How to Thrive in Turbulent Times
By Lenn Millbower, BM, MA, The Learnertainment® Trainer
The Chinese symbol for crisis is made up of two characters. One represents danger. The other, opportunity. This symbol effectively encapsulates my thoughts about the current rough economic patch everyone seems to be going through.
Small business owners see their business shrinking. Some corporate and non-profit employees are losing their jobs. Those that survive the cutbacks are unappreciated, underpaid and overworked. The distraction and angst of all this makes it hard to be creative. Ironically, people who are comfortable with their creativity aren’t much troubled by the turbulence. They welcome it. To them, danger is opportunity.
Even the worst economic situation is teeming with creative opportunities. But most adults have been taught to stifle their creativity.
Today’s vision of adulthood classroom is a remnant of late 1800s. The Industrial Revolution and the factory system popularized back then distilled all the tasks required to make a product down to the simplest elements. Society focused on producing workers capable of rote repetition. Order and control were expected. Creativity was exterminated. Youngsters were told to be quiet, to do what is expected, to “act like adults.” Eventually, most of us fell out of tune with our inner creative self.
Rediscovering that individual, unique creativity is the first step to a successful future. Listed below is an acronym, appropriately spelling the word C.R.E.A.T.I.V.E., that may help you create your own brain stimulus package.
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The amygdala, deep in the brain, has one primary function: to protect its owner. It does this by being cautious. Its caution causes it to assumptions about new situations based on what has happened in the past. But when the situation is new, as it is today, old assumptions become an anti-creativity trap that must be aggressively challenged.
If the current need is more effective learning with fewer resources, challenge your assumptions about what that learning must look like. If the need is to find professional growth opportunity or a new position, challenge yourself to identify different techniques and employment avenues your amygdala never let you consider before.
Negativity, spurred on by the amygdala, abounds in the workplace. It certainly permeates the news media these days. This negativity is a helpful warning function, but once warned, it can sap the will to do anything about the warning.
Change is like a stampede, distant and ominous at first but eventually overwhelming. Negatively focused people are often so caught up in bitterness about the situation that the stampede catches and engulfs them. The creatives, on the other hand, are rarely caught. They may even lead the stampede.
There is, fortunately, an easy way to refocus your brain away from negative energy: fun. Play leads to relaxation, which leads to less rigid thinking, which leads to creative solutions. In tough times like these, negativity is wasted energy. A positive and playful focus on future possibilities is more likely to produce better results.
Less rigid thinking opens the door to alternative ideas. Creatives explore every angle. Their motto could be stated as, “What else?” Albert Einstein was once asked to define the difference between him and most other people, and he replied that if the average person, looking for a needle in a haystack, would stop once a needle was found. Einstein would instead take the entire haystack apart looking for more needles.
A creative’s motto could be stated as, “What else?” When things are difficult, like they are today, alternatives aren’t luxuries; they are essentials. Explore every possible avenue to be a more effective learning professional, a more visionary leader, a more relevant employee, to develop a more effective career, or to build a better business.
Once all the alternatives have been explored, the next step is to determine how your specific abilities can be applied. Creatives know what they are creative at and seek out opportunities to do more of those things. Where the failure that comes from accentuating weakness builds doubt, success that comes from focusing on strengths builds confidence.
Strengths are, fortunately given the realities of the world, transferable from job to job and career to career. In my own life, my strength as a musical composer and arranger became a strength as an instructional designer. It turned out that the same skills required to compose, logical precision and emotional intuitiveness, are required to create effective instructional designs.
Many people absorb the specifics of an experience rather than the commonalities between experiences. Creatives seek out deeper relationships between seemingly incompatible experiences and intentionally look for ways to interrelate them. Those relationships lead directly to new possibilities.
In the current environment, the people around you, especially your learners, need comparisons for their current situation. The metaphors you create may help them cope with and define the angst they are feeling. Likewise, looking for deeper meanings and trends will help you identify your next career steps.
Making these kinds of connections requires a depth and breath of knowledge about a wide range of subjects. Creatives are amazingly, almost annoyingly, curious. Curiosity is a key factor in creativity. Without curiosity, it is virtually impossible to create anything. Curiosity leads to questions, and those questions lead to new creations. Most people will accept things at face value. Creatives want to know why something is true, why it works, or what would prevent it from working.
Curiosity about other people, organizations, and career paths can lead you forward. Without that curiosity, it is likely that some available options will never occur to you.
Creatives also try to place their creative efforts in the context of the results they hope to achieve. Visualizing something made it easier to comprehend. Visuals aren’t bogged down in facts and negativity. The images exist separate from the current reality. Because of this, a visualized result is not restricted by logistics. The result just is.
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Knowing what the results of the learning program look like, what relationships you value, what activities give you pleasure, what job you would perform well, and what your career goals should be will help you make more informed decisions to determine what details must occur to make the visualization a reality.
Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once said, “Most of us go to our graves with our music still inside us, unplayed.” That’s certainly not true of creatives. When focused individuals challenge assumptions, refocus energy, explore the alternatives, accentuate strengths, think metaphorically, investigate unknowns, and visualize results, they can relax and let the creativity flow. The result is a more opportunity to play your own music your own way.
Ultimately, there isn’t much you can do about situations that are global in nature. What you can do is recognize that your life is precious. Every day you wake up is a good day. Relax and enjoy the fact that your eyes opened. Luxuriate in the uncertainty each day brings. For with the danger comes incredible opportunity. And in that opportunity is your very own brain stimulus package.
Visit Lenn online at: www.OffbeatTraining.com