Monthly Archives: January 2010

Slaying the Dragon: Creativity and the Critical Voice

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.” Thomas Edison
No one gets to the end of a creative process without slaying the dragon. The dragon is the critical voice in your head that says your work is no good. It says your effort is useless. It looks on a mistake and says you are worthless, devoid of brilliance.
If you cannot look that dragon straight in the eye, tell it to go to hell and proceed forward with the next step, the next sentence, the next brush stroke, your vision is lost. It will be swallowed hole. Nothing will come of the goal you once held with resolve and enthusiasm.
There is no getting around it. It takes courage to create. Success sometimes involves making a ton of mistakes and still coming back to try again. If one does that, then he or she will climb higher. It’s the law. Thomas Edison said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. The law is this: If you don’t give up you win. You reach the summit.

Slaying The Dragon
Below is a proven approach to slaying the dragon. Practice it and you’ll gradually rewire your brain to provide a neural pathway that circumvents the critical voice.

The Mistake: Think of the last time you made a mistake or were challenged by bad news for which you felt somehow responsible. Write it down a piece of paper.

The Criticism: Now write down what your critical voice said to you. (How could you have let this happen? I can’t believe you did that. You’ve ruined things).

The Belief: Next, look at the beliefs behind the criticism and write these down (Example: I’m a loser. I’m not good enough. I’m irresponsible):

The Consequence: What does your critical voice think this mistake means for your future?

Look at what the critical is voice saying that is distorted or factually incorrect. These negative statements about you, your character, and your ability are far from true. Don’t believe them. Write down a realistic statement about your character and ability. If there is some factual truth in what the critical voice states, acknowledge it without condemning yourself.

Perhaps you made a mistake but it is likely you also succeeded in another way, or you succeeded in this situation at another time. Become your own character witness. Identify things you did that were positive.

Negative self-talk puts all the blame on you. Name one contributing factors that might have caused the problem.

Negative self-talk is often fixed on worse case scenarios, exaggerating consequences. How likely is it that this imagined calamity will happen?

Recall your initial intention in this situation. Write it down? Does it still matter? If so, how do you feel when you make your intention count? If your hopes were realized what would the outcome be?

Look back on this situation. Think of one positive, true quality you see in yourself that can turn the situation in a positive direction. Write it down. How would it feel to dedicate the day to remembering this about yourself?

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The Late Blooming Brain

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” Pablo Picasso

There is a myth about the brain that needs busting (Baby Boomers, take note).  The myth says we lose brain power as we get older.  It’s not true. In the last 10 years science has discovered a property of the brain called neuroplasticity, which is the way new stimuli and learning experiences reshape, reorganize, reintegrate and revitalize higher order brain function to tap more of your innate creative potential, no matter how old you are.

Your brain retains this neuroplastic quality throughout your life span. In short, brain power actually increases as you use it to stretch yourself in creative ways. Using a long neglected talent lights-up the neural networks in which it is embedded. The more you use it the more the brain expands these networks, integrating them with other networks to generate the related skill set that can produce something meaningful.

Many scientists consider neuroplasticity to be the most important discovery in medical science in the last 100 years. Neuroplasticity has expanded science’s view of human potential. When it comes to our potential for growth it appears that the sky is the limit.

What does this mean for Baby Boomers (or any one) who once dreamed of writing, painting, playing a musical instrument, flying a plane or learning a foreign language? It means they can pick up where they left off and, from there, develop their talent and skill. It’s never too late.

Studies of the careers and life cycles of impressionist and modern French and American painters consistently found that some artists bloom early (Picasso, Monet and Matisse) while others bloom later, producing exceptional art late in their life cycle (Grandma Moses, Cezanne, Van Gough and Rousseau).

L. Frank Braum didn’t write much fiction until mid-life and ended up creating one of the most popular books in children’s literature, The Wizard of Oz.

It is true in business as well. Late blooming entrepreneurs such as Mary Kay Ash, Colonel Sanders, and Sam Walton achieved their enormous success late in life.

Science found one essential trait that is common to both early and late bloomers. It is “innovative behavior.” This simply means you are willing to stretch an innate ability in new ways.

You can be 80-years-old and still rewire your brain to release a new flow of creativity. To repeat, the only condition neuroplasticity requires is the willingness to stretch yourself in new ways. Novelty is one of the qualities that grows a powerful brain. Excite brain cells with new learning and the brain literally rewires, making new connections that light-up and integrate a multitude of neural networks. The effect is holographic. Creative intelligence, psychological insight and practical skill combine to produce a meaningful result.

Neuroplasticity even applies where a difficult life and faulty genetics wired you for anxiety, belligerence, and pessimism. You can rewire your brain to make you more relaxed, happier and loving.

Exciting the brain with new learning could not be simpler. It is so simple that people often don’t believe such simple processes could generate such a major result. It can and does.

A Set Of Tools
Click here for a set of tools that can help you form these new brain connections. The tools that work couldn’t be simpler. You don’t have to try everything listed, just something from each of the four categories. Use this list as a framework for constructing your own approach to revitalizing your brain.