Resolve to give the perfect gift to you and yours: Creativity
I’d warn you it’s coming, but you know as well as I: it’s already here. Each year it arrives earlier than the last — that twin-headed, seasonal beast tenaciously demands we pay it tribute. You know of what I speak: gift giving.
The first head begins shouting sometime before Halloween: “Find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list, or else!” And so we bow to Black Friday (which has now become Black All-of-November). We willingly take the click bait of “10 perfect gifts for the man in your life,” and fight to be the first through the doors when the big sale opens.
Our worry and shopping seems to go on in some form until the ball drops on December 31st — the day head number two roars to us, “Make those New Year’s resolutions!” In that moment, we shift from giving to others to giving to ourselves: a better diet, a better body, fewer bad habits — oh hell, pass the remote and the chocolate!
It’s an odd cycle, isn’t it? On the one hand, when we search for gifts, we seek the ‘new.’ It’s what we long to give others and hope for ourselves, and not just new but lasting, gifts with value and wonder ongoing. But ironically, each year we go about the whole thing in ways that are mostly the same — looking in the same places and by the same process. Is it any wonder when we come up short of the results we dream our gifts will bring?
What if we changed things this time around, maybe for all time? What if this year, regardless of whether we are giving to family, employees, or ourselves, we gave the gift of creativity?
Before you turn back to “the year’s best gift guide” and “the season’s best deals,” consider this: The gift of creativity is on just about everyone’s wish list.
In 2015 a national poll revealed that 94 percent of American parents believe creative and surprising experiences are among the most important things for their kids to have. The age of the respondent’s children made no difference, nor did the age of the parents. Both moms and dads unanimously agreed that creativity was important.
Turns out creativity is on the corporate shopping list as well. A study of 1,500 CEO’s from 60 countries and 33 industries ranked creativity as the most important quality now and in the future. It’s one of many in the last decade that draw the same conclusion. A fast-changing, tumultuous world was cited as one reason for this necessary skill. Creativity was also linked to creating meaning in one’s job, spurring innovation, and providing a sense of autonomy.
It’s clear we’re all wishing for creativity, but just how do we gift it? It’s simpler than you’d think. But before we talk about that, we must understand what creativity is.
Like those hard-to-find-perfect gifts, we tend to believe that creativity is something only a lucky few receive — some kind of rare gift from the genetic gods. In a similar way, we assume it to be a gift that can only be used in certain places, the arts for example, or the realm of new inventions. Neither is true.
Creativity is a capacity all of us share, and something that can be applied anywhere, by anyone, to create anything new and better. In fact the only difference between so-called creative geniuses and the rest of us is that we’re out of practice while they make a habit of using this universal human capacity.
When you ask the practitioners, as I did in my conversations with nearly 70 MacArthur Fellows (recipients of the so-called genius award), they’ll tell you that creativity begins with being more open — in what we do, how we think, where we go, and what we are willing to try. You can move one important step in that direction by being open to broader ideas about what a gift is and how to give it.
The gift of creativity is as simple as reengaging those habits that rev up the open part of our mind. Rather than giving a “thing,” consider an experience. Instead of “from me, to you” what gift could we share? Here are some other simple suggestions to get you going:
1. Put yourself into spaces and places you don’t go right now. But as you do, make it easy on yourself — go “right next door.” The biggest possibilities for things new and creative are actually adjacent, not a moon leap away.
2. Any place you go, deliberately pause and notice. See what you don’t usually see. How do you do that? Follow those questions that naturally arise in your head, the ones you’re currently in the habit of sweeping aside. Follow your hunches too. It’s not about turning your life upside down, but instead learning the childhood habit of discovery again.
3. Look for beauty. Don’t scoff. Given a moment’s thought, you’ll realize that beauty inspires us (even in its possibility), drives us to create, and rewards us as well. Don’t think of it as how things look, but instead how they make you feel.
The gift of creativity is a lasting gift. It’s an expansive gift as well, providing joy beyond the immediate as it opens up the wonder of the world and what’s possible. A capacity you and every single one of us already possesses, it costs you nothing to give. And resolving to give it to yourself — and to others — is as simple as reviving habits you were born to practice. Consider your shopping done, and start playing with your new favorite gift.
Larry Robertson is an Innovation Advisor, the author of two award-winning books — The Language of Man: Learning to Speak Creativity and A Deliberate Pause: Entrepreneurship and its Moment in Human Progress, and the Founder and President of Lighthouse Consulting LLC