Blog : Creativity and Innovation

Want to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work? Try Creative Collaboration

Want to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work? Try Creative Collaboration

ic3 consulting – a firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science, to the workplace to improve employee engagement.

Creativity is #4 in How to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work.

The ACE Model

awareness + alignment = insightful companies
communication + creativity = innovative collaboration
(lead to lasting) employee engagement = intentional culture

You might be asking yourself why is creativity one of the cornerstones?

By 2020 creativity will be the third most important skill in the job market according to the World Economic Forum, and of CEO’s polled, 60% agreed that creativity was the most important skill to have in a leadership role (Fast Company, 2017). Creativity and imagination are the drivers of innovation, the keystone to differentiation.

If you remember back to #1, safety and trust and how the brain is divided, you will recall that as the brain evolved new layers were, essentially, added to the top. These additional “layers” include the limbic system and the frontal cortex, which are divided into two cerebral hemispheres, the right and the left.

Creativity targets both the right hemisphere and limbic system of the brain – bypassing language and “rational thought and logical assumptions” (left brain attributes). Therefore, creativity gives expression to that which cannot be spoken, due to the structure of the brain.

This provides the opportunity to re-imagine concepts – the very core of innovation. However, as a leader, you need to be prepared to sustain the creative process in its various stages, some of which look very different than detailed gantt charts or profit and loss statements.

Quick Tips to increase creativity in the workplace needed to differentiate and harness your competitive edge:

  • Encourage doodling at your next meeting. Yes, doodling! Be the example. Draw or sketch ideas at the whiteboard. It doesn’t matter if you are an artist and if your circles don’t even look like circles. Just the act of sketching your ideas will engage a different part of the brain, which will foster new ideas!
  • Find times and ways to “zoom out”. For instance, go outside and go for a walk. Insights, those “aha moments”, occur when we relax our focus and become receptive to see the whole. (Brain tidbit: Insights are associated with the right hemisphere of the brain that can detect anomalies and occur when not highly focused on them.)
  • Welcome opposites. The tension of opposites is part of the creative process and can produce results that are greater than the original parts! (Brain tidbit: The right hemisphere has the ability to hold dichotomy. It does not categorize things as opposites, but rather sees them as connected and in relation to one another.)

This Week’s Action Steps:

  • Refresh your understanding of the creativity cycle.
  • How do you practice creativity in the workplace?
  • Do you feel it is important to do so?

Imagine for a moment, if you could unleash and realize a fully-engaged and innovative company culture. What would be different in your company culture, what would be different in productivity and motivation and what would be different in your ability to use innovation and creativity to make the best services and products for your clients?

To transcend a current situation, we have to be able to imagine it differently. To understand and change the way we think is to change the way we form our lives – and businesses.

 

Want to become one of the best places to work? Learn how in this video series delivered to your inbox. Each video is under 3 minutes.

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ic3 consulting is a staff engagement consulting firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science to the workplace to improve employee engagement.  ic3 delivers improved employee satisfaction for their clients through customized corporate retreats, ongoing training, and executive coaching. ic3’s vision is to make the world a better place, one company at a time, through facilitating the creation of human-centered workplaces and business practices.

Your Business & Your Brain

Your Business & Your Brain

How Understanding Brain Function Can Help You Take Your Business to the Next Level

Basics of neuroleadership explained in ic3’s brain and business infographic.

 

Within each division of the brain, there are certain needs that must be satisfied before we can think and act from the more advanced, thoughtful and evolved parts of the brain. For example, imagine that before you even begin your workday, you wake up late, skip breakfast, and have an argument with your partner. It’s now 9:30am and you have to tackle a project that requires creativity and strategic thinking. It’s due by 2:00pm, but you’re feeling scattered and can’t seem to focus. That’s because you haven’t fulfilled your brain’s fundamental need for nourishment and connection. And until you do, you won’t be able to function at optimal levels.

So how does this relate to your business? Well, in each company there are basic day-to-day, or operational, functions that need to be taken care of before it can evolve to the next level. Only when those functions have been adequately addressed can the company begin to focus on:

  • creating a sense of purpose
  • cultivating genuine employee engagement
  • standing out from the competition, and
  • conceiving innovative solutions, products, and services

How does this happen? By leveraging specific characteristics and traits in its employees that, when combined effectively, support the ongoing growth of the company.

We call this the evolution from me to we.

Let’s take a closer look. Click on the brain and business infographic below to enlarge.

neuroleadership basics

 

Co-founders Dayna Wood and Jennifer Carey help CEOs and their teams create a fully engaged and innovative company culture through offsite corporate retreats, CEO intensives, and ongoing accountability services. Their diverse backgrounds make them uniquely qualified to address the critical human-element of business.

