When you look at the behaviors of creative geniuses such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso and so on throughout the history of the world, you will find that, like the patterns of the trees, the form and contents of their behaviors are inextricably connected and can’t be separated. Creators are joyful and positive. Creators look at what is and what can be instead of what is not. Creators, instead of excluding possibilities include all possibilities, both real and imagined. Creators choose their own interpretations of the world and not the interpretations of others. And most importantly, creators are creative because they believe they are creative.
Can you imagine a Vincent Van Gogh bemoaning his failure to sell his paintings as evidence of his lack of talent, a Thomas Edison giving up on his idea for a light bulb when he had difficulty finding the right material for the filament, a Leonardo Da Vinci who is too embarrassed to attempt much of anything because of his lack of learning, an Albert Einstein who is fearful of looking stupid for presenting theories about the universe as a government patent clerk, a Michelangelo refusing to paint the ceiling of the Sistine chapel because he had never painted fresco, a weeping and wailing Mozart blaming an unfair world for his poverty, a Walt Disney giving up his dreams after being fired from his first job as a newspaper editor because he lacked imagination, a Henry Ford giving up his dreams after the experts explained that he didn’t have the capital to compete in the automobile industry, or a depressed Pablo Picasso shuffling down the street with his head down looking at the ground hoping no one notices him?
It’s impossible to be creative if you are negative. Most people presume that our attitudes affect our behavior, and this is true. But it’s also true that our behavior determines our attitudes. You can pretend or act your way into a new attitude. We choose to be positive or to be negative. Every time we pretend to have an attitude and go through the motions, we trigger the emotions we create and strengthen the attitude we wish to cultivate. Think, for a moment, about social occasions-visits, dates, dinners out with friends, gatherings, birthday parties, weddings, etc. Even when you’re unhappy or depressed, these occasions force us to act as if we were happy. Observing other’s faces, postures, and voices, we unconsciously mimic their reactions. We synchronize our movements, posture, and tone of voice with theirs. Then my mimicking happy people, we become happy.
We do not choose to be born. We do not choose our parents. We do not choose our historical epoch, or the country of our birth, or the immediate circumstances of our upbringing. We do not, most of us, choose to die; nor do we choose the time or conditions of our death. But within all this realm of choicelessness, we do choose how we shall live: with purpose or adrift, with joy or with joylessness, with hope or with despair, with humor or with sadness, with a positive outlook or a negative outlook, with pride or with shame, with inspiration or with defeat and with honor or with dishonor. We decide that what makes us significant or insignificant. We decide to be creative or to be indifferent. No matter how indifferent the universe may be to our choices and decisions, these choices and decisions are ours to make. We decide. We choose. In the end, our own creativity is decided by what we choose to do or what we refuse to do. And as we decide and choose, so are our destinies formed.
Michael Michalko is the author of the highly acclaimed Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques; Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius; ThinkPak: A Brainstorming Card Deck and Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work.
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