Hello 35/35 Readers. Today’s post is a bit different. Today, we color outside of the lines! This post needs your interaction and participation to be successful. I hope you play along!
Take a moment and look at this picture*:
You see what appears to be a series of raised rectangular panels.
Now, look at the photo again, only, this time, focus on the X in the center of the photo and think to yourself “circles” instead of “rectangles”.
Suddenly, circles pop up out of nowhere!
Ok – one more!
Take a look at the picture below. The picture is just a group of irregular black and white shapes. Concentrate on the 4 vertical dots in the middle of the photo for about 30 seconds. Then, close your eyes and tilt your head back. Keep them closed. Eventually, you will see a circle of light. Continue looking at the circle. What do you see?*
*Copyright © 2003-2010, Michael Michalko, All Rights Reserved
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change! You’ve heard the phrase “think outside the box.” This phrase is usually employed to motivate a person to come up with a new, creative, idea. When I was a kid, I would think inside the box. Literally, inside of a cardboard box. This was no ordinary cardboard box! It was elaborately painted to look like a house! Technically, it was just empty space inside of that cardboard structure. But in my mind, it was anything but! It was fully furnished! With a huge back yard outside of the kitchen window! And a nursery, for Susie. Sometimes it even became a spaceship house, where I would fly to the planet where my best friend, Snuffelupagus lived. We would drink tea together and then I flew back home because I had a big show that I had to perform in and I had to put on my costume and makeup. And then fans would knock on my door and ask for my autograph. It was quite the house! (I seriously need to raid my Mama’s photo chest to get some of the photos depicting these fabulous moments of my life. For now, the below photo is a good runner-up!)
Somewhere down the line, the cardboard spaceship house became “just a house”. Then it became a cardboard house that was empty. Then it was just cardboard. Then I didn’t play with it anymore. I once heard the phrase “You start school as a “?” but end school as a “.” From the moment you walk through the doors of kindergarten, your creativity starts to die. Of course, it’s not school itself that stifles our creative nature. It’s the conditioning that goes along with it. Science, math, history. You are taught to think logically. Analyze. Eliminate possibilities to find the right answer. I touched on this recently in my post about Date 13. In his post, “Unlimited Possibilities Exist When You Think Outside of the Box“, Patrick Schriel, a life coach, explains this concept of conditioning by stating that parents, friends, the culture we live in, school all come together to start defining our behavior, the truth as we begin to know it and the proper ways to behave. Rather, “We learn to think with what we know, not with what we don’t know.”
This 35 dates in 35 days project has really kickstarted my “creative side”. That is, I’ve been dying to get back into that cardboard spaceship house and start thinking like I did inside of that box! Where anything is possible. Where I expanded, not excluded, my options. Where there were no limits and anything could happen!
When Date 19, Keith, asked me out – I jumped at the opportunity! Keith and I have known each other for 20 years. Rather, we have known of each other for 20 years. We went to the same high school and were both heavily involved in theatre. But we rarely interacted with each other. In fact, I can recall only a handful of times that we truly crossed paths. I hadn’t spoken to him since 1994. But I was feeling a burning desire to broaden my creativity and Keith is a truly creative person! He’s the lead singer for a band called The Dreamscapes Project, an award-winning band hailing from Washington, DC (Check out their latest album, Pity In a Heart Beat to hear their style).
Keith picked me up from acting class and we headed to The Soundry in Vienna. (The same place where I was for Date #14.) The Soundry is quickly becoming one of my favorite places in Fairfax County! Part open art studio, part theatre, part coffee-house, part music hall. It attracts wide variety of creative souls. (Not many coffee houses let you hula hoop inside or sit out on the front stoop and play your musical instrument, while painters collaborate over a work of art and singers showcase their talents at open mic night!)
Keith informed me that, for Date 19, he was teaching me how to play the guitar! I was skeptical, as I’ve never played a musical instrument, but I was also excited! He thought it best that I start on one “my own size” and handed me…a ukulele. As we started the lesson, I realized that this wasn’t going to be as easy as originally thought. My fingers didn’t want to move in the right way. I wasn’t used to holding the neck of the ukulele so my fingers were smashing down on the strings. I was having a hard time getting the strumming right. But, Keith is a great teacher! He had me clear my mind of my conditioning regarding “not” being able to play the ukulele and, rather, look at the lesson with “what I don’t know” rather than “what I do.” To change my perception regarding what it takes to successfully play. Within 10 minutes after that talk, I had learned 3 different chords! In another 20 minutes, I was transitioning relatively smoothly between them! After 5 more minutes, I was sitting on the steps of The Soundry “rockin’ out” on the uke! (Granted, still only to those 3 chords. But, still, totally rockin’!)
It felt good to be expanding, not limiting, my options and abilities. I told some people about my ukulele lesson and they all sighed and said, “I wish I could be creative.” To which I say, you can! But you may ask, how? You don’t want to play the ukulele! You don’t want to go on 35 dates in 35 days! You don’t want to blog daily! So, how then can you be creative?
Michael Michalko is one of the most highly acclaimed creativity experts in the world and author of the best sellers, Thinkertoys, ThinkPak and Cracking Creativity. In 2008, I e-mailed Michael because I wished to get his permission to copy certain chapters of Thinkertoys for an event I was running with Singles in the Suburbs. He immediately wrote back that I could copy the entire book! He believes fully in sharing and fostering creativity whenever possible. And, in his book, Thinkertoys, he provides many examples of how one can practice small exercises that can lead to big bursts of creativity!
I won’t list them all. You can easily read the book and read all of the fabulous exercises and suggestions for sparking creativity. Hopefully, however, you are still ready to play along. Because I’ve got homework for you!
I’m going to task you with 3 things. I want you to do these things over the next 7 days. Then, I want you to come back to this post and blog about your experience. What you did, how you did it, what you thought about while doing it. All entries posted by 11:59 p.m. EST on October 6, 2011 will be entered (one entry per person/IP address/Blog comment account/etc.) to win a prize! (You’ll have your choice from 3 different prizes, TBA). The winner will be selected the morning of October 7th.
1. Look at something that you see in your every day life. It may be a pothole. Or a traffic light. Or a tree. Whatever it is, look at it. Pay attention to it. Study it. Then, compare it to a problem that you are having – either in a relationship, a friendship, at work, with a goal…and start describing how that item is like your problem. How it resembles your problem. How it moves past your problem. Or, how it can help you move past your problem. Or, how it makes the problem worse and what would need to happen to that item to help solve the problem.
2. Change one thing about your daily routine. It can be the same thing for the entire week, or one different thing each day. Perhaps take a new route to work. Listen to a different radio station. Watch a different program in the morning. Sit in a different chair at lunch. It’s your call and can be as big or small of a change as you’d like.
3. Keep notes! Journal everything that you think, realize, experience from doing the two exercises above.
Then, of course, come back here to post your findings and experiences. Let us know if these exercises helped you change your mind and, if so, about what and, if so, why.
Your intention creates your thoughts.
Thoughts become your words.
Words become your actions.
Actions become your habits.
Habits become your character.
Your character becomes your destiny.