Want to become one of the best places to work? Learn how in this video series delivered to your inbox. Each video is under 3 minutes. 

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Running Toward Fears Every Day

Running Toward Fears Every Day

Do you ever wonder why your employees don’t always finish their projects or get their work done on time? Perhaps you can remember a time when you yourself avoided a particular item on your to-do list. There’s a good chance that when this happens, you and your employees are trying to navigate FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real).

Fear can creep up when we are challenged with tasks like making a sales pitch to a particular client, completing a critical task for a project, or coming up with an innovative product or service. Fear makes us uncomfortable, and most of us want to avoid that discomfort at all costs. But this avoidance becomes dangerous when it gets in the way of what it is we really want for ourselves or for our organization.

In our last article, we talked about creativity and how running away from fear, rather than toward it, can actually keep you from the highest expression of your ideas and the things or experiences you really want. George Addair, a real estate developer in post-Civil War Atlanta, summarized this beautifully:

 

“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.”

 

This article includes tips on how to use mindfulness to overcome fear-based blocks to flow, productivity and creativity. I’ll start with a quick story from my own experience.

I recently almost let my fears stop me from approaching a client that we really wanted to work with at ic3. We knew we could bring a lot of skills and expertise into their organization, and they could help bring us more clients. It was a win-win, with a tremendous amount of potential.

As you know, building any business relationship takes effort and persistence, especially in the beginning. Although we were in early talks with this client, we hadn’t yet come up with a specific partnership plan or strategy. When the moment finally came to call them directly and make something happen, I felt my stomach drop and I immediately began to search for ways to avoid making that call. I was overcome with the sudden need to scroll through my Facebook feed and thought about tackling any and all of the other (low risk) tasks on my to-do list — anything that would allow me to avoid that phone call.

But I quickly recognized what was happening. Fear was rearing its head, and I knew I needed to move toward my discomfort.

Why? Because this potential client was so important to me and to my company. Our business relationship would make us both better. And taking this step would be in alignment with our vision of serving more companies, which in turn would serve the greater community. Once I remembered that, I stopped, took a few breaths, got centered, and brought to mind our intention and goal: to create a partnership with this client. I noticed the discomfort in my body but I didn’t judge it. This enabled me to see it for what it was: fear. I looked closely at my fear, and realized that what I was really afraid of was “sounding stupid”. As I stayed with that thought, I realized that it wasn’t true. What I wanted to share wasn’t “stupid”, and it wouldn’t sound stupid. With that in mind, I moved towards the fear and made the call.

Moral of the story: I’m happy to report that the client was very receptive, and we’re now discussing lots of creative partnership options. If I had allowed myself to react to that uncomfortable feeling of fear, without bringing mindfulness and awareness into the picture, I might never have made that phone call, and the partnership may never have come to be.

Below, I’ve outlined mindfulness skills that you and your employees can use to keep fear in check. In following the steps below, you’ll learn to use fear as a prompt for moving toward all that you want to accomplish, rather than a feeling to be avoided at all costs.

The next time you feel fear, discomfort or unease about sharing a creative idea or bringing up a challenging issue, try the following:

  1.   Get Centered: Sit comfortably in your chair and take a few natural breaths. Notice your feet on the floor and notice how you feel in your chair. When we are in this quiet place, sometimes our mind starts to race or emotions come up. That’s okay. You don’t need to judge anything that arises as good or bad; simply notice what comes up and see it as helpful information.
  2.   Remember Your Goal/Intention: Bring to mind what it is that you wish to achieve, especially if progress is being blocked by fear.
  3.   Gather Information: Ask yourself the simple question: What am I afraid of? Wait for the answer, and simply notice whatever comes up for you. It may be a simple phrase, or an image or sensation. Whatever it is, make note of it. Bring yourself back to the present moment by feeling the temperature of the room, the chair beneath you and your feet on the floor. Write down any information that came to you around your fears or obstacles to achieving your goal.
  4.   Examine the Information that Came Up in Step #3: In a gentle and non-judgmental way, take a closer look at the thoughts, images and/or sensations that came to you in Step #3. Ask yourself if they make sense, and whether or not they are true. Just as important, ask yourself who you would be without that thought. (If this step intrigues you, check out Byron Katie http://thework.com/en – she offers a powerful process around confronting irrational thoughts and fears).
  5.   Reconnect with What You Really Want and JUST DO IT: Now that you’ve got a fresh perspective on your fear, and you’re willing to look at it as a signal to bring you closer to what you really want, bring your end goal to mind. Believe in yourself and your ability to obtain it. See the fear for what it is: false evidence appearing real. Respect it for trying to keep you safe, but take opposite action, so that instead of moving away from what you want, you move toward creative solutions for achieving your goal. I like to use the Nike slogan in these instances: Stop thinking and “Just do it!”

