Non Standard Leadership Techniques

Building Powerful Creative Tools From Unlikely Materials

Mary McNeil asked:

One of the defining characteristics of creativity is its transformational power, the fact that glorious works of art can be created from the most unpromising and unlikely of materials. Those materials don’t get more unlikely than the states of ignorance and disillusionment – two concepts that come ready packaged with strong negative associations. And yet, when treated with positive creativity, these states can both produce extremely powerful creative results. Want to know how to turn them around to your creative advantage?

Let’s start with the phrase ‘I don’t know’. Admitting your ignorance can be such a hard thing to do. It’s often easier to you pretend you do actually know, to save face, save extra research, save time, effort, discussion… And yet, when it comes down to it, being prepared to say ‘I don’t know’ empowers you far more than pretending that you do.

I’m not just talking about those situations where you don’t know some piece of factual information, so you make something up and then worry about getting found out. Those situations often crop up when you’re keen to impress, or to meet the expectations of others. (The boss at work in my own past experience!)

I’m talking about not knowing as a state of mind – a state of mind that springs from authenticity, honesty and openness. That makes it a powerful state to be in. And, of course, an extremely fertile state to create from.

Anything is possible when you don’t know.

Think about it… when you believe you already know everything there is to know about something, what are your chances of learning more about it? Or learning more about yourself in relation to it? Or getting creative with it?

When you are open to not knowing, you are also open to learning and to growth. This is a way of creating space in your life and space for your creativity. It’s certainly not always a quick fix… sometimes you have to say ‘I don’t know’ for quite some time before the knowing arrives quietly, often via your gut or your heart, rather than your brain.

The combination of not knowing, plus having to wait ’til you do know, is rarely an easy place to rest. It’s outside of your comfort zone.

But if you stop and think about where you were in relation to your comfort zone at some of the most important, creative and wonderful moments of your life, you’ll probably find that you were outside of your comfort zone then too.

So I encourage you to think where, in your life, you can bask in not knowing and embrace the potential of that powerful state. Allow yourself a positive dose of ignorance and let the creativity flow.

And what about disillusionment? A word that usually conjures up feelings of disappointment and regret. Yet why would you want to live in a world of illusions? Would you not prefer to see and know things the way they truly are? To give yourself the opportunity to make up your own mind about them and choose your response to them appropriately?

I believe disillusionment is something to be celebrated. Something to value when that moment of truth arrives. Of course, it’s not comfortable. Most often the moment of truth takes you into unfamiliar territory – an immediate leap out of your comfort zone. But, as we’ve already discovered, the really big, creative, exciting stuff always happens in that place outside of your comfort zone.

One of the ways to disillusion yourself, without needing anyone else to ‘let you down’, is to let go of some of your cherished dreams. I certainly don’t mean that you should let go of the dreams and goals that motivate you – the ones that you’re actively working towards now. But what about that list of ambitions and aspirations that, frankly, you’ve outgrown but which still eat at you?

These are frequently to do with personal definitions of success which don’t apply any more. Actually they’re often not even personal… they’re measures of success which society has laid down and somewhere along the way you’ve accepted them as your own. Sometimes they’re childhood dreams that aren’t relevant now you’re an adult. Perhaps you’ve simply found a new direction and the old dreams don’t fit any more.

Whatever the story, these cherished, but never-to-be-acted-upon, dreams can take up a lot of your energy. How about thanking them and letting them go gently?

Don’t go letting go of your imagination along with the illusions though please! Notice the difference between those unreal things that you believe are real (illusions), and the fantastic imaginings that fire your creativity. Get real AND get fabulous!!

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