Creative Wellbeing

Motivational Monthly

prepare-for-the-fallOctober days are heavy with the last rays of summer before the leaves turn and call in Autumn and the longer, darker evenings. There is something old-fashioned about this time of year, with its harvest festivals, bonfire nights and sweet-smelling roasted chestnuts; something that reminds us of homemade jams and thick needles clicking and clacking on new winter woollies.

The blustery weather seems to blow in echoes of the adage “the devil makes light work of idle hands”, but in these times of round the clock treadmill technology when do we swap our smart phones and stress inducing schedules for a spot of tapestry or carpentry? We’re more likely to be checking emails while watching telly than putting the flourishing touches to our latest clothes peg doll.

In the olden days knitting and cross-stitch, crochet, sewing, flower arranging, playing the fiddle or singing at the piano were past on one generation to the next. In Scandinavia, children would whittle rough wooden toys like the Dala horse with no expectation of brilliance. It was just creativity as an activity that kept hands and minds busy in the evenings after work and school, done over candlelight in the embrace of family and friends and warmed by the fire.

Brave New Girl

Gift yourself or loved ones with Lou’s new book

The tradition of handmade and homegrown, is exemplified in the Danish concept of Hygge – to live well in creative contentment and simplicity. And those vintage wooden toys are now collectors’ items, not because they are masterful but because they are hewn in a heartfelt way by the small hands of curious children.

With the comeback of craft and baking and colouring in, we can all indulge our spare time in creating and de-stressing. Past generations understood that life was hard and that respite came through the routine of winding down with thread, wool, paint and wood. Now you can buy a meditation colouring book and a pack of felt tips and as an adult, sit down and do what you did as a six year old, and know that it’s good for your spirit. And you don’t have to be Van Gogh or Damian Hirst to enjoy a bit of me-time in the rainbow world of crayons or a Pinterest image mood board.

Disarm yourself of the thought that creativity is for the artistic. Artists do their own thing but history has always encouraged everyone to turn their hand and their eye to crafts that simply take a bit of enthusiasm, practice and pause in the day. Just as surely as you take the time to check your phone, you can doodle on your commute, or in a cafe in your lunch break, or in the playground while your kids run around with their friends.

And instead of feeling tied to your daily concerns you’ll feel the worries of the world float away as your hands get to work and your mind drifts off into imaginative daydream and mindful meditation. For the full article read the September/October issue of The Best You magazine

Want to make your life more happy & creative? Then work with me, your creative Life Coach. Contact me for a FREE 30 minute consultation to find out more

Lou Hamilton is a an Artist, Author & Life Coach who founded CREATELAB in her mission to use creativity to inspire others to lead happier & more fulfilling lives. Follow her on Twitter: @createlab Instagram: brave_newgirl Facebook: Lou Hamilton Artist

School’s out for Summer

Summer slows everything down, people are away, there’s a sense of school holidays even if you’re not a kid and don’t have kids, the evenings are long and light and when you can you’re lapping up your year’s supply of Vitamin D.

Life is ebb and flow, there’s time for speed and a time to slow down. Think of a garden; you don’t plant a seed and expect to see a tree the next day. The art of patience allows for a natural pace, the need for speed forces artificial pressure on a creative process. Think of Genetically Modified Foods. They grow quick and taste of nothing. In the film industry we use the three pronged model: quick, cheap, good. You can only have two of the three. Quick and cheap, but not good. Quick and good, but not cheap. Cheap and good but not quick.

Have dreams

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Even instant gratification takes too long” Carrie Fisher is quoted as saying. But she has Bipolar Disorder. “I would get really impatient. I was going faster than everything else around me, and it drove me crazy. You feel out of step with the world” She has achieved a lot, being talented and manic. Her 1987 book Postcards from the Edge hit the New York Times bestseller list and won her the Los Angeles Pen Award for Best First Novel; and she’s published three bestsellers since. More recently she’s turned her memoir Wishful Drinking into a one-woman play, as well as an HBO special.