We encourage you to try the steps above — and let us know how the process worked for you.

If you would like further assistance in helping your employees overcome fear-based blocks to productivity and creativity, we can help! Contact us at  http://www.ic3consulting.comto start the conversation.

 

Jennifer Carey Employee Engagement Consultant

Jennifer Carey, EdS, LMHC

Jennifer applies her background as a Psychotherapist to help optimize company cultures through her writing, consulting and speaking on employee engagement. Some of these crucial skills include mindfulness, human dynamics, and interpersonal communication.

Jennifer is the co-founder of ic3 consulting. ic3 consulting helps business leaders re-engage, re-align and re-ignite their workforce to create highly empowered teams that communicate effectively, collaborate freely and work to realize their company’s vision. Want to become one of the best places to work? Learn how in this video series delivered to your inbox. Each video is under 3 minutes. 

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The Gears of Creativity – The Creativity Cycle Explored

The Gears of Creativity – The Creativity Cycle Explored

In my previous article, Why the Creativity Cycle is Like an Outstanding Cup of Coffee, I discussed the necessary ingredients of the creative process, such as the importance of protected time, a culture that supports creativity, constraint within the creative process, and not taking the process too personally.

In this article, I’ll explore the cycle of creativity and its relationship to our current understanding of the brain. The importance of dissecting the creative process and organizing it into a guiding metaphor is manifold.

As anyone who has tried to bring a creative impulse from ideation to iteration can attest, there is a great risk of getting lost in the creative process. Understanding the cyclical nature of the process can offer perspective and clarity. It can also supply “gas” for the long haul, giving fledgling ideas the chance to come to fruition.

Different skill sets are needed in each stage. If you know where you are, you can seek assistance to close any gaps in your knowledge. You can also take the necessary measures to protect your time and resources in each phase of the process — even those in which it appears as if not much is happening.

There are a number of diagrams and stage theories that outline various steps within the creative cycle. For our purposes here, each step will be represented by a gear, in order to emphasize that the process is not a linear, but rather cyclical and interconnected. I’ll also describe each step in relation to the structure and division of the brain. (For more on this, see my previous article on imagination).

The brain can be divided in multiple ways. However, an important distinction to look at in terms of creativity is how the brain is divided horizontally.

There are two hemispheres: the left and the right. Though the hemispheres work in concert to create a unified sense of self and personality, each hemisphere attends to the world differently and, therefore, processes information in distinct ways. This provides us with great advantages, including the ability to understand a situation from many different perspectives, as each gear in the cycle of creativity allows for various vantage points. We’ll explore each of these gears in detail below.

Gear 1: Preparation

Preparation is a fundamental part of the creative cycle. Although it’s not the “sexiest” part of creativity, this is the stage in which you are doing your homework and setting the stage, defining the constraints and framework (link to the previous article), for your project. Here, you are elbow deep in research and working primarily from your left brain. The left hemisphere is the great “unpacker” of information; it breaks information down by sorting, categorizing and analyzing.

Gear 2: Incubation & Insight

While the left hemisphere specializes in language, logic, and facts — which are imperative during the preparation phase — the incubation and insight stage requires a letting go of linear and conscious thought processes. Insights, or “a-ha moments”, happen when we are not concentrating specifically on the project. In these moments the right hemisphere is activated, and you need to allow time and space for your ideas to percolate. This is how you allow the web of interconnected ideas — however incongruent they might seem — to surface as a cohesive insight.

You might be asking yourself, “How do I stop consciously thinking and allow this process to develop when I have a deadline to meet?” It’s a common question. For those who consider themselves creatives, this might be a no-(left)brainer (pun intended). However, for those who are used to thinking in a strictly analytical fashion, it will feel very, very different.

The right hemisphere doesn’t use everyday language (which is housed in the left hemisphere) to communicate. It usually communicates without words; for example, you’ll get a gut feeling, or an image or diagram will pop into your head seemingly out of nowhere. So we have to learn to listen in different ways. A few ways to begin to listen differently include:

  • Find ways to transcend language, such as with the use of imagery
  • Creativity (crafting, cooking, gardening, etc.)
  • Spending time in nature
  • Stepping back to see the whole picture (what I call “zooming out”)
  • Being embodied (practicing yoga, dancing, etc.)
  • Listening to music
  • Welcoming opposites. The tension of opposites is part of the creative process and can produce results that are greater than the original parts. (Brain science tidbit: The right hemisphere has the ability to hold dichotomy. It does not categorize things as opposites, but rather sees them as connected and in relation to one another.)

These are just a few ways you can practice tuning into your brain’s right hemisphere. As you learn to listen differently, keep in mind that bringing this information into our daily lives does take a certain amount of trust.

