Leaders solve problems; great leaders nurture their creative capabilities throughout life. To be an effective problem solver, a leader must be able to frame possibilities of causes and solutions to a wide assortment of challenges. This requires an active and curious imagination - an imagination which can see possibility, opportunity, and potential in all situations. An active imagination is curious and constantly wonders "what if"? An active imagination will create new ideas, innovations, and new methods. It's the same thinking that compels someone to sketch a family member, to paint a landscape, to compose a melody, to write a poem, to fill a blank page. But as we grow older, art tends to be for children and artists. This attitude starts a negative cycle which weakens the creative right side of the brain and the ability to imagine possibilities.
Here is an overview of this dreadful cycle:
1) You don't have time to pursue your art or you are happy when no one makes you do art anymore.
2) Your talent and skills built over a lifetime of exploration and learning begin to erode. Creativity and expression are perishable skills which require practice.
3) As your skills erode, you avoid the limited opportunities to express yourself to others to avoid embarrassment. As this becomes the norm - your skills erode further - creativity becomes the realm of a small group of whimsical magicians. In comparison - your ideas seem small and dull - which confirms the believe that art is for children and artists. You become an observer of artists; you stop trying to be creative.
4) As there is less time and need to be creative, you focus upon developing analytical skills. The left side of your brain is vibrant with judgment, analysis, and analytical problem solving - while the right side of your brain operates at half speed - waiting for you to reengage your imagination, artistic curiosity, and creativity.
5) Your ability to frame problems and creative solutions diminishes. Your creative "box" grows smaller. You lean on past experiences to define the possibilities in the future. Your foresight and leadership vision are hampered by a limited perspective. You become stale, unimaginative, and uninspiring.
Can you reverse the cycle? Yes - and you can start today. Here is quick list to get started:
1) Start small but start. Pick something you want to do or force yourself to put yourself into a creative situation. Paint, sketch, take pictures, write, compose music, play an instrument, sing - do something - anything that fires the creative side of your brain.
2) Do it with a friend. It's going to feel strange. Do what you always do when your approaching an uncomfortable situation - take a friend.
3) Have fun, be patient, and do something for you. You have to learn to have child like courage again. Children create for themselves - they aren't worried about judgment until later in life. You are creating for creation's sake. Make yourself happy as you stretch and strengthen your creative brain again.
4) Have fun - laugh at yourself - learn to appreciate where you are and where you could go. You will get better as you reconnect with your creative side.
5) Stick with it - you will become a better problem solver and a better leader. It will be worth the effort.
Reach for something meaningful and beautiful in you.