But you don’t need to be Manic to achieve a lot. I’m from the School of Plod, you do a little and often and you can incrementally produce a large body of work. The art is in consistent application. It’s like saving money. You put in 3% of your wages and over time you have built up a substantial nest-egg. It’s called Compound Interest. Day one you put in £1, Day 2 you put in another £1 and you’ve already doubled your money. Day 4 you’ve quadrupled your initial deposit. The same with writing a book; two hours a day or 1000 words and in 80 days you’ve got your first draft.

where's your hideaway

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Carl Honore wrote In praise of Slowness, a book on the need to slow down. He speaks of how we have added speed to everything; speed-reading, speed-walking, speed-dating. He even passed a gym in New York offering speed-yoga. We believe ourselves to be time poor, so pack more in, we run faster and we feel like we have even less time than ever. We do nothing properly, we leap frog from one task to another. Marinade, savour, mull, languish, ponder, wander, contemplate, peruse, explore, lie fallow, are words we have ejected from our vocabulary and left to curl and wither under the heat of our soles pounding tarmac.

When you slow down you simply do things better. Eating, sleeping, making love, creating, inventing, designing all become better when slowness is your modus operandi. Understanding this has created the international Slow Movement, which started in Italy but has slowly spread around the world. Slow Food, growing, consuming in an organic sustainable way that celebrates pleasure and health. Slow Cities where people slow down, smell the roses and connect with one another; slowing traffic, putting in places for people to sit, read, take a breather and decompress, green spaces, art works for contemplation, poetry on the underground.

The Scandanavian countries are showing that you don’t need to work at the speed of light in order to have a kick-ass economy. They work reasonable hours and they are now among the top six most competitive nations on earth. They understand that in order to be more productive people need to be able to work fewer hours, to unplug, to sit in a quiet room. In order to be creative we need to switch off and re-charge on a regular basis.

So take timeout over Summer, use it as an opportunity to kick back and let your creative mind take over. Day dream, chill out and enjoy the view. Then in September you can come back to life and hit the ground running.

If the thought of September scares you, if you are wanting to get out of the rat race but don’t know how, I can work with you to find another way. Lou@createlab.co.uk

If you are coach and want to take your practice to the next level join us on our Quantum Coaching Bootcamp workshop. Warning: It’s not for the faint-hearted

Motivational Mondays: There’s always Hope

Hope requires stepping out from the past and looking to the future. It’s about imagining a better tomorrow and being prepared to do what it takes to make it so. It’s about creating a vision and taking affirmative action. It makes the difference between success and failure, triumph or defeat, confidence or fearfulness. Hope is in our hands.

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Hope is “the belief that the future will be better than the present, along with the belief that you have the power to make it so.” according to Dr. Shane Lopez, senior scientist at Gallup, who also wants us to know how useful hope can be. “Hope is the leading indicator of success in relationships, academics, career, and business—as well as of a healthier, happier life,” he says.

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Dr. Lopez is spearheading new research showing that not only is hope good for your wellbeing, but it’s a measurable quality that can be increased with practice. His new book, Making Hope Happen, discusses the science behind hope and describes practical ways to improve your wellbeing by nurturing a positive, active approach to life. He believes that by increasing the element of hope in our approach, we can lead happier and more productive lives. Once again it is our creative brain that is harnessed to till the soil ready to plant the seeds of hope. Without the proactive approach of constructive and creative endeavour, the belief that tomorrow will be better than today is merely an optimistic attitude. When we actually do something about making the future a better place then we are living in the real definition of hope. Being hopeful also helps us achieve more and to do so more quickly. Dr Lopez’s studies show that we are in fact 14% more productive at work when we believe that we are going to be successful in our outcomes.

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Hopeful people understand that we need to have no more than two or three meaningful goals to work towards. Trying to juggle a chaotic life makes it hard to focus so we need to edit down our goals to what we know to be achievable by making them clear, specific and easily imaginable. They must also reflect our purpose and the values that have meaning for us. They must make us feel excited and motivated. We have to decide what matters to us most and concentrate our efforts on that. If we feel heavily invested in something we are more likely to feel hopeful about accomplishing it. Wishful thinking doesn’t get us where we want to be, hard work in the right direction does. In order to sustain the forward thrust we need to come with creative plans to keep our brains interested and engaged. To remain hopeful we must anticipate that it isn’t going to be easy so that we be responsive to the tripwires, shift our position, reframe our plans and come at the problems from another angle. We need to keep our creative minds agile rather than fixed, in order to keep hopeful.

