Character traits like curiosity, flexibility, ambition, perseverance, and disobedience, all favor creative thinking. As a consequence many of us believe, we should foster all of these traits to finally become more resourceful. But the truth is, we only need to adopt one thing: a creative attitude! Once you do this, everything else will follow.
How my creative attitude got me out of 9/11
When the Twin Towers in New York were attacked in 2001, the world stood still. Everyone was shocked. Maybe you still remember where you were and what you were thinking? Maybe one of the following thoughts (attitudes) applied to you?
[ ] The world is bad and there is nothing I can do (negative attitude)
[ ] There will be better days (positive attitude)
[ ] It is as it is (neutral attitude)
[ ] How can we solve it strategically and systematically (analytical attitude)
[ ] How can I help with my skills (creative attitude)
[ ] Sorry, back then I was too young to conjure any kind of serious thoughts
A few hours after the first shock wave had passed, I repeatedly asked myself, “What can I do? How can I help with my skills?” At the time I was working as a freelancer in an ad agency, conceptualizing print campaigns. It was clear to me that I would have to create something that had to be shown to the world, and fast. What came to my mind was U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s famous statement: “Ich bin ein Berliner!” (I am a Berliner!), which he exclaimed in 1963 to underline the United States’ support for West Germany against the Soviets. Now I thought it was the right moment to show solidarity with the United States. Ideas ran through my brain all night, and by 3 am, I had conjured up a poster featuring Berlin’s iconic Funkturm tower in duplicate, representing the fallen Twin Towers. It was titled: “We are New Yorkers!” (I should mention that back then there weren’t any social campaigns such as “Je suis Charlie”.)
A friend of mine, Uli Matheus, helped me put the layout together and ship it to the Federal Ministry in Berlin – personally addressed to the then Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. The next morning, I called up the chancellor’s secretary (he had four), asking about the poster, which they had indeed received. I enthusiastically explained my idea to post it on billboards all over Germany to show solidarity with the U.S. The response was chastening: “We are not the right Ministry to decide, but we will hand it over to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, blah, blah, blah…” The poster was never displayed. However, at the time, I felt anything but helpless. On the contrary; I was enthusiastic that I had contributed something and gained a measure of control over the situation.
Why adopting a creative attitude is key
When people have difficulties developing great ideas, it doesn’t necessarily mean they lack curiosity. We are all engineered to be curious, and it is what drives us forward. To escape boredom, our mind develops curiosity about all sorts of things and activities, be it cars, stocks, guns, sports, eating, movies, football, or shopping. But knowing all there is to know about a particular domain doesn’t necessarily make someone creative in that area. For instance, knowing where to buy the trendiest handbags in Paris doesn’t mean that you know how to create one. Consumers tend to use their curiosity to find out all about what’s going on in their domain of interest but are not interested in also being creative themselves within the same domain. Their curiosity is connected with consuming (consumer-driven curiosity) rather than with creating.
“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedom is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance” – Victor Frankl
This is where attitude comes into play. Many people struggle to be creative because of the attitude they hold towards life. Attitudes can negatively impede or positively foster our creative thinking a great deal. The following are three examples of attitudes people often subconsciously develop to deal with unpleasant events. Rather than helping people to find solutions in times of crisis, these attitudes instead enable people to continue to sleepwalk through life.
Why a negative attitude will get you nowhere
Passive pessimists have a negative outlook on life. They believe it a-l-w-a-y-s rains on their parade. They don’t take action in a difficult situation because they believe there is little they can do. Faced with obstacles, they pull back and regress to a state where they will not experience complexity or pressure.
Belief: The world is bad. There is nothing I can do.
Why positive thinking isn’t enough
Passive optimists always manage to see the silver lining in situations, which is great! However, they don’t take action to change a negative situation or reflect on what caused such a situation to arise. Instead, the “the-glass-is-half-full’ type stays passive, believes in a better future, and continues the way he always has. Belief: There will be better days.
Why the Guru attitude won’t help either
The “Guru Attitude” is based on acceptance without acting. Instead of taking action, a person with a Guru Attitude likes to preach in metaphors like, “Grass doesn’t try to grow, it just grows!”, to illustrate that we should not force things to happen and accept life as it is. This attitude is a nice excuse to not act at all and leave everything to the universe, or to “mañana”.
Belief: It is as it is.
Possessing a passive pessimistic, passive optimistic, or Guru attitude towards life usually predisposes individuals to avoid finding creative solutions to difficult situations. Individuals with these attitudes feel hopeless about the future, tend to hope for a better future, or simply leave the future up to the universe. They are not inclined to develop creative ways of influencing the future for themselves.
On the flip side, there are two active attitude types that put people in the driver’s seat of their destiny: analytical and creative. Only one of these, however, will enable you to feel self-efficient. Only one of them will make you feel self-efficient and allow to tap into idea euphoria.
Why the analytical attitude won’t make you confident in your abilities
Left brainers [People who adopt an analytical attitude toward life are often referred to as „left-brainers.“] believe in linear processes. The approach goes something like this: Since there is a best practice for everything, there must be a systematic process for creativity as well; a step-by-step technique that promises, or even better, guarantees to make them a creative genius. The downside to their approach: instead of feeling confident to solving any negative situation with their skills, they rely on methodologies.
Belief: Let’s solve it strategically and systematically.
Why the creative attitude is the uber path to becoming confident in your abilities
In seemingly no-way-out situations, which are often negative and stress-inducing, creative attitude-holders accept the situation and rely on strategic and divergent thinking to overcome adversity. Creative people search for an unknown answer which fires them up to act. Through mastering a mission impossible, creatives gain confidence in their abilities, experience Innovator’s High [the Eureka moment], and progress to a state of greater complexity.
Belief: I can solve it with my skills.
Creatives have confidence in their skills. While others may stay passively optimistic, pessimistic, neutral, or purely analytical, creatives combine left- and right-brain thinking. They apply their talents, cognitive skills, emotions, and intuition to overcome any mental obstacle. The creative attitude isn’t necessarily about success or failure. It’s a path to becoming confident in your ability to solve the unsolvable. By combining skills with logical and chaotic thinking, by staying flexible and persevering, the creative attitude promises to find new answers and gain control over no-way-out situations.
How to adopt a creative attitude
Adopting a creative attitude requires first believing in your innate resourcefulness. A sort of “Yes, I can” state of mind. Faith in your abilities is a force when it comes to affecting the outcome of a situation. You possess a unique blend of talents, knowledge, and experience, so believe in what you have! If you need a little encouragement, ask your friends or co-workers what skills or traits you possess that they admire. Furthermore, believe not only in your resourcefulness but in the universal consciousness (you could as well call it God) to guide you towards epiphanies.
Second, you need to have a purpose, a meaning, an internal drive to keep on searching for the perfect solution to a situation and not stop until you have coaxed it into reality. Yes, even when it’s 3 am in the morning. When you are in the zone, you don’t even notice time passing by. Ask yourself, “How can I apply my skills to solve this challenge?”
By switching to a creative attitude and relying on your skills, you’ll find unique ways out of whatever “empire of dirt” you are facing. The Nine Inch Nails song, Hurt, covered by Johnny Cash, ends with:
If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way
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Very interesting read. I never considered that my outlook on life could influence how I deal with situations, but it makes total sense! Now that I’m aware of this, I will be better equipped to deal with negative situations as they arise. Knowing my general outlook on life, I will be wary of how it may hold me back in certain situations. Thank you for the insight!