Gear 3: Evaluation

Here you have a chance to turn your idea back over to the left brain and sort out the logistics. Now is when you ask yourself if your project is worth taking all the way to iteration?

David Kelley, founder of the Stanford d.school, and his brother, Tom Kelley, are New York Times bestselling authors of the book Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All (Crown Business, 2013). They have a set of guiding principles that can aid in this evaluation: FIRST, with genuine curiosity, ask “What is desirable (human)?”  THEN, ask, “What is viable (business) and feasible (technology)?”

Gear 4: Integration, Imagination & Iteration

Imagination is based on the creative power of opposition, and is a result of the synthesis between the right and left hemispheres. Imagination, insight, and creativity all require this integration of the left and right hemispheres.

This stage requires you to get your hands dirty and do it! It is where head and heart, brain and body, and conscious and unconscious come together to manifest your masterpiece — or complete failure!

Remember that failure is an inevitable part of the creative process. It doesn’t mean your idea or product is necessarily bad. It just means you have the opportunity to go through the creativity cycle again, with your newfound knowledge, so you can make it even better.

It is also important to remember — especially in this part of the cycle — that fear in its many manifestations will arise. It presents itself in every stage, but as you prepare to actually create, it can become even more pronounced. Fear lets you know you are on the edge of your comfort zone, and you are about to grow. This is a good thing. So don’t run away from your fear; run towards it. (Stay tuned for my next article, which outlines how you can embrace fear through mindfulness techniques).

Gear 5: Upleveling

Gear 5 connects back to Gear 1. The left hemisphere, dissecting information in a highly focused and narrow way, offers many contributions, including breaking down tasks and learning complex sequences. However, it is essential to return this information to the right hemisphere, where it can again be viewed within the context of the whole. This is where perspective comes from, as well as the ability to attend to new information in our environments. In this phase, we start the creativity cycle anew, but upleveled: armed with our newfound learning, product, and understanding.

It is my sincere hope that this, admittedly, very left-brain dissection of the creative process will help you manifest your next creative idea. It just might be an idea that can help change the world for the better.

 

creativity and business

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

As an employee engagement consultant and professional psychotherapist and coach, Dayna combines out-of- the-box thinking with solid scientific research, so her clients get the best of both worlds.

Dayna is the co-founder of ic3 consulting. ic3 consulting helps business leaders re-engage, re-align and re-ignite their workforce to create highly empowered teams that communicate effectively, collaborate freely and work to realize their company’s vision. Want to become one of the best places to work? Learn how in this video series delivered to your inbox. Each video is under 3 minutes. 

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Why the Creativity Cycle is Like an Outstanding Cup of Coffee

Why the Creativity Cycle is Like an Outstanding Cup of Coffee

If you’re like most people, your standard cup of “morning joe” is okay. It serves a function by helping you go from barely functional to getting you through your routine each morning.

However, the standard cup of coffee is very different from a fantastic cup of coffee that’s so good, it makes you stop and savor each sip. So, what separates an okay cup of coffee from a superb one?

It begins with intention — the desire to make a great cup of coffee. Allowing yourself enough protected time to go through the process is important, too, as is your knowledge and understanding of the steps involved. This knowledge can include far-ranging topics such as the quality of the beans and how to store them properly, roasting types and preferences, timing of grinding, filtering techniques, water quality, and temperature and equipment standards. This is a far cry from scooping some coffee grinds into a machine, pouring in water, and turning the button from black to red. And, so is the result.

Similarly, there is a large divide between producing an adequate product or service and creating something that awes, inspires, disrupts — or all of the above. Like making a remarkable cup of coffee, you need to know each specific ingredient and step required to make a great product or service.

There are distinct stages in the creative process, which we will dive into in our next article in this series. First, let’s examine the concept of creativity itself.

Creativity is a word that has an almost magical connotation because it’s often assumed that it’s an attribute of only a select and chosen few. Many people believe that you have to be an amazing visual artist to be creative. Some also believe that creativity cannot truly be defined, because of its utter uniqueness. But the good news is, all humans are creative. Our earliest ancestors had to be creative in order to survive, and it’s still hardwired into our brains.

So, the question isn’t “How creative are you?”, but rather “How are you creative?”

Perhaps surprisingly, one of the key ingredients of creativity is constraint. Creativity functions best when it is understood and practiced within a framework, and it blossoms within defined boundaries.

For instance, when making a cup of coffee, the equipment, steps, ingredients, and processes are pretty well-defined. Within that structure, it is possible to create something anew, as well as to question what had been previously assumed as “obligatory”. A great example of this approach is the recent popularity of nitro cold brew coffee. All that said, you still need coffee, liquid and and equipment, and you’re still working within the structure of “coffee making”.