Jerry Groopman, MD, in his ground-breaking book, The Anatomy of Hope: “Hope differs from optimism. Hope does not arise from being told to ‘think positively,’ or from hearing an overly rosy forecast. Hope, unlike optimism, is rooted in unalloyed reality. Hope is the elevating feeling we experience when we see – in the mind’s eye – a path to a better future. Hope acknowledges the significant obstacles and deep pitfalls along the path. True hope has no room for delusion.

Clear-eyed, hope gives the courage to confront our circumstances and the capacity to surmount them. For all my patients, hope, true hope, has proved as important as any medication I might prescribe or any procedure I might perform.

Hope can arrive only when we recognize that there are real options and that you have genuine choices. Hope can flourish only when you believe that what you do can make a difference, that your actions can bring a future different from the present. To have hope then, is to acquire a belief in your ability to have some control over your circumstances. You are no longer entirely at the mercy of forces outside yourself.”

Hopeful people are realists. They know the path is peppered with obstacles to be overcome. As Dr Lopez has discovered, they are also not shy to reach out and ask for support and help when they are faced with something that is insurmountable on their own. Surrounding ourselves with other hopeful people will help us sustain our energy and inspire us to keep devising new ways to reach our goals. However sometimes the rocks being hurled at us along the way turn into an avalanche of opposition and at that point the hopeful know to stop and reassess. They are not afraid to acknowledge when the pursuit of a goal is no longer working for them and they clear the road and begin again. It takes courage to recognize when a goal has become toxic but when we are hopeful we are also open, and that mental state allows for the creative brain to get working again on a new strategy. It takes resilience, vulnerability and curiosity to build and sustain the hope muscle.

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

If ever there was a story of hope triumphing over adversity it is that of Malala Yousafzai. She was born on 12 July 1997 in Mingora, a town in the Swat District of north-west Pakistan. Her father Ziauhddin ran a school in Swat near the family home. Pakistan has the highest number of children out of school and in 2009 the Taliban’s efforts to encourage this by restricting education and attempting to stop girls going to school, were sharply increased. But Malala loved learning and going to school. She began writing a blog for the BBC Urdu service under a pseudonym, about fears that her school would be attacked and the increasing military activity in Swat. Television and music were banned, women were prevented from going shopping and then Ziauddin was told that his school had to close. But Malala and her father both continued to speak out for the right to education. In 2011 she received Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and was nominated by Archbishop Desmond Tutu for the International Children’s Peace Prize. Her public profile and popularity enraged the Taliban leaders and they voted to kill her. On 9 October, 2012, as Malala and her friends were travelling home from school, a masked gunman entered their school bus and asked for Malala by name. She was shot with a single bullet which went through her head, neck and shoulder. Two of her friends were also injured in the attack.

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Malala survived the attack, but was critically injured. She was taken to Birmingham hospital in UK and not released until January 2013 when she was joined by her family. The Taliban’s attempt to kill Malala received worldwide condemnation and led to protests across Pakistan. In the weeks after the attack, over 2 million people signed a right to education petition, and the National Assembly swiftly ratified Pakistan’s first Right To Free and Compulsory Education Bill. Malala became a global advocate for the millions of girls being denied a formal education because of social, economic, legal and political factors. Malala accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 2014 with Kailash Satyarthi. She started the Malala Fund to raise awareness about the social and economic impact of girls’ education and to empower girls to speak out, to work to their potential, and to demand change. Throughout her trials Malala remained undefeated. She trusted in hope, she stood firm to her beliefs, she defied those trying to stop her and still today continues to use her voice to share hope with others.

“Dear brothers and sisters, do remember one thing. Malala day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights. There are hundreds of Human rights activists and social workers who are not only speaking for human rights, but who are struggling to achieve their goals of education, peace and equality. Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured. I am just one of them.

So here I stand… one girl among many. I speak – not for myself, but for all girls and boys. I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights:

Their right to live in peace. Their right to be treated with dignity. Their right to equality of opportunity. Their right to be educated.

