is an unreasonable act. It must be. It is about bringing into being something which does not already exist. All great creators are unreasonable in the eyes of those who did not share their vision. There is a playfulness, a childlike naivety, in all acts of creation. What would you do if you were suddenly free from your Voice of Judgement?

This post is from a series called Insights that are inspired by the work I do with my clients as a Life Coach.

If you are ready to live with more joy, more passion and more purpose then I would love to be of service. Contact me to find out how my Life Coaching Program can kickstart your journey.

  1. This is a beautiful article, Devin, thank you.

    In my pre-coach life, I worked in an academic setting as a researcher and can agree that the conventional concept of creativity does not sit comfortably in this world. The creation of an idea struggles through the voices of judgement of academics that have written before the academic author and through the author’s own voice of judgement. It is quite a struggle.

    After re-training as a coach and becoming the ultimate creatrix (a mother!), I began to step into mySELF in a different way. And with much thanks to mindfulness practice, grew my self-awareness and self-confidence. This supported me to take the leap into entrepreneur-land where I now help other mindful mother entrepreneurs do the same!

    To step into your creativity is indeed incredibly liberating! And as a mother, I work hard to parent children that keep their hands up when asked “who is an artist” in class


  2. This has a familiar ring to it and so I give you my book & the ideas expressed within. Called I’d Much Rather Laugh! Inside is an old Sicilian quote which proximately translated says; In between saying and doing what you’ve said you can do, there is the sea. Of course the sea can be anything which hinders and in many or most cases causes the speakers words the ring hallow.
    Our education system and the overbearing Department of Education which creates as many problems as it insists it solves, needs to be rethought and encouraged to downsize to manageable portions. Something which if likely will be a long cumbersome process at best.

  3. Thank you for sharing, Creatrix! I know the creative spark sensation, and have sadly felt it less and less in my adult life, save for inspired periods. Thank you Devin for this wonderful article. I felt the creative inspiration surge through me once more while reading. Its so important to be viscerally reminded of this feeling, as it wants to be drawn out into manifest existence. We get reminders everywhere, which are beautiful. Now its time to dispel the voice of judgement and take action to make uplifting change.

    Your last line is a wonderful question- how would we be if we were free of our judging mind? I think we’d all be the most talented artists and creators covering all spheres of aesthetics and creative thought, elevating the consciousness of society to a bliss we have yet to share universally. I have always judged the talent of an artist by the extent of their inhibition. Freedom=truth=beauty.

    It is so important to teach our children mindfulness practices to become aware of internal judgments (inescapably instigated by society, and so often by unconscious parenting) and learn to distinguish the voice of light and creativity from the voice of darkness and contraction. I incorporate this teaching with children in my work as a parent-child therapist. In supporting their children in using mindfulness techniques, parents can help begin to balance the rigid, antiquated, and often useless lessons taught in school which squelch the creative mind. Finding a community which supports these practices is vital for parents to feel supported and for children to be surrounded by a unified awareness that mainstream education is not the full picture. The only obstacle left is mainstream buy in…but every powerful movement starts on the fringe, does it not?