April 13, 2022 by Britt Fulmer
In Part 1 of the Wired to Create Overview, we shared three key takeaways for coaches about the messiness of the creative process. In Part 2, we will address the internal world of people who exercise their creativity to its fullest potential.
Passion and inspiration tend to be two sides of the same coin. Passion breeds internal motivation. People who score higher on levels of creativity tend to operate from a place of passion because they are both deeply dedicated and deeply connected to their desired field. Their passion is the place where their need for undying intellectual stimulation meets their cognitive capabilities, and it creates within them a sense of flow. While this absorption in their work can sometimes lead to feelings of lost time, it also leads to higher levels of joy and greater wellbeing.
The other side of the coin contains inspiration. To have passion is often to be inspired. Research suggests that highly creative people have, at one point in their lives, experienced a “crystallizing experience” in which they were so thoroughly inspired by an activity that it changed how they saw the world. Inspiration, however, doesn’t arrive for each person the same way. In fact, it requires that a person be open to experiencing new possibilities or insights before they feel a sense of inspiration.
This information is crucial to coaches whose aim is to help people find and leverage their passions. A client who is struggling to see the possibilities and opportunities ahead of them is unlikely to experience inspiration or find their passion. This is where tools like the Future Self and Future Pacing become crucial. Encouraging a client to fall in love with a future version of themselves, someone who has found their passion and pursues it every day, will open them up to various sources of inspiration. The magic is in the balance. It’s not enough for a client to love the version of themselves that lives in the future, but to also repeatedly fall in love with the person becoming their future self. Clients might balk at this notion, seeing too large a gap between who they are now and who they want to become. This is the bread and butter of every coaching relationship, and there are plenty of useful tools available to help clients bridge this gap. Mental contrasting is just one of these tools. It involves having a client vividly imagine their future goal and then imagine all of the potential obstacles they might face on their way to achieving the goal. This grounds the client in reality and allows them to plan the path toward their future self and enjoy the process along the way.
Our inner world is full of untapped knowledge and insights waiting for us to sit in silence long enough to notice them. Solitude is the practice of making space and time to be intimate with the inner workings of your own mind. According to Kauffman and Gregoire, “solitude is an essential element of self-discovery and emotional maturity,” and practicing intentional solitude can drive us toward some of our most perceptive and penetrating insights.
In today’s landscape of constant stimulation, people who strive toward greater creativity must learn to carve out intentional time for solitary space. This frees the way toward a connection with our inner world and the imagination network that allows us to think and process more effectively. One researcher, Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, discovered a concept that she coined constructive internal reflection. This is the process of entering an “intense reflective state” whereby you are so deeply involved with your inner world that the likelihood of developing more original groundbreaking ideas is inevitable. The intensity of this self-reflection allows us to better analyze events in our life through free association. As our minds wander around, they will begin to make connections we hadn’t previously seen, allowing us to make meaning of our thoughts, experiences, and behaviors. Whether through mindfulness or participating in habitual tasks, one thing remains clear: The only way to achieve this state is in solitude.
Skilled coaches are masters at cultivating an environment that allows for solitude and reflective thought. The insights garnered from a coaching session should not only live within the confines of that one-hour session. They should permeate their clients’ brains and begin creating new pathways for clients to think and reflect on their development. If a coach has done their job well, clients will be pondering their new insights long after the session has ended.
Whether we realize it or not, our unconscious mind helps us make a variety of decisions throughout our day. As mentioned previously, it’s when the rational mind has a chance to experience quiet and take a break from the demands of life that insights often occur. Researchers have identified two different types of processing. The first, type 1, is similar to Daniel Kahneman’s Fast Thinking, in which our brains make quick decisions that result in immediate action, often without recognizing that any mental processing has taken place. Type 2 thinking requires more effort and focus and is often related to the more controlled part of our brains. Type 1 thinking leads to more creative modes of thinking such as imagination and intuition, and Type 2 thinking helps us put these new ideas two use. All this to say, the two modes of thinking work hand-in-hand to execute various cognitive processes, including creativity.
So what does this mean for coaches? It’s all about balance. Through models like CTEDU’s Learn, Be, Do model of coaching, we can be assured that clients are given the space to explore internal conflicts, questions, and experiences, and apply that learning to action. With a strong balance of Learning, Being, and Doing questions, clients are empowered to build on their creative problem-solving, look for intuitive solutions, and stretch their imaginations. At the end of a strong coaching session, coaches can challenge their clients to take the learning and apply it through well-designed actions to another area of their life.
In a 2006 article, Jon Kabat-Zinn defined mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.” Besides being one of the most beautiful definitions for a word, it also feels incredibly intertwined with the mission of the coaching profession. Mindfulness is a skill that requires us to see all that life has to offer, both the complexities of the internal world, and the vast expanse of our external world. It gives us the opportunity to make meaning of our lives, not just on a grand scale, but in everyday life as well.
Silence and mindful contemplation help clients parse through problems and develop insights that often involve creative problem-solving. It helps them eliminate distractions so they can maintain a sharper focus on what’s most important. While this is important, research shows that the sweet spot is developing a balance between mind wandering (like daydreaming) and mindfulness. Coaching holds the keys to this balance. Coaches are trained to help clients stay present in the moment - to notice their emotions, thoughts, and actions based on what’s happening now, while also helping clients apply what they're noticing to an ideal future state.
In part three of our Wired to Create exploration, we will take a look at the concepts of openness to experience, sensitivity, turning adversity into advantage, and thinking differently as they relate to creativity and coaching.
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Hood River, Oregon 97031
PO Box 2021
Hood River, Oregon 97031