Cultivating Creativity

I’ve worked with women in the past that are quite insistent that they don’t have a creative bone in their body. When I hear this nonsense, it becomes my mission in the coaching process to help them uncover their creativity.  The truth is that every woman is creative-she just hasn’t uncovered her creative gifts yet.  Often, these women have a very narrow definition of  “being creative”.  They view creativity as being expressed through art, when actually your creative sense can be expressed in numerous ways.


Even highly creative individuals hit a dry spell now and then. Just ask me. Lately, the process of writing my weekly blog had become tougher and tougher. Developing new ideas and being able to focus on my work became extremely difficult.  I would literally sit at my computer waiting for an epiphany— the more I wanted this to happen, the less inspired I became. After much thought, I realized that there were changes that I needed to make to get my “creative juices flowing” again.  So here are a few tips to either uncover your creative genius or get your creative “mojo” back!


Give yourself permission to slow down.  Is focusing on one thing at a time a foreign concept to you?  Is your schedule packed and do you run from one place to the next? Repeat after me: creativity is never going to thrive in a frenzied lifestyle. You need to slow down and give yourself some space to relax.  Do you know what mindfulness is? It’s the ability to be completely in touch with the present.  It’s the skill of accepting the thoughts that pass through your brain in a nonjudgmental way. Don’t analyze, don’t evaluate, just let the thoughts stream through your consciousness. When you can slow down and focus your attention on your thoughts, feelings and emotions, you are more inclined to have a creative sense.


Find what environment is conducive to your creativity.  We all have places that work better than others for our creativity.  Some women like to be with talking with their girlfriends.  Others feel creative when they are relaxed and having a cup of coffee in Starbucks.  I have found that some of my best ideas have arrived when I’m surrounded by nature.  I wrote 50% of my book, 31 Days to Finding Your Inner Sass”, sitting outside on my chaise lounge.  There is something about being outside, feeling the light breeze, and hearing the bird’s chatter that stimulates my creativity.  I know this works for me so it’s my “go to place” when I’m feeling stuck.  Try out different venues and see which ones spark your creativity.


Get your body moving to find your creativity. Now, you’re probably thinking this is just crazy. How is that supposed to help? But here’s the deal— when you’re exercising, your brain is busy wandering from thought to thought.  This is exactly when the best ideas happen. Also, exercising helps control your stress and anxiety, which are toxic to any creative thinking. On top of that, exercise improves your brain activity, which can only help your creativity. I can honestly say I’ve developed many ideas for blogs and projects on the elliptical in the gym. It certainly works for me.


Get outside your comfort zone.  Routine and monotony breed unimaginative thinking.  How to break out of your rut?  Change up the routines in your life and do something out of the ordinary, even if it’s something simple like going a different way to work. Try a new class, take up a new sport or go on an adventure.  Just be sure to do something that challenges you and puts you outside your comfort zone.


If the creativity has been missing from your life lately, give thought to some of the tips I have mentioned. I firmly believe that you are truly capable of being a highly creative genius.


Getting Smart With Smartphones

Recently, I attended a lunch and learn event that had a truly dynamic speaker. Her presentation was relevant to every single woman in the room and her delivery was excellent.  Since I attend a lot of events, I feel confident that I know a great speaker when I see and hear one.  Halfway through the presentation, I glanced around the room to get a sense of the crowd. Were they enjoying the speaker as much as I was?  Were they responding to what she had to share? The truth was that a large number of them were staring at their smartphones.


This aggravated me on a number of levels.  One, since I’m a speaker, I know how disheartening it is to be working the crowd and see people not even trying to make eye contact with you. Frankly, I find it disrespectful. Second, what could possibly be so important that the audience members can’t wait another 15 minutes to check their phones?


In a recent New York Times article, Dr. Elias Aboujaoude, director of the impulse control Disorders Clinic at Stanford University, shared that excessive use of the internet, cellphone and other technologies can cause us to become more impatient, forgetful and even more narcissistic.  Uh-oh. Follow up studies have shown that the immediacy of the internet and the efficiency of a smart phone can change the core of who we are.  I don’t know about you, but this gives me some thought.


Other studies have indicated that when students were asked to give up their technology for the day, they exhibited symptoms similar to drug dependency.  They actually went through a withdrawal process. Does any of this really surprise you?


I went for a bike ride the other night with my 20-year-old son.  We were having a great time when I spotted an old friend. I stopped to have a chat with her and catch up on her life.  I don’t believe I talked for more than 10 minutes at the most.  My son was about 12 feet ahead of me, standing by the lake.  The sun was getting close to setting and the scene was just beautiful.  When I caught up with him, I thanked him for waiting for me, and he proclaimed, “I had nothing to do for that whole time.  I didn’t have my iphone in my pocket.”


I can’t say that I’m not an offender myself.  There is the time I was standing with my husband at the check-out counter at the grocery store and decided that I had to check my emails on my phone, again. I had just done this not 10 minutes before.  He was talking to me and I wasn’t hearing a word that he said.  Finally, he stated loudly, “Will you please put that thing away?!!”


Is it possible that we have become too used to having every minute filled with stimulation? Are we so easily bored that we are in need of constant excitement?  Are we capable of doing one thing at a time anymore?


