One of the many things I love about being a coach is how much I learn from and with my clients. A couple of years ago I was reviewing a values assessment with one of my clients, and Creativity was one of his top values. We had a very revealing coaching conversation about what Creativity meant to him and how it became such an important value for him. “On a scale of 1 to 10, how well are you living your value of Creativity?,” I asked him. It was one of those “catch your breath” moments where he realized that he had completely abandoned his Creativity, was not honoring that value, and felt a void in his life because of it. We closed the coaching session with commitments on how he would begin to invite Creativity back into his life by looking for opportunities to be more creative and “out of the box” at work, picking up his musical instrument again, devoting time to explore new creative endeavors, and reframing and expanding his idea of Creativity.

In reflecting on the conversation later that day, I had to admit that I was triggered by the topic. I too “used to be” a creative person, I thought. And in the process of becoming an adult and filling my time with family and professional obligations, my value of Creativity had also been somewhat stifled and set aside. I was reminded of the research that shows that as we age we become less creative. We mature, acquire knowledge and experience, and adopt habits of thought. As we get older, we tend to rely more on what we know and fall back on those reliable habits of thought. That generally helps us to be successful, and it can also limit our ability to be creative.

So, what can we do to feed and care for our creativity?  Here are a few thoughts:

  • Practice being curious and exploring the unknown – Many of us are programmed to have or find the right answer; instead be intentionally curious and open to discovery.
  • Pick up a new or forgotten artistic endeavor – After that coaching session with my client, I decided to sign up for a pottery class, something that I loved as a teenager. And I have been taking classes regularly ever since.
  • Get creative at work – Take a look at your role at work and explore how you can be more creative and innovative in your work. Are there new initiatives you can raise your hand for? Are there ways in which you could offer more of your ideas?
  • Catch yourself closing off – Pay attention to those moments when you jump to conclusions or see only one way to tackle a problem or move forward on something. Are you closing yourself to an opportunity to be creative and imaginative? How can you open yourself instead?
  • Break your habits – That’s your habitual behaviors and your habits of thought. Mix it up more, and push yourself out of your comfort zone.

My client gave me the gift of helping him think about what Creativity means to him, and I was able to think about what it meant to me too. We all have things that are important to us and the level of attention we give to those things ebbs and flows as we go through life. Every once in a while, it’s necessary to take time to reflect on what we say is important to us and then to examine whether we are really living in a way that honors and puts first the things we say are important. For me and my client, it was creativity and it might be creativity for you too, or it might be something else like family, freedom, or courage. Whatever those values are, figure out how to make them a priority starting today.

How have you kept creativity in your life? What values need more attention from you?
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