Getting creative again.

Apparently, “The average adult thinks of 3-6 alternatives for any given situation. The average child thinks of 60.” And

“Research has shown that in creativity quantity equals quality. The longer the list of ideas, the higher the quality of the final solution. The highest quality ideas appear at the end of the list.” (Linda Naiman,

I don’t know about you but I find the first quote depressing and the second liberating.

Why are we so quick to squash imaginative thinking in children? I know that they won’t always come up with entirely practicable answers to problems but must we break them of the habit of unrestricted inventiveness in the name of being “realistic”?

We end up being prone to editing ourselves – often we dismiss ideas as unworkable or silly almost instantaneously, as though embarrassed by their impracticality.

But even ideas that don’t work in themselves can lead on to something that will and, if you pay heed to the second quote and come up with loads and loads of ideas, it’s a fair bet that your brain will generate at least one interesting solution.

I also find that getting all the things that are buzzing round in my head out of it and down on a piece of paper really helps to clear my mind and relieve the stress of feeling that I have to keep it all, good or bad, in case I lose something important.

I’ve said it before, I’m a big fan of Mind Maps ( – their ability to pull ideas out of the recesses of your mind always delights me and, a bit like nesting dolls, inside each new idea there are more waiting to be found.

Tip: Before you dismiss your next “silly” idea, examine it for themes or elements that could go somewhere. Or think what the opposite might be or how another person might take it further. It could lead to something really interesting.

How to make life bearable at work – plan your escape!

Imagine you’ve been sent to prison for life: there’s no prospect of early release or time off for good behaviour.

You can sit down under it and try to make your cell a bit more homely, befriend other prisoners and maybe some guards, wait for visits from people on the outside. You can shrink your world down until what little you have fills it up.

And then, perhaps, news comes that they’ll be letting you out.

Suddenly, you have something to work towards, something to look forward to. You can review your options, make plans and visualise a better time ahead.

I expect you see where I’m going with this!

If you believe that you’re stuck in a dull, dead-end job until they pension you off (probably stingily!) or you keel over, you can try to make the situation as bearable as possible but, slowly and steadily, your world will shrink. Your confidence and self-esteem and, quite possibly, your health will suffer.

You need a vision of what’s beyond your cell walls; you need a sense of what’s possible beyond the confines of your existing world to give you a goal to work towards. Having an escape plan can be enormously motivating and the knowledge that you only have to tolerate what you don’t like for a measurable amount of time longer can make it all much more bearable.

It needs to be a good escape plan, though! You need to put a lot of thought into it and ask yourself some questions that will help you to set clear targets. Here are some to start you off:

Where do you want to be in 6 months’ time? No pussyfooting here, no setting up barriers! Imagine everything is perfect: where are you? Who (if anyone) is with you? Exactly what are you doing? How have you financed yourself?

What do you know/need to learn to get you to where you want to be?

Who do you know/need to get to know?

What have you got (in terms of finance/equipment/skills) and what do you need to acquire?

Do you need to consider doing something different as a temporary measure to fund your project?

I’d use Mind Maps to help me think all this out – maybe you have another preferred method. Whichever you choose, set aside a few hours (not necessarily all at once), let all your creativity loose and get all your ideas down on paper. Then you can pick the best and make a start!

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