3 Lessons and 3 Tips to Boost Your Career with Creativity
Author Patti Digh wrote that “if you’re alive, you’re creative” but she could have fooled me. Until I resigned from my first career in financial technology and embarked on a new career in professional coaching, I had no idea I was creative (or that we all are). Yet if you are wondering about your next steps in your career or leadership, you’re going to want to discover your capacity to be creative to make the journey easier and more fulfilling.
Below I share the story of my career transition along with the three key lessons I learned about creativity and its significance to the success of my transition. I also provide three tips for being creative in a high-speed world – these tips may surprise you because they require that you work less, not more, in order to best access your creativity. Read on to discover more benefits of developing your creative mind.
3 Lessons I Learned About Creativity
#1 – Creativity is not necessarily what you think it is
Like many people, I grew up thinking that creativity was limited to those with the natural ability to draw, paint, sing, play an instrument, write poetry or books. I tried my hand at each of these activities and quickly realized that writing was the only one I had a shot at developing further. Even still, the only aspect of writing that has ever come easy for me is my desire to write. The writing itself is often challenging and difficult to begin, and I excel more in the reviewing and editing process.
As I set about creating a new career for myself, facing the challenge of not knowing where or how to begin and reviewing and editing my efforts along the way, I began to re-think what it meant to be creative – that maybe it extended well beyond the arts into every day life, and was accessible to those of us who lacked an innate artistic ability.
Dr. Danny Penman, author of Mindfulness for Creativity: Adapt, create and thrive in a frantic world, helped expand my understand of creativity with his definition:
“Creativity is characterised by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena and to generate solutions.”
As an individual, I’ve long been interested in perceiving the world in new ways and making connections between unrelated phenomena with an eye for addressing an issue at hand. As a coach, I help my clients do this as well, to uncover new opportunities and possibilities for moving forward in their careers or developing their leadership skills to face a specific challenge. No artistic ability required! (Although “artfulness” in coaching is a capacity that is enjoyable and meaningful to cultivate.)
How does Penman’s definition of creativity enhance your view of what it means to be creative?
According to his definition, how are you being creative already?
#2 – Creativity is an organic process, no matter how hard we fight to corral and structure it within deadlines
It’s been said that creativity requires a canvas and I get that; without edges to frame your creativity, your creative impulse can collapse under the pressure to fill an otherwise infinite space. Nonetheless, creativity is not something you can command to appear nor order around. Rather, it is a quality that is best served by an environment of openness, encouragement, risk-taking and constructive critique. It requires enough time and space to sprout, then grow and change, be ratified and improved in order to develop into its true potential. This was no less true of my career path into coaching.
My idea to become a professional coach did not just show up overnight. A few years earlier, my brother had mentioned that he worked with a career coach to help him identify a change he wanted to make in his career. That was the first time I discovered that career coaches existed. As I grew more serious about making my own career change, a mentor referred me to a marketing coach to help me learn how to market my services as a freelance business and technology writer, which is what I originally planned for my transition. This dissipated quickly once I realized I never wanted to write a technology document again – although I didn’t find that out until I had already resigned from my full-time role.
At that point, I became a little frantic. I’d left my first career to embark on a new one that no longer appealed to me. I struggled to quickly figure out what I could do next and again with the help of a mentor, I discovered that a major aspect of my former career that I valued was being a mentor myself. Having enjoyed the process of being coached by my marketing coach, I put two and two together and signed up for an open house at a coaching school in Toronto. Three years later, I successfully completed my professional coach designation and was actively growing my practice.
I have often reflected back on that time to see if I could have improved my process of moving from one career to another. Indeed, there were lots of lessons to be learned from that experience and I employ them in my career today and share them with my career transition and leadership development clients alike.
#3 – There are actually clearly defined steps to being creative
By this point you may be wondering, “so how do I become creative in my own career?” Fortunately, a deeply creative colleague of mine, Darlene Chrissley, did the world a great favour by defining 10 clear steps to being creative. You can find them here. They are especially helpful when you consider her wise perspective around creativity:
“Creative work doesn’t proceed in a linear way towards a preconceived goal. It emerges from chaos, where you first catch a fleeting glimpse and then work to draw it out and find a form to hold it.”
I didn’t know it at the time however I followed almost all of the steps that Darlene writes about. Step 2 is to “Pay attention to your inner yearnings” which I did when I realized my passion for mentoring. Step 6 is “Experiment with connections and combinations” which came into play when I thought about my brother hiring a career coach and how much I enjoyed my work with a marketing coach. Step 9, “Work with the tension between vision and reality” took a little longer, as I had so much to learn about coaching and building my own coaching practice. I think I may have missed the final step which encourages you to “celebrate completion” – I was too busy!
In fact, the pressures of our high-speed world can cause some uncomfortable friction with the organic pace that creativity requires. As I continue to evolve in my career and leadership, however, I notice an even stronger pull to be creative in service of the possibilities that await me. I’ve had to come up with some ways to approach being creative that don’t slow me down or cause me to get left behind, including the following tips.
3 Tips for Being Creative in a High-Speed World:
- Keep an idea journal and schedule a time to re-visit your ideas once a month or once a quarter – the point is to track your ideas but not act on them all (which could be exhausting and overwhelming). Some of the ideas you come up with will change over time as well, or may be a stepping stone to an even bigger and better idea. Don’t let the pressure to act subvert this important creative process.
- Recognize when you are confused about something and relax into that confusion. As a client of mine once told me, “confusion is the highest state of being” and he’s right. Once you stop resisting your confusion and fruitlessly trying to come up with an answer to your career question, clarity will come to you. Your mind is able to relax and become more creative when you’re not pressuring yourself to solve a problem prematurely.
- Practise being bored to give your creative mind the time and space to process what is going on in your work, including your thoughts and feelings about yourself and your situation. Have nothing to do for the next 15 minutes? Don’t rush to fill that time with mindless activity. Get comfortable doing nothing for a little while and know that it’s exactly what your brain needs in order to become open to new ideas that can truly help you move forward.
We all have the capacity to be creative and create new possibilities in our work and lives. If you’ve been trying to figure out the next step in your career or leadership, consider the three lessons I’ve shared along with these tips for being creative in the months ahead: keep an idea journal (re-visit regularly), accept your confusion and let go of needing to find an answer right away, practise being bored to give your creative mind the time and space to process. As your creativity develops under your mindful attention, the answers you seek will begin to appear.
“Big Ideas” like creativity in service of business coaching and leadership development are an essential premise to the work done by PeopleDynamics Learning Group, the company that brings the Business Coaching Advantage Certification Program™ to you.
Join the next cohort to develop your business coaching skills and your capacity to be creative in your own career and leadership! Sign up for a free Info Session to learn more, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a one-on-one coaching session to discuss your needs.