Lead with the Right Brain--the Gift of Creativity
A gift of these unsettled times is that we are discovering what is important, both to ourselves and to a world in need of a new way. How, you ask? Honor your creativity.
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
- Albert Einstein
What is creativity? Spend some time watching a child play and you will have your answer: It is the essence of who we are. Creativity flows through our bodies, feelings, senses and experience, and connects us with the larger field of information available to all of us. Watch a small child tune in to her surroundings, roll on the grass, smell the flowers, stroke a ladybug, all the while enfolded in her own fantasy of being a creepy crawler, a magical flower or a tree fairy. Central to this picture is her immersion in her senses, her feelings and the present moment. Her fantasy world is real to her.
Einstein said, “When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking.”
“Out of the box” thinking expands when we use our right brains (where creativity lives). When you’re looking for new ideas and new perspectives, the answer to a problem or a new idea or invention, remember: Our imaginations are gateways to discovery.
Yet as we grow from young children into adulthood and are told about “rules” and “right and wrong,” we often lose touch with our creative center out of fear of being wrong. I know this fear well: during my years as a lawyer, it was not only important, but critical to logically work through a problem to the “right” answer. And yet, when I also used my right brain intuition and creativity, I found solutions I would not find through logic. I saw problems from a bigger perspective, was more tuned in to human relationships, and “felt” more engaged in the process. I won jury trials by tapping into my creativity and relational skills, not just by being logical.
Einstein said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Another way to say this is that we create our lives with our right brain and manage them with the left.
My belief is that every person, whether a lawyer, a leader, a programmer or an artist, can cultivate the right brain strengths of creativity, play, empathy, pattern recognition, synthesis, and meaning making, bringing much-needed balance to the rational mind. All of these capabilities depend on being fully embodied, present, and tuned in to ourselves. In working with my clients, we rediscover these aptitudes by connecting through the body with feelings, sensations, the inner landscape, creative impulse and imagination. Here are some ways to playfully explore these realms:
1. Engage through all of the senses.
When you wake in the morning or during short breaks in the day, tune into your senses one by one, using your breath. As you do so, notice patterns, rhythms, light and shadow, movement, flow, temperature and vibration, as if you were experiencing that sense for the first time in the world. Close your eyes to tune in to your hearing, taste, smell and touch. When you connect with your sensation of touch, notice what you are feeling both inside your body and outside your body. If anything stirs your heart or imagination, let it run wild. Write down any ideas that come to you in a journal that you call “My Great Ideas.”
2. Find opportunities to look at art, read poetry, listen to or dance to music, and be in nature.
When you do so, imagine yourself as part of the art, the poem, the musical score, the landscape. When I see Picasso’s Women Running on the Beach, I first “feel” into the painting. What feelings does it evoke in me? Then I become the women, the sand, the water, the clouds and sky, then the invisible person chasing them or being chased, the artist painting the scene. I become the color, the movement, the feel, the shapes. I tell the story of the painting to myself. I sing the song of the painting. I dance the painting. By engaging in this way, you stimulate within yourself imagination, curiosity, empathy and humor.
3. Play the perspective game.
Look around or listen to your environment. Take the first thing that captures your attention, and allow your intuition or “felt sense” to connect you to a new perspective. For example, if I am feeling blue because of the weather, I might see a small vase on the windowsill. I then look at the situation from the “vase” perspective. In my imagination, I see the vase filling, overflowing with water in the middle of a desert—a new perspective of abundance. Then I might hear a car alarm—an “alarming” perspective: perhaps it will never stop raining for the rest of my life. Then I find a third and maybe a fourth perspective. I choose the one that feels best to me in the moment.
Whether you see with your ears and taste with your nose, create metaphors, weave stories, doodle patterns, make random word associations, play improv games or ritualize important moments of your day and life, find the child within and honor her. She will guide you through your feelings, sensations, urges and desires to bring curiosity, play and imagination to whatever you do.
4. Walking as a Creative Practice
Use walking as a way to generate ideas, reconnect with your body’s wisdom and stimulate the partnership of the left and right sides of your brain. (When you move the opposite sides of your body at the same time, you are creating cross lateral stimulation in your brain.) Before walking, create intention, such as, “I want to create a new design or idea,” or “I want to think of creative solutions to a problem.”
Focus your attention and energy on the present moment, staying tuned in through all of your senses. Bring curiosity to your surroundings as if you are a young child. Consciously move the right arm and left leg, left arm and right leg as you walk. Notice what catches your attention in your environment and dialogue with it in your mind. Bring a small pad of paper and jot down any thoughts or ideas that come to you. You will find that this practice helps you get “unstuck,” and causes your creativity to flow. Great for your mood as well.