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17 Phrases That Will Crush Creativity Every Time

17 Phrases That Will Crush Creativity Every Time

First things first: What is creativity?

My eleven year old daughter said, “Creativity is being creative.”

Okay. Good start. But we need to be a little more precise. So, let’s go to the standing authority on definitions. Here’s how the dictionary defines creativity:

The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.

I think the word that stands out is “originality.” Something new.

Why Is Creativity–Originality for that Matter–Important?

Maria Popova, the founder of Brain Pickings, wrote a good post on a Harper’s Weekly article (“The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge”) that was written back in 1939.

The Harper’s Weekly article was about the role uninhibited curiosity played in technological breakthrough—discoveries that would never occur under regimented conditions.

In essence, the writer argued that pragmatic purposes are not behind breakthroughs. What’s at work is sheer curiosity—allowing someone to explore an idea simply for the sake of satisfying that curiosity.

While those curiosity driven explorations might not end in a significant discovery, those explorations pile up until someone pulls all that information together—and boom. We have a substantial breakthrough.

And that, my friends, is why creativity is important.

How We Kill Creativity (and Help Our Competition)

Now, I’m not shocking anyone by saying this, so here we go: there is a glut of blogs online.

And most of this glut is ho-hum at best.

What that means is something has to give if you want to standout from the crowd, the clutter and the confusion.

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No more excuses (like those I’ll share below). In order to attract attention and keep devoted followers you need to be extraordinarily creative.

But we so often kill great ideas on the spot merely by the things we say. It’s like we push creativity up against the wall—and execute it.

That’s not good.

What’s worse is when we let what other people say kill our creativity.

So, look through this list and see if you ever said one of these statements—or if somebody said it to you. I then let’s eliminate them from our vocabulary.

1. “You’re not paid to be creative.”

Everyone is creative. Accountants, engineers, carpenters, football players and waiters. Naturally, some of us are more creative than others. That’s why we gravitate to the creative fields like writing and graphic design.

Whoever you are—you are paid to be creative. You just need to be more confident.

2. “You’ve got to follow the rules.”

No. What you’ve got to do is learn the rules. Master the rules. So that you can break them in meaningful ways that introduce brilliant new ideas.

Even if you are absolutely forbidden to play outside of the rules, however, no biggie. Rules are good. We couldn’t enjoy a tennis match without rules. Great players find out how to be creative inside those rules.

3. “Don’t ask questions.”

Ugh. If anyone ever says that to you the first thing out of your mouth should be, “Why not?” If they persist in their obstinacy get out. Your job is to ask questions. And it’s one of the ways you become a creative genius.

4. “Don’t rock the boat.”

Ha. I couldn’t survive if I couldn’t rock the boat. You?

5. “Stay within the boundaries.”

This is like, “You’ve got to follow the rules.” Another phrase you’ve got to kill—or it will kill your creativity.

What would happen if we always stayed in the boundaries? We’d never have interesting movies like Blair Witch Project. We’d never have classic books like Ulysses. And we’d never have rock n roll, jazz or dub step.

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We’d also never have climbed Everest, landed on the moon or dove to the bottom of the ocean.

6. “Don’t try anything stupid.”

You kill creativity when you worry about what other people think about you. However, let me be absolutely clear with what I’m not saying: you do not have to put everything on the table so it ridicules or harms others.

Don’t be an exhibitionist for the sake of attention.

No. There is a limit to stupidity in the creative space. Use common sense—and protect people above all.

7. “That’s not practical.”

Sure, most people who are going to pay you to create want your work to be useful. That doesn’t mean your approach or solutions to tackling challenges needs to be practical. Remember: the client or boss tells you what he needs. You get to decide how you accomplish that goal.

When you are alone, however, it’s a completely different story. In your own space and your own medium you get to explore and create with zero hope of doing anything useful.

The practice itself is useful. Useful in restoring your creative passion.

8. “You need to be serious.”

Yes, there is a time for serious.

Funerals. Exams. Court appearances (this is debatable).

But that time usually occurs after your time with creativity. Until then you need to be seriously creative. Shut off the inner critic and play, okay?

9. “What will this do to your reputation?”

Hopefully rocket it.

You don’t get noticed by turning in consistently practical and ho-hum work. You get noticed when you create something extraordinary—and you do it consistently.

Look at guys like Matt Inman of The Oatmeal and Jeph Jacques of Questionable Content. They’ve made a fortune off of creativity that might have ruined their reputation 50 years ago. Now they are heroes.

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10. “It’s never been done before.”

I don’t know about you, but when I hear that phrase I immediately think challenge. I’m a sucker for a challenge. And I like to prove people wrong.

11. “That’s impossible.”

See number 12 above.

12. “I’m not very creative.”

Oh. Oh. Oh!

*holds his ears*

This might be a sentiment you hold on rare occasions when you are suffering from creative block. Or it could be your general outlook. Either way you can conquer that thought.

If you are suffering from a creative block then do things that stir up your creativity. And if that is your general outlook, then start believing in yourself.

13. “We’ve tried that and it didn’t work.”

The conversation could look something like this:

You: “I don’t know, maybe you didn’t have what it takes to make it work.”

Them: “And you do?”

(This is when you put on that smug little grin that drives people nuts.)

No, don’t be smug.

But you never know: you just might have the angle or the outlook that this particular challenge needs to succeed. And it doesn’t really matter if you succeed or not (see no. 17). Even if you fail your creative output will provide a footing for future creatives to build upon.

14. “That will take too much time.”

Like a breakthrough isn’t worth it? Come on.

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And sure, we don’t have all the time in the world to tinker away at our ideas, but true breakthrough ideas are never discovered on a timetable. They usually occur when we’ve lost track of time.

And that’s a beautiful thing.

15. “I can’t afford to fail.”

Then you can’t afford to win. Most endeavors in life—blogging included—involve risk. However, that risk comes in degrees. It can be a win or lose risk: you either win the client or you don’t.

Usually it looks more like this: you only got 4,578 tweets from your viral blog post—not the 13,000 you had hoped.

Of course some failures are more costly than others, but creativity that leads to true breakthroughs involves failure. It’s how you learn.

16. “How will that make money?”

That’s a good question—but if you are asking it during the creative period then you are asking at the wrong time.

Keep in mind: there are times when you need to generate creative ideas that should end in profits. How do you sell your new ebook? What’s the best way to promote this workshop?

There are other times, however, in which you are simply being creative. The goal isn’t profit—it’s breakthrough ideas.

17. “Failure is final.”

This statement comes from a mindset that doesn’t look at creativity as play, but as a win-lose proposition. This mindset is driven by fear. By cowardice. And by desperation.

It’s a dreadful mind-set. And it’s flat out wrong.

Failure is never final, people. And keep this in mind: the end-of-something variety of failures are not just closed doors—they are also open doors. Gateways to new adventures. New opportunities.

Conclusion

Have you ever been guilty of saying any of those phrases? Did you listen to yourself and kill your creativity? How were the results? Do you know any other phrases that should be included in this list?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Featured photo credit: Beautiful woman doing a yoga exercise on her rooftop of a skyscraper via Gettyimages

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • They rile up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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For example:

If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tension

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

For the Sleep Depriver

(They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
  • Shut down your thinking.
  • Calm your feelings.
  • Simply focus on the present moment. 

The Bottom Line

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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