Furthermore, there is a risk of getting lost in the creative process once you are in it. Think of how many brilliant ideas never made it beyond the brainstorming phase. Not because it wasn’t a great idea, or because funding wasn’t available, or because of functionality questions; but rather, because the person who generated the idea became too bogged down in the details — or in their personal “stuff”, which will inevitably surface. So structure not only provides perspective and clarity, it protects fledgling ideas and supplies energy for the long haul.

Different skill sets are needed at each stage of the creative process, and it’s wise to plan for this. If you know where you are at any given stage, you can seek assistance to close any gaps in knowledge that might arise, and then continue with the process, rather than giving up or going back to the drawing board. This is how you turn your idea into an original new product, service, or methodology that can set you apart from your competitors.

Another critical ingredient in the creative process is fostering a culture in which it’s supported — in all of its stages. Feelings of fear, loathing, and failure are inevitable parts of the process and can arise anew in each stage. If you want to create a work environment that encourages creativity, it’s a good idea to ask yourself whether or not your current culture welcomes these challenging feelings as signs of growth and the arrival of something new. If they are considered taboo, you will need to plan on how to address them when they come up.

One of the most challenging aspects of creativity is the temptation to take feedback personally. Creativity feels extremely intimate, like shining a bright light on our most soft and vulnerable parts, so we can be very sensitive when it comes to hearing comments and criticism from our peers. It can take a tremendous amount of self-awareness to manage the emotions that can come up. In general, it’s a good idea not to take yourself too seriously, and to do your best to keep a sense of humor throughout the process. Training your team or staff on how to provide feedback in a compassionate and constructive way is also very helpful.

To recap, some of the necessary ingredients of the creative process might seem antithetical at first, such as:

  • Protection (for instance, of time and culture)

  • Universality (We are all born creative!)

  • Constraint (Including understanding the various stages of the creative process. Stay tuned for our next article)

  • Fear (and a whole gamut of “negative” feelings)

  • Not taking it personally (What can be born from the creative process has the potential to be life-altering, but if you start taking yourself too seriously, the creativity is already doomed)

You might not always choose to journey through the creative process — just like you might not always choose to make that outstanding cup of coffee. However, once you taste and experience the difference, you will truly understand how it is hard to go back to just “okay”.

Stay tuned for part two of this series, in which we’ll we describe the cycle of creativity and its relationship to our current understanding of the brain.

 

IMG_7126 Small

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

As an employee engagement consultant and professional psychotherapist and coach, Dayna combines out-of- the-box thinking with solid scientific research, so her clients get the best of both worlds.

Dayna is the co-founder of ic3 consulting. ic3 consulting helps business leaders re-engage, re-align and re-ignite their workforce to create highly empowered teams that communicate effectively, collaborate freely and work to realize their company’s vision. Want to become one of the best places to work? Learn how in this video series delivered to your inbox. Each video is under 3 minutes. 

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The Pain of Gratitude

The Pain of Gratitude

There is something fundamentally challenging about gratitude that goes beyond remembering to practice it. If I truly admit how damn fortunate I am, I usually experience a myriad of feelings: pure love, then guilt, and then sheer terror.

Guilt and terror? That might surprise you. After all, we practice gratitude to help us become more positive and serene, and more appreciative of the good things in our lives. But sometimes, when I’m thinking about how grateful I am for the people, places and things in my life, I can become paralyzed by the thought of all of it just…vanishing. And that’s a terrifying thought indeed.

I don’t believe this stems from a fear of abandonment, or an attachment disorder issue. Rather, it comes from a deep understanding that everything is temporary. My four-year old daughter, jumping up and down naked on the bed, laughing with pure glee, will soon be a memory. My almost-seventeen-year-old cat, who likes to snuggle in the mornings, will also be gone. As will my partner someday.

So, the question becomes: how do I allow myself to fully open and experience the absolute love and gratitude that abounds in these moments, while also fully comprehending that it will never be the same again?

This is not a rhetorical, philosophical question. Really, how do we receive and embrace the good, when we know it can’t last?

I’m reminded of a Carl Jung quote regarding dichotomy (the division between two mutually exclusive or contradictory situations): “But there is no energy unless there is a tension of opposites…”

When I practice tools that help me become more comfortable with dichotomy, I’m better able to sit with this tension without reacting. These reactions typically take the form of any number of distractions and unproductive behavior, including negativity.

While our brains are wired for negativity and, as I mentioned in a previous post, it kept our ancestors alive, we now know we can actually rewire our brains. Ironically, gratitude is one of the best ways to accomplish this. (See Rick Hanson’s work for more on the brain’s negativity bias).

However, if the experience of gratitude can be painful, then where does that leave us?

