Outside the Box


What Box?

By Nellie Jacobs | Posted 8/24/05 | Updated 2/10/24

I believe in the power of imagination. It is from our imagination that creativity and innovation spring.

Always fascinated by the hows and whys of creative process, from seed of an idea through development to completion, throughout the years I've researched and studied the topic.

Books such as:

Interested in what makes them tick, I've interviewed and written about creative people in all kinds of fields: What drives them? How do they get their ideas? Was using their imagination encouraged at home? What, and who, were their influences? Why do some people follow through with their inventions and others not? How does anyone reach their creative potential?

This is what I have learned:

You don't have to be involved in the arts or an inventor to be imaginative. Creativity comes in all forms and shapes… it's all in your approach. Anyone at any stage in any walk of life can have creative aspects to their private and professional lives.

Unfortunately, for various reasons, most of us lose our innate innovative spark when very young. Too often, as an elementary school teacher I saw enthusiastic, passionately creative, wide-eyed kindergarten children grow into self-restricted, self-conscious adolescents, more concerned about conforming to the boundaries set by their peers and society than about originality in their thinking and approach to life. A recent study (Radical Change Radical Results: Kate Ludeman and Eddie Erlandson) verified this loss of creativity:

Children at the age of 5 ask 30 questions an hour; by the age of 7 they question just 2 or 3 times an hour. Creative genius is displayed in 95% of children between the ages of 3-5 years of age; by the age of 10 years it's at 63%; by 15 years it's 32%; by 20 years it's down to 10%. Intuition drops dramatically, becoming negligible by the time kids enter first grade.

Years ago, on first hearing the expression "thinking out of the box," I was bewildered, having great difficulty with the concept of a theoretical box representing the four corners of what was labeled "conventional" thinking. Until that moment, I believed that every single person had — and used — unique, limitless creative thinking abilities.

In the years since, I've come to the conclusion that we all have a gift package — nicely wrapped in a big bow — within which our creative core waits to be explored. This core is our creative potential, what I call our Creative X-Spot™ — the place in which our imagination, passion and creativity unite and soar. It remains for each of us to access that core.

E X P A N D Creative Thinking

BoxHere are some steps to restore or expand creative thinking:

  • Open your mind to the flow of ideas and possibilities.
  • Let go of self-imposed, artificial restrictions.
  • Try fresh ideas.
  • Take chances with new experiences.
  • Expand thinking through creative exercises.
  • Change some patterns of behaviour.
  • Surround yourself with people who help stimulate or promote your creative spark.
  • Let go of life-long personal prejudices, self-conceptions and set boundaries.
  • Be open to both giving and receiving suggestions, regardless how outrageous.
  • Encourage freefall brainstorming: accept every proposal made, no matter how wild, for it might lead in turn to a run of useful ideas. (Allowing ideas to first flow freely is how I develop all my original projects, from books, to paintings, to workshops.)
  • Be spontaneous and somewhat daring, especially if there's not much to lose.

By accessing your creative thinking, you'll find creative solutions to most problems you encounter. When my cake batter was ready at the same time the oven broke down, rather than throwing the batch out, I barbequed it. (My friend Sara, there at the time, has offered to testify that the chocolate/chocolate chip cake came out perfectly!) You'll also discover astonishing outcomes: uncover ground-breaking opportunities, hidden talents, stimulating new friends, exciting hobbies, and, even, potential careers.

There are countless ways to re-connect with your creativity. Register for a course. Establish or join a group that will both direct and encourage all participants to reach their potential. Take a workshop. Read books and watch movies about inspiring people. Start a journal. Promote friendships that bring out the best in you. Buddy with a friend to set creative goals for both of you. Change some of your habits. Do something new every day.

In trying new ideas and approaches, be invigorated and face the challenges offered by uncertainty or fear of failure. Yes, there are times when I thoroughly fail — or make an absolute, embarrassing fool of myself. Why do I continue? I believe in what I'm doing. I'm devoted to the entire creative process. I'm so very passionate about it because, when I let my imagination fly, I'm often bowled over at its results. What about you?

Author, speaker and creativity consultant Nellie Jacobs helps you uncover your inner genius. Learn more at www.nelliejacobs.com.

©2005 Nellie Jacobs. All rights reserved.


Laura McKowen

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