4 Ways To Be More Creative, Even If You Feel Like You're Not

As a child one word kept me in more trouble than any other.  My danger word was the word "can't."  When my parents would tell me I "can't" do something, I knew trouble was brewing.  

I heard the word "can't" as a challenge.  It did not mean I would never be able to do what I wanted, it only meant I had to figure out another way to do it!

Mom would tell me I can't afford to buy those new Air Jordans or that new Color Me Bad CD?  Sure I can, with the money I made from selling my younger brother on the black market.  Now that is creativity!

"Can't" challenged me creatively.  That has not changed.  I still believe being told I cannot do something only brings out my best game.  I see impossible as an opportunity to create a better solution.  

Often we confuse creativity with a feeling or artistic expression that only hipsters can comprehend while they drink lattes and compare man scarves.  That is only part of what it means to create.  Art, music and writing are all creative forms, but so is problem solving, technological innovation, engaged parenting, marketing campaigns, home construction, and so much more.  

Some of you are facing issues in life or leadership that seem insurmountable.  You need creative solutions to those issues.  Creativity solves problems.  I want to give you four action steps that will ignite creativity in your life.  Some of you feel like the least creative person in the room, but you are not.  Positioning yourself to create is the first step you need to take, these actions can help.  Take some time to consider these four ways to be more creative.   

Think some new thoughts.

Put yourself in places that force you to think differently.  Instead of approaching problems the same way every time, look at it from a different angle.  One way to do this is by forcing yourself to allot time to only explore new options.  We rush to a final answer and plan too quickly I find.  Give yourself days to just consider other options.  Do not decide on an answer too soon.  It forces you to broaden the way you think.  Eventually you will land on a solution you would have never imagined on day one.

To train yourself to think new thoughts plan 15 minutes each day just for thinking.  Henry Ford used to say he did not want people siting at their desk everyday tediously working.  He wanted to see eyes closed and people thinking and listening for ideas.  Einstein even said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge."

Here is a template to guide your "thinking time."

Break out of familiar routines.  

We are all creatures of habit.  Even those of us who enjoy adventure find comfort in certain routines.   I am guilty of this.  Friends make fun of the fact that I order the same thing to eat every time I go out for fear of making a bad choice.  Identify some areas where you find comfort in familiarity and commit to try something new.  

Maybe you could take a different route to work.  Instead of having that meeting in your office, take a walk outside.  During a stressful season shake up your staff meeting by moving locations.   Adjust your workout schedule to the mornings for the next two months.  Recently I began batching all of my phone calls to a certain time and I take the calls while walking trails at nearby river.  Establish some new routines.

Quit something.  

Humans are not built to be able to do everything.  Often we go against our wiring and actually try to.  I talk to so many people who suffer burnout simply because they try to do too many things.  Overload crushes creativity.  Creative thoughts occur in the margin you create for it.  When you run at a max level there is no margin for you to assess problems and discover difficult to see solutions.  

One way to strategically guard margin in your life is to do an "activity audit."  Every November I walk through this exercise.  I identify 15% of what I do that I will not do anymore.   Sound extreme?  It always feels that way to me too, but it frees up immediate space in my life to create.  Take an afternoon to audit your own life and identify activities that serve as creative roadblocks.  

Check out some more thoughts on activity audits.

Commit to a plan.  

A common misconception is creative people cannot follow a plan.  That is wrong.  Irresponsible people have no plan.  Mature creatives realize that chaos breeds creativity when order is introduced.  Success is the progressive realization of a goal.  If you want to be more creative, commit to a plan.  

One example of following a plan is this blog.  Writing does not come natural to me.  Couple that with being busy and it becomes daunting to produce new content for three posts per week plus other material I am creating.  To be most effective I created a system.  I write a minimum of 500 words six days a week, usually at the same time every day.  Is it the time of day I "feel most creative?"  No, but it is the time I put on my calendar and I tell myself to be creative.  Do not wait on a feeling before you practice innovation, command creativity to happen. 

The word "can't" was an early catalyst for creativity for me.  Today I use it as fuel to find solutions for problems that arise.  I believe you have creativity inside of you.  For some it may flow easily.  Others have it so locked away you are convinced it does not even exist.  Put these ideas to work for you and see your leadership flourish as you begin to create!