Maybe some of you are thinking that this certainly doesn’t pertain to you.  If so, congratulations— you are on the right path to finding balance with technology use.  The rest of you (including myself) might need to reflect on this a bit.  Do you find yourself staring at your phone while you talk to your kids? Do you take your phone to bed with you? Do you get excited when you hear someone has left you a message?


If so, I have a challenge for you. I hereby decree Sunday, August 26 no technology day.  Can you go a full day without connecting on your computer and phone?  I plan on doing it, and I’m going to see if I can talk my son into doing the same.  So, who’s in? Write to me and let me know your experience.


Three Tips for Better Balance

Right this minute, I’m lying on the chaise lounge in the backyard.  The fact that I’m lying down and not moving is a good step forward.  Today, I planned my dinner menus and went grocery shopping, biked 42 miles, went to a photo shoot, walked the dog, made homemade soup for dinner, created a new program idea and did paperwork. It’s hard to believe it’s Sunday.


Have you ever had that feeling in the back of your throat when you know you’re getting sick? You have that tickle in the back of your throat, need to cough and every bone in your body aches?  That’s how I feel right now, and I could just kick myself. I have a crazy busy week culminating with my largest presentation yet and I’m getting sick.  How could this have happened?


Well, it’s not really that hard to figure out— if I’m honest with myself! Let’s see, the last week started with a full day of activities and an evening appointment. I didn’t get home until 9:00 pm. Tuesday was even busier for me. I drove to Dayton and got caught in the rain while walking all over downtown. I had an appointment, then a networking event, then drove home to walk the dog before leaving for another networking event.  Again, I didn’t get home till 9:00 pm and, as usual, didn’t have dinner.  Wednesday and Thursday I attended events and didn’t eat dinner. Friday, I got up early and ran from appointment to appointment.


Frankly, it was not smart of me to continue to push full steam ahead when my fuel gauge was obviously running on fumes.  I should know better than to not take good care of myself! But like many women, I pride myself on accomplishments and being able to “do it all.” In lieu of my recent realizations, here are a couple reminders.


You can’t do everything and be everywhere— prioritize!

You don’t have to attend every single event— it’s virtually impossible. Evaluate your commitments and prioritize their importance. How does it affect your career and how does it affect your personal obligations?  Can you compromise? One of the biggest issues women deal with is their insistence on seeing these commitments in black or white options.  The truth is that there’s a vast range of choices open to you.


Be attuned to your bodies needs and respond accordingly.

You need to be attentive to your bodies needs; when you’re hungry, be sure to take the time to eat.  That doesn’t mean you sneak some food standing at the refrigerator.  It means you take the time to sit down and slowly eat a good, relaxing meal. When your body is telling you that it’s exhausted and can’t push anymore, listen.  Stop working and take some time out.  There is a point you hit where you’re truly not effective anymore.


Take some “me-time” every single day.

Even when you’re busy, find a way to take at least 20-30 minutes of “me-time” It doesn’t involve work and it doesn’t involve commitments of any kind.  It’s just something pleasurable. Everyone needs this to recharge daily.


I try to practice what I preach. However, I am acknowledging that in the last couple weeks, I really got off track.  All of us do now and then. The important thing is to recognize this and make a firm commitment to YOU to get back in a healthy routine. I will if you will.


Routine Rewards

No matter how busy my day gets, I never go to sleep without taking a hot bubble bath. That’s right, every single night. In fact, if I don’t follow through on this ritual, I have trouble calming down for the night.  You see, taking a bath signifies the end of my day for me.  During those 15 minutes in the bathtub, I am able to turn everything off in my brain, decompress and relax.  It might not work for you, but it definitely works for me.


The point to sharing this bit of information is that routine can be good for you. Often, my focus with women is to get outside their box and do things a little differently. I encourage them to change it up and not get stuck in their usual routine. Although this is true, you also need some things that you can count on happening regularly.


You need to have routines in order to accomplish things in life. When I was a working mom with young children, I would have been lost without my routines.  I counted on these routines to accomplish all my responsibilities with the kids and the house in addition to my full-time job. On Sunday mornings, I routinely made out a list of what I was going to prepare for dinner each day of the coming week. After that was decided, I would make out my grocery list and go shopping.  I never wavered from my routine because in the long run, it made my life so much easier. My fitness goals would be impossible without routine. Honestly, it would make it way too easy to not go workout if I didn’t have certain days of the week that I exercise religiously. Today, I have routines that make it possible for me to accomplish the many responsibilities in my job.  If I didn’t have my routine of spending 30 minutes in the morning answering email before getting involved in other work, I wouldn’t be able to focus on the many other responsibilities of the day.


Routines help us feel comfortable and secure. Everyone in life needs things they can count on no matter what’s transpiring. Having routines helps you feel comforted and safe. With rituals, there are no surprises and you know exactly what to expect.  Frankly, we all need this in our lives so we can feel in control of our universe.  For example, I cook a homemade soup every single Sunday night. My family has come to expect it and look forward to it.  You could say that it has become a tradition in our house. Traditions and rituals are an important part of your life. When the world is spinning out of control, your traditions and rituals give you a sense of comfort and help you cope.


I want every woman to view life as an adventure, but I would be remiss not to remind you that having certain routines is also an essential part of your healthy life.  Strive for a balance of adventures that push your limits mixed in with routines and rituals that enable you to accomplish your goals.