There are a few mind/brain hacks you can use to hold dichotomy or, as I call it, brain integration. To give an oversimplified description, our brains have two hemispheres, the left and the right, and they quite literally understand the world differently. The left hemisphere sees things in black and white, yes or no, one way or the other. But the right hemisphere allows for a multitude of shades and colors. It can tolerate the tension of division, and can begin to detect webs, or patterns, that are impossible to see when viewed only in a linear fashion (e.g., yes/no, right/wrong, good/bad, etc.).

So how do we facilitate the integration of these two parts of our brains? Well, we have to start by flexing the hemisphere that is most atrophied, which is – unsurprisingly – the right hemisphere. When we have an awareness that these right-brain experiences are 1. available, and 2. valuable, we can bring back the subtle, yet powerful, knowledge of the right hemisphere into our everyday experiences.

How do we begin to “listen” to the vast amount of information offered to us from the right-hemisphere?

First, we have to listen in a different way, as the messages we receive will “sound” different from what we’re used to. For instance, our bodies speak volumes and are directly connected to the right hemisphere. We can start to become aware of the ways our bodies “talk” to us. You might feel queasy when you’re about to give a presentation at work. Or you get goosebumps when watching a scary movie.

Our intuition is also talking to us all the time. Intuition has gotten a bad rap over the years, with many people feeling it’s “airy fairy” or “woo-woo”. However, our intuition is actually “the ability to understand something immediately”. It’s a sense of knowing. And it’s the way the right hemisphere works: by instantly taking in and comprehending the whole picture. Think about the feeling you get when you know someone is lying to you. You might not have proof, but you just know. Or when you get a really good “feeling” about an interview candidate. Eureka moments are possible in this state!

I’m not suggesting that analysis and mental dissection, which are classic left-hemisphere attributes, are not valuable. They absolutely are. However, we tend to get “stuck” in this way of knowing without allowing or acknowledging input from the right hemisphere. As a result, we miss out on the opportunity to understand the situation from a different perspective; one in which the whole (or gestalt) can be understood.

The right hemisphere doesn’t use everyday language (which is housed in the left hemisphere) to communicate. It usually “speaks” without words – you get a gut feeling, or an image or diagram pops into your head seemingly out of nowhere. So, we have to listen in different ways:

  • Making art

  • Creativity (crafting, cooking, gardening, etc.)

  • Spending time in nature

  • Stepping back to see the whole picture – what I call “zooming out”

  • Being embodied (practicing yoga, dancing, etc.)

  • Listening to music

These are just a few ways you can practice tuning into your brain’s right hemisphere.

Bringing this information into our daily lives does take a certain amount of trust. However, when we begin to consciously listen and make the effort to become familiar with what might at first feel very foreign, uncomfortable, and maybe even undefined or wishy-washy, and then implement this knowledge, more will follow.

The right brain can become a storehouse of valuable wisdom. And, it can be really fun (humor and wit are also right-brain attributes!). With a bit of practice, we can become more familiar and comfortable with the opaque and the dichotomous. And getting comfortable operating from this place can feel like coming home.

Ultimately, we’ll be able to more easily manage the sometimes terrifying feelings that can come up when practicing gratitude. And that’s something we can be truly thankful for.

 

Dayna-Wood-Blog-Post

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

Dayna is the founder of Integrative Counsel, where she shows stressed out professionals how to reignite their creativity and spark new meaning and adventure in their lives through the power of brain science. Take the 7 Day Creative Brain Challenge to reclaim and recharge your creativity – in 10 minutes a day or less!

Imagination: From the Inside Out

Imagination: From the Inside Out

Did you know that imagination is one of the most important attributes of the human brain?

Think about it. Without imagination, Steve Jobs wouldn’t have created the iPad. Picasso would never have created his dazzling works of art. Without imagination, we wouldn’t have anything that nature hasn’t already provided for us.

Wikipedia describes imagination – the faculty of imagining – as “the ability to form new images and sensations in the mind that are not perceived through senses such as sight, hearing, or other senses.”  Simply put, imagination is part of what makes us human.

With our increased research into how the brain functions, we’re getting closer to understanding how imagination works.

So what’s going on in our brains when we are imagining?

The brain is divided into two hemispheres: left and right. Though the hemispheres work in concert to create a unified sense of self and personality, each hemisphere actually attends to the world differently, and therefore processes information in distinctive ways. This provides us with great advantages, including the ability to understand a situation from many different perspectives.

Imagination is based on the creative power of opposition, and is a result of the synthesis between the right and left hemispheres.

The right hemisphere can take in new information from our surroundings, and see the “whole picture”. The left hemisphere is the great “unpacker” of that information; it breaks information down, sorting, categorizing and analyzing.

However, there is a big catch: the information has to go from the right to the left, and then BACK to the right in order to synthesize.

Imagination, insight and creativity all require this integration of the left and right hemispheres.

