Strategies to stimulate creativity and leave control in the dust

I blogged previously on the Control  Versus Creativity Continuum and how favoring control can lead to turning your life radioactive.  In contrast, though, creativity is a good news energy that you can use as your personal nuclear fusion reactor -- and that's the sort of energy that powers the stars.

Being a reformed controloholic, I have a strategy to share that I learned from my friend Amanda that provides a dandy and practical way to maintaining a creativity mindset. 


It’s all about choice

Creativity is a form of empowerment, and empowerment is all about choice. 

You might think you have no choice in a certain area of you life but don’t kid yourself.  You always do.  Just because you don’t always like your choices doesn’t mean that you don’t have them.

So here’s a strategy I use if I start to grab for control or am engaged in some sort of power struggle:

  1. Create a list of at least five choices I can make about the situation. 
  2. Evaluate my options.
  3. Implement my decision.
  4. Remember it’s my choice so if need be, decide again.

It’s that simple.  Here are a few things to remember, though:

  • Don’t evaluate options while creating your list (that is, ban the editor). 
  • No option is too crazy or outlandish but it must be something you can bring to pass though your own efforts or teamed with a willing partner (like a spouse).

Each option will carry positive and negatives with it and some options may carry heavy penalties.

What you want to do is to find the option that has the most positives and the least negatives and then choose that.  And once you do choose, then let go of the negative feelings about your choose because — and this is the important bit — you choose it.

Just remember too, if you choose once, then you can choose again if you decide at some point in the future you want something different.


A real-life example

John is the husband of a friend of mine and he hates his job.  John stays there because he feels it's his only choice in order to generate the income he needs to maintain his lifestyle.  John is in his late 40s and wants to retire in his mid-50s so he wants to maximize his income.  Additionally, he has a fondness for toys like boats and vacation homes.

At the same time, though, he too often expresses his dissatisfaction by snarking at his wife – and that’s no fun for her.

Using Amanda’s strategy, here are some possible choices John could make to empower his life:

  1. Kill his boss.
  2. Sell off everything he owns and go live in a shack in Mexico.
  3. Stay at his current job.
  4. Stay with his current company but seek a different position.
  5. Find another job, in his same functional area, in another company.
  6. Change his career.
  7. Demand his wife make more money while he goes and plays.

Kill his boss?  Well, it would definitely change John’s situation and could bring delightful emotional satisfaction.  Jail is a big downer, though, and the toys are way limited.  Plus, no retirement to a cool locale.

Option 2 sounds dandy but John’s wife won’t fly with it so choosing this option means losing his wife and hey, he loves her and being married to her.  Plus, his long-term financial situation would be unstable and being old with no dough is also a downer.

If John selects Option 3, he’ll continue to work in a dissatisfying job.  He’s also not sure it’s dissatisfaction would be fixed if he took option 4.  However, with either Option 3 or 4, John will continue moving forward towards his goal of early retirement and will maintain his ability to fund his lifestyle at the same level he is now. 

John is a partner in his company and if he left, it’s doubtful he could command the same salary elsewhere.  Thus, if he went with Option 5 or 6, then he’d have to adjust his early retirement goal.  He and his wife might also have to make a downward adjustment in their lifestyles.  However, a career change or change of company might improve his day-to-day attitudes enough that it would be worth it.

Lastly, with Option 7, John will have to give up some of the ease of his personal life.  His wife works, but they previously agreed she would choose a lower-demand corporate job in order to have more time to dedicate to home management activities beneficial to both of them.

As you can see, not all the options are ones that John can select on his own.  Not, that is, if he wants to maintain the quality of his marriage.  And you can also see that each option has both positives and negatives.

Additionally, John could select an option that will lead to more choices.  For example, John could elect to stay in his current job and he and his wife could agree to adjust their expenses downward.  This tactic allows the couple to save money at a higher rate and accelerate retirement.

The point is this.  Whatever option John chooses will be his choice.  That means if he stays in his current job, then he should quit bitching about hating his job because — say it with me — he choose that option so it’s the one he most wanted.


Summary — Choose choice

The summary is easy to write because it all comes down to this.  If you're choosing to activate creativity in your life, then choose choice.

That’s my 2 cents.  Inquiring minds want to know yours.


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Control versus Creativity – A Continuum