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What Children Can Teach Us About Creativity

What Children Can Teach Us About Creativity


    Is your creativity getting low?

    Sometimes, we all hit empty. Searching for inspiration doesn’t always help. Neither does trying to just “work through it.”

    When the work needs to get done and you just don’t have the fire anymore, there needs to be a way to get the juices flowing again.

    As kids, we were never at a loss for creativity.

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    What did we know as kids that could help us now? A whole lot, actually.

    Playing as a Form of Therapy

    D.W. Winnicott, a psychoanalyst of the past century, suggested that playing was the key to emotional and psychological well-being. He devised a mode of therapy with children known as “play therapy.”

    The child leads the therapist in some kind of play activity until the child can trust the therapist enough and open up . However, the child must initiate the playing in a spontaneous way.

    Why?

    Because you can’t force playing, just like you can’t force creativity.

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    The Way That Children Play

    Ever watch children play?

    They’re constantly creating and changing rules for games they invent.

    And when the rules don’t work, they re-invent them.

    For children, a stick could become a magic wand, a sword and a lightsaber all in one afternoon. Kids don’t limit it to just being a stick because someone told them it’s a stick. Heck, they’ll use the stick to make a circle in the dirt and tell you it’s their secret base that you’re not allowed into. Then, five minutes later (when they get bored), you’re suddenly allowed in.

    They keep adjusting the ‘rules’ of playing until they work.

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    Changing the Rules of Teaching

    A few years ago, when I taught high school, I struggled to come up with a final assignment for my students. When I failed to find one that fit with my students, I decided to change the rules.

    Instead of a typical writing assignment based on class readings, I asked my students to create the ‘ultimate super villain’ and present it in two different ways. The only guideline? The villain’s attributes had to be based on characters we studied that semester. That’s it.

    The result was a production of their best creative work all semester. I was so blown away that for the final exam, instead of a “traditional reading,” I asked my students to read a Lifehack article and provide a response. It was the most enjoyable marking experience I’ve had.

    I threw out the rules of teaching and had fun. And the results were spectacular. All it took was a willingness to let my ideas go wild .

    What does This Teach Us ?

    Our best work comes when we’re having fun with what we do.

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    As adults, we get stuck in our heads, limiting ourselves to set rules and guidelines. Sometimes, you have to throw away the rules and just let things flow. Be spontaneous and do something different.

    Be yourself in your work. As a student, I hindered my creativity out of a fear to put my own voice in my essays. I depended on the voice of others because it felt ‘proper.’ But when I wrote with my voice, essays became fun to write, and sounded infinitely better .

    The second you stop following the prescribed rules, you’ll uncover creativity you never knew you had. According to Winnicott, only in creativity do we find ourselves.

    Don’t lock yourself within a set of self-imposed rules.

    Act like a kid: when the game doesn’t work, change the rules until it does.

    Now go play… and tell me how it turns out for you.

    (Photo credit: Boy Throwing a Paper Airplane via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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