Let’s break this down:

Brain integration follows a simple formula = R > L > R

Step 1: Right hemisphere (R): New information is attended to in the environment

Step 2: Left hemisphere (L): Analysis, or the “unpacking” of what was perceived by the right hemisphere

Step 3: Right hemisphere (R): Information is transferred back to the right hemisphere to be understood within the context of the whole

In modern society, we often get “stuck” in the left hemisphere and have difficulty finding ways to transfer information back to the right, thereby eliminating step 3. Sadly, that means that we miss out on significant benefits, including increased insight and imagination.

So, how do we “step back to the right” and get unstuck?

One simple place to start is to get into your body and into nature. The right hemisphere is directly linked to our bodies, and perceives and differentiates living things from mechanical things. Going for a walk outside, hiking in the woods, or simply sitting in the backyard listening to the birds sing can all help you get back “into your right mind”.

Today – maybe even right now! – take five minutes to notice your body (not just your head), and shift your attention to the sights and sounds of nature. Live in the city? No problem. Just looking at pictures of nature can make a difference. (Not sure about all this? See Rebecca Clay’s research.)

If you’d like to learn more ways to “step to the right” and discover all the benefits of making it a conscious part of your life, visit Imagination Retreats, where you’ll take a deep dive into your own creativity and imagination and enjoy just the right combination of activity, personal exploration, pampering, and beach time – all in an idyllic, naturally gorgeous oceanside setting.

 

Dayna-Wood-Blog-Post

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

Dayna is the founder of Integrative Counsel, where she shows stressed out professionals how to reignite their creativity and spark new meaning and adventure in their lives through the power of brain science. Take the 7 Day Creative Brain Challenge to reclaim and recharge your creativity – in 10 minutes a day or less!

How to Bust Out of a Rut in 3 Easy Steps

How to Bust Out of a Rut in 3 Easy Steps

Feeling uninspired at the job? Bored with your relationship? Daily grind got ya down? Don’t panic! It’s normal to get stuck in a rut every now and then. By definition, a “rut” is “a habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change.” Here are 3 simple ways to breathe life back into a situation that has lost its oomph and bust out of that rut!

1) Switch up your routines.

Doing everyday tasks a little differently helps awaken your brain to the present moment, fresh perspectives and creative solutions. So go ahead and put on your right shoe before your left; brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand; alter your commute; and once you get to your destination, be sure to open the door without using your hands!!

2) Bust a new move.

If you’re a ballerina, take a tennis lesson. If you haven’t shaken your groove thang in twenty years, hit up You Tube for a ‘how to crunk dance in three easy steps.’ Gym rat? Take a Yin Yoga class. Our brains grow by trying new things. When you challenge mind and body in new and uncomfortable ways, the growth is exponential. That narrow rut won’t be able to hold you.

3) Send out an SOS!

Ruts thrive in isolation and the notion that you have to handle everything on your own. You may convince yourself that it’s more hassle to involve others even as the rut seems to close in around you. Start with a trusted friend. Tell them you’re stuck in a rut and ask them to help you shake things up by planning a surprise day together where you do something out of the ordinary. Take it to the next level by being blindfolded during the car ride. Letting go of being in control, trusting another person, and engaging some of your lesser used senses will catapult you of that rut!

There are countless little and large ways to ease or thrust yourself out of a rut. An easy way to remember the rut remedies are: wake up, shake up & join up. Ask yourself the following 3 questions: “what tweaks to my routine wake me up to the present moment; what new movements (or sounds or colors) can I make that will shake up the dullness of my comfort zone; and, who can I call on to help me reconnect with my aliveness and creativity?” Go forth and bust a rut, and let us know how it goes!

* If you liked this article, you might like our retreats.

 

Camille-Headshot-1 Camille Bianco MA, NCC

Camille Bianco MA, NCC earned her Master’s Degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology & Art Therapy from Naropa University. She began formal training in Art Therapy and Meditation in 2000 and continues to incorporate researched-based creative expression and mindfulness approaches into her professional consulting practices. Connect with Camille on Goolge+.

Integration & Flamenco

Integration & Flamenco

The written history of flamenco only goes back about 200 years, but there are oral accounts of flamenco that are much older. There is much debate about “what is true flamenco.” My aim is not even to attempt to answer that question, which is a very slippery slope indeed. Rather,

I would like to share with you what the spirit of flamenco means to me and why it helps explain the concept of integration.

Flamenco originated as an art form in Andalusia (southern part of Spain) as an expression of the cast-aside, the Gypsies (Gitanos), Sephardic Jews and outcast Moors. It began as song (cante) – more like a call or cry – and percussive rhythm, often a wooden cane beating in time on the floor. Only later, were the guitar and dance incorporated. Flamenco is ever-evolving and still finds itself making headlines. (Click here to read a recent example of the fluid and contrasting nature of flamenco and how it is being used as political statement.)

