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Unfinished business

“A garden is never finished” Shunryu Suzuki

One of the things that creative minds struggle with the most is how to tell when a project that they are working on is finished.

For the purposes of this discussion it really doesn’t matter whether we are talking about a painting or a sculpture, or a novel or symphony, or a business plan or a presentation, the fact is that in our own way each of us is creative (regardless of what we do, or how we do it).

Having said that, a shocking number of us are either embarrassed by this fact or in outright denial about it and what is really interesting about this is how it impacts both our decision-making and our ability to complete projects as we progress through life.

It is generally accepted that all children are artistically creative. We do everything that we can to nurture creativity in our offspring – thrusting crayons into their small fists almost even before they can walk, praising their scribbles and plastering the refrigerator with all manner of colourful offerings as quickly as they are produced.

But midway through childhood all of this quietly stops and we shift the emphasis to things that are “more important” like getting good grades or excelling at sports. What this accidentally does, is send the subliminal message that creativity in general is a waste of time or unimportant, or not the way to get praise or attention – which causes many to turn their focus away from the most unique part of themselves.

So, what happens to your creativity then? Does it simply vanish? Does it go into hiding like a sulking child, refusing to play with anyone? Or does it get sneaky – resurfacing now and again throughout your life when you least expect it in an effort to express itself?

In my experience the latter is most frequently the case but many of us have mixed feelings about this.

After all, in a world which praises conformity and playing by the rules, it takes courage and self-confidence to be the one who intentionally stands out. It means accepting that not everyone will welcome your ideas, and making peace with the fact that you will sometimes be publicly criticised by those who do not appreciate your efforts.

And so rather than risk suffering the judgment of others, many adults persist in assigning little value to their creativity and hide their talents as if they were ashamed of them.

This approach might work as long as everything is going well but what happens when you come up against a problem that you don’t know how to solve, or need to find a way to finish a project, or want to try something new?

You might still have possible solutions occurring to you but will they be realistic and plausible ideas that you are actually capable of accomplishing, or “pie in the sky” flights of fancy? And even if a plausible creative solution does occur to you, will you have the self-confidence to see it through?

In other words, if you have not intentionally exercised your creative skills in a long time, will you be able to use them effectively when you desperately need them?

As the saying goes, there’s a fine line between genius and insanity – if you want to be able to leverage your creative abilities in a positive way for maximum benefit and effect, you have to recognise them, nurture them and exercise them regularly.

Robin Trimingham is the managing director of The Olderhood Group Ltd and a business consultant, journalist, podcaster and thought leader in the fields of life transition and change management. Connect with Robin at https://bit.ly/3nSMlvc or robin@olderhood.com

We do everything that we can to nurture creativity in children and then, suddenly, we shift the focus, says Robin Trimingham

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Published November 02, 2021 at 7:59 am (Updated November 02, 2021 at 7:37 am)

Unfinished business

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