What a five year-old can teach you about creativity

Posted by on August 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

If you have ever sat on the beach and watched a small child building a sandcastle you will have seen the creative process at work. The beauty of beach sand and sea water is that you can make it what you want. A very simple upturned bucket sandcastle or a magnificent creation of several moats, turrets and fortifications.

A bit of skill is needed in building a sandcastle and a very small child will struggle with this. The sand water mix is crucial. Too dry, sand collapses. Too wet, the sand oozes and collapses. And telling the child that this will happen is not useful – it is only when several attempts have been made to get it right, with the disappointment of watching the slow or rapid collapse of the edifice, that they get it.sandcastle

The child will make mistakes, keep at it, become skilled and then be creative. Creativity cannot flourish until the initial learning phase has passed and there’s enough skill to handle the sand and the water.

Creativity is useful for getting new ideas (obviously), thinking through problems, getting rid of boredom and adding variety and excitement to life. Creativity is an essential part of designing a new life for yourself, whether you are focused on, say, a specific work-related problem or you want to take the broad-brush approach to creating your future.

One of the aspects of creating your future that is so important is that your future is created first in your imagination before it becomes real.

This applies whether you are creating the Sydney Opera House or your dinner. I am assuming here that your food is not a “remove from freezer and then microwave” entity but real food that actually needs chopping, shredding, mixing and cooking. First you will create that meal in your imagination taking into account the appearance food, its colour, texture and flavour, the herbs and spices and cooking aromas. You will envisage the finished dish and how will look, taste and smell on the plate. Skilled cooks will create a feast in the imagination before they ever get near the stove.

Having lots of options when you come to think about your future is a bit like having lots of ingredients in the store cupboards and fridge – it takes a bit of skill to sort them out and put them together in way that is meaningful to you but the finished product is fantastic!

And this is why creativity is so important.

If you are deciding to make changes in your life, if you are seeking new challenges and you are looking for a new direction the more options you have available to you the greater your creativity can be informing your new life.

So what can you do to enhance creativity in your normal everyday life? Well, there are lessons to be learned from the child on the beach who is making a sandcastle. If you have ever observed a child making a sandcastle you will see that they have total concentration and focus on the task in hand. Nothing will stop them from creating. Not even when the tide is coming in and waves are lapping around their feet. It takes a vigilant adult to lift up the soggy child and get them away from the sea.

Another factor in favour of creating a really wonderful sandcastle is that the child starts with a completely blank slate, or rather a bare patch of sand. There is no pre-existing structure and if a helpful dad comes along and tries to build part of the sandcastle this is often demolished before the child-centred creation can begin!

Children also have the advantage of not knowing anything about architectural regulations, building permits or external constraints. They can build their sandcastle any which way they like. Structure is determined only by the limits of the sand water mix and the child’s imagination. Almost anything is possible. And children sense this – the reason they enjoy playing on the beach and in the sand pit at home is because they know they have total freedom in what they create there. They may take this to such extremes that sand doesn’t stay in the sandbox – children love the creative possibilities of sand so much they bring it into the house can’t understand why it isn’t an indoor toy!

Above all children playing with sand have the gift of time and space. Have a safe space which they can make their creation and they have what seems like endless time which is what an afternoon on the beach is to a small child. They are not clock watching or working to a deadline or having to fill in a form with tick boxes or produce any measurable outcome. This allows the creativity to flourish.

And these are the gifts that children have when they play and make the sandcastles – they are able to have complete focus, start with a blank slate, they are not rule-bound and they can do what they want. They have the time and space in which they can be creative.

These are the factors that encourage creativity. Maybe there is a time when you are on holiday this summer (or if you have been on vacation you can remember back to a time) when you are relaxed, you have no deadlines, and you have the time and space to think creatively.

If you want to make any substantive changes in your life creativity is going to be an important part of the process, so you need to look at how you can create time and space for yourself.

You don’t have to become five-year-old to take advantage of your own innate creativity. We have all been on away-day “training courses” where some sappy coach/trainer gives you a large sheet of sugar paper and a pack of Crayola crayons and tells you to draw your future/problem/solution. Apparently, drawing like a five-year-old is supposed to release your inner creativity. Well I think we can learn from the five-year-olds – they can be creative but not because they have sugar paper and Crayolas and draw stick men. They are creative because they have the time, space, and freedom to release their inner creativity.

For you this might work if you get out paper and crayons and draw like you were five. But  anything that puts you into a focused space can help with creativity. It might be free-form writing or painting or playing music or doing sport or meditation.

Then you can decide what sandcastles you want to build and what life you want to create.

Get started and create your new life – if you are bored, if you need a new challenge or you want to make a difference…get your 30 Day Plan here.