Updated: Jan 23
By Tony Vengrove
Leadership is courage. To lead is to feel comfortable providing direction and marching forward without knowing exactly where things will wind up—all while reporting into superiors who want to know precisely where everything is going at every moment. The pressure is even more imposing when there’s a requirement to produce something new and novel. An objective and deadline are assigned, now it’s time to step up and knock the ball out of the park. A battle ensues for our mind’s attention: are we to focus on the present moment or worry about future outcomes?
“Nothing in the affairs of men is worthy of great anxiety.” — Plato
This tension between here and there has the power to paralyze; it’s like being stuck in a tar pit. Many choose the path of worry and procrastination until there’s no other option but to become present at the eleventh hour and frantically do whatever it takes to deliver—even if that means pulling the proverbial all-nighter.
“The foundation for creation is alignment with life—presence.” – Eckhardt Tole
The sensible solution, of course, is to embrace the here and now long before time constraints force us into a creative sprint. The first step is to relinquish the future as a psychological concept. By doing so, we prevent the ego from conjuring up fear and other toxic emotions associated with its illusory predictions. When we’re aligned with the present moment, we open ourselves to the inspiration of our environment, our experiences, and we can access our creative chi.
“I always thought that inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. You sign onto a process and see where it takes you.” – Chuck Close
When we create with mindfulness and without melodrama, we enter the realm of play. We relax the inner-judge and start—then see where it all goes. We embrace improvisation; a spark of a concept presents itself and we attempt to fan it into flame. Like a child, if there’s no flame, we happily move on to the next spark that arouses our curiosity.
When we’re one with creation, we give our ideas the mindfulness they deserve. So lock your inner-judge in a closet and throw away the key! Don’t allow concern or criticism to enter the conscious mind; the ego will gladly take charge and rue the day.
Be cautious of self-censorship. The only time to properly assess the utility of an idea is after it’s been given a chance to sprout and take hold. Be careful not to kill ideas that are still stuck in your head. Better to get them out of the mind and onto paper where others can take a look and help polish into diamonds.
“You can’t connect different things together if what you’re seeing is always the same. The gap between what you already know and what you’re exploring is often where the best ideas pop up.” – John Hunt
Play is improvisational exploration—a journey of sorts. If we continue to play with the same game pieces or on the same playing field over and over again, we’ll quickly lose interest. Sameness is rarely a friend of creative thinking. So, if we’re trying to get someplace new, we’d better explore the areas we’re least familiar with. By embracing the unknown we’ll unleash our curiosity, which will inevitably ignite a flurry of ideas.
When we focus on here versus there, we free ourselves from the mental gridlock that shackles our creative genius. When we embrace presence from the get-go, we reward ourselves with precious time to explore and create, which means we’ll ultimately generate an array of ideas to choose from. And, we’ll have the time we need to pause, reflect, and refine our ideas so they can reveal their fullest potential.
A sprinter may keep her eyes on the finish line, but flows in the presence of each stride. She lets go of nervousness; she stops fretting about the result awaiting her at the finish line so that she can focus on executing her movements with seamless perfection. The only way one can enter the zone is to let go of there and focus our attention here.
“To be fully free to create, we must first find the courage and willingness to let go:
Let go of the strategies that have worked for us in the past…
Let go of our biases, the foundation of our illusions…
Let go of our grievances, the root source of our victimhood…
Let go of our so-often-denied fear of being found unlovable.
If you stop letting go, your creative spirit will pass out.” – Gordon MacKenzie
When you feel the tension between here and there, become aware of how you’re feeling. Acknowledge it for a moment, and then move on. Take a breath, let go of your anxiety (for it’s only an emotion created by the mind), and soar!
Miles Finch Innovation helps companies navigate the messy territory of corporate innovation. We’re strategic thinking partners who can help you get unstuck and identify creative solutions to your toughest challenges. We also love to train and speak on the subject of Creative Leadership. Email us or call us at 860-799-7505 to learn how we can help you you unlock the creative potential of your employees.