Flamenco is many divergent things…

and one, admittedly, includes polka dots, large skirts and dancing for tourists for money. For me, however, flamenco means not only living with, but celebrating, dichotomies. It is recognition and incorporation of many different parts, the crux of “integration.” Integrating is about bringing multiple pieces together in some sort of unified fashion – even if that “something” is in flux.

Flamenco is – no joke – about the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It kicks my butt regularly, yet I am still dedicated to being a student of its many mysteries. I know it will take a lifetime and beyond to learn, and I’ve become okay with that. I’m forced not only to think about, feel, and hear the complex rhythm (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12…) all the while moving my feet, legs, hips, arms, hands and head – optimally with duende (this is an entire other article, but roughly translated means “authenticity/spirit”). Flamenco is fiery and fierce, yet also has moments of surrender and true softness. I love that it makes fun of itself. It is first and foremost music, then movement. I come up against my many resistances while learning it. To name just a few of these inner obstacles: the “analyst” that keeps a safe distance from things that might feel uncomfortably true,  the perfectionist who has a hard time letting go, the timid part that would rather stand back than take center stage, the part that is quick to judge and the one who wants to quit. But, I don’t. I keep coming back for what sometimes feels like torture. It is a genuine type of therapy for me.

I practice facing these parts, learning from them and inviting them all in.

And then there are those moments when it all comes together – left and right, light and dark, absolute freedom from thought, feeling and time, a complete surrender of my body to the invitation of the music.  I’m dancing – not just the right steps, but I’ve become a part of this continual flow of the art form of Flamenco. These moments are rare and come with numbers of hours of dedication, but they happen. This is integration for me.

* If you liked this article, you might like our upcoming retreats.

Dayna-Wood-Blog-Post

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

Dayna is the founder of Integrative Counsel, where she shows stressed out professionals how to reignite their creativity and spark new meaning and adventure in their lives through the power of brain science. Take the 7 Day Creative Brain Challenge to reclaim and recharge your creativity – in 10 minutes a day or less!

 

Quiet the Analyst & Honor Your Shadow:

Quiet the Analyst & Honor Your Shadow:

5 fun and safe ways to express your “wild thing”

What is your Shadow, and how can you honor it? In Jungian psychology the Shadow is an unconscious aspect of your personality. The conscious ego does not fully identify with this aspect of self. However, our Shadow is often the seat of creativity and recognition and integration of our “darker side” can actually be freeing and revitalizing.

While the Analyst in us – the part that wants to “make sense if it all” and interpret the meanderings of our minds and psyches – means well, it isn’t always helpful. Sometimes it is important not to “tame” these “darker” parts, but rather to find healthy, fun and appropriate ways of expressing them. Here are 5 ways to express your inner wild thing:

1.       Howl at the moon

I mean it. Go outside. Feel your feet on the earth and take time to moon gaze. If you want to make a sound – do it. You might be startled to hear yourself and – dare I say it – even enlightened by these sounds, be it guttural or simply a whisper.

 

2.       Messy your hands

Grab some acrylic paints or chalk pastels and simply play with mixing the colors using only your fingers. Absorb yourself and delight in how the colors mix. Notice how your fingers slide over the paper when covered with this media. Don’t worry. It isn’t “supposed” to be anything. It is just fun.

 

3.       Dance unabashedly

Put on a tune that you can’t help but move to. We all have at least one. I’m a little embarrassed to admit mine. They are The Lion Sleeps Tonight (listen to the original Zulu version) and, yes, ACDC Thunderstruck. Find a clear space where you can move as much as you want to. Let go. Your body will do the rest – if you let it. My inner head banger deserves to be let out on occasion, if only in the confines of my home. (This song actually came on during my partner’s and my first date. He said it was a “high risk” move to begin to head bang to it, but I literally could not help it. I’m glad he didn’t judge me – too much – for it.)

 

4.        Free write

This can be a bit tricky for people. It is finding time to disengage from our internal critic and allow ourselves to just write – about anything. There is absolutely no thought about grammar, spelling or punctuation. Our 8th grade English teacher would hate this. You might even notice that your penmanship looks different. That is a good thing. You have tapped into a different part of your brain.

 

5.       Go on an adventure

It can be in as little as 5 minutes or much, much longer. Take time to not have an agenda and see what you might experience and learn. Have fun!

* If you liked this article, you might like our upcoming retreats.

Dayna-Wood-Blog-Post

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

Dayna is the founder of Integrative Counsel, where she shows stressed out professionals how to reignite their creativity and spark new meaning and adventure in their lives through the power of brain science. Take the 7 Day Creative Brain Challenge to reclaim and recharge your creativity – in 10 minutes a day or less!