Dear Friends, on the 9th of October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed. And then, out of that silence came, thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.  I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. My dreams are the same.” 

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Hope has the capacity for healing in many ways. Since the 1960’s scientists have revealed the effect of positive mental attitude on our bodies. Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) is the scientific study of our mind, body and overall health. Specifically it is the study of “the interaction between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the human body.” It doesn’t rely on disingenuous wishful thinking. It promotes a hopeful attitude to health through the practical uptake of anti-inflammatory foods and a decrease in stressors. Inflammation in the body causes many of the diseases that kill 70% of the American population, so it makes sense to concentrate on eating foods that reduce inflammation: whole grains, fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds, oily fish, cold-pressed oils, legumes, and ensure the right levels of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Ensuring that we reduce the stress in our lives also has a dramatic impact on our bodies. The vagus nerve is involved in digestion, absorption, and metabolism of nutrients. Unhealthy food, stress, and depression have negative effects on vagal activation. This shows that there is a direct correlation between your brain and gut because stress hinders your guts essential actions. Stress also influences your food choices, and increases  insulin resistance. Stress increases maladaptive metabolic responses to unhealthy meals, which affects mood and proinflammatory responses to stressors. Avoid or reducing our stress at home and in the workplace helps us to get the most from the nutrients in our food. To be hopeful about our health we have to take the right action.

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

To create a hopeful attitude we must use our imaginations to envision positive outcomes, we must develop a plan of action and we must take the necessary steps. Even in our dying days we can create a hopeful legacy; we can pass on our approach, teach others to dream and to fulfill their potential. Nelson Mandela left us hope by living his life with courage, determination, wisdom and belief. He proved that when all else fails, hope triumphs. He never stopped working towards what he believed could happen, against all the odds. He dreamed and he made a difference.

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

Brave New Girl by Lou Hamilton

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” Nelson Mandela 18th May 2002.

Work with me to build a hopeful approach to life. Find out more with a free 30 minute trial consultation Lou@createlab.co.uk

Follow my Brave New Girl Inspirational Illustrations on Twitter @createlab or Instagram create_lab or keep updated on her developments on bravenewgirl.co.uk

Motivational Mondays: Do a Doodle

Phone in one hand, a pen in the other and you scribble random marks while you chat, the patterns and shading becoming more elaborate as you talk. A little flourish here, a repetition of strokes there; none of it looks like anything in particular and you think nothing of it when you finish your call. But your absent-minded daubs have actually helped you increase your focus, grasp more clearly what is being said to you and improved your memory. I bet you think you can’t draw, but who cares, if the mere act of scribbling has such a powerful effect on your brain.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

According to a 2011 study in The Lancet, a medical journal, some researchers suspect doodling may help the brain remain active by engaging its “default networks”—regions that maintain a baseline of activity in the cerebral cortex when outside stimuli are absent, the Lancet study says. People who were encouraged to doodle while listening to a list of people’s names being read were able to remember 29% more of the information on a surprise quiz later, according to a 2009 study in Applied Cognitive Psychology. So if you are giving a lecture or presentation and want people to pay attention to and remember what you say, also give your audience crayons, paper and the permission to scribble.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

A blank page and a pen is ripe territory for doodling and if you do it while your brain is apparently attending to something else your ability to broaden your creative thoughts and ideas, make sense of and retain what you are listening to, is hugely increased. It can also help you learn; allowing your hand to make spontaneous marks as your ears listen. It is a useful tool both at work and at school, although traditionally, getting caught at it would have got you into trouble. Now it is recognized as something to be encouraged; a way of aiding learning, processing, problem-solving, creative thinking and remembering.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

The doodle can stimulate ideas for improvement, according to a 2014 study by Gabriela Goldschmidt, a professor emeritus of architecture at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and a researcher on learning techniques of design. A doodle can spark a “dialog between the mind and the hand holding a pencil and the eyes that perceive the marks on paper,” the study says.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

I went to Art School in the 1980’s when drawing had fallen out of favour in other London colleges; everyone was painting huge abstract images but at Byam School of Art we still had old fashioned oak paneled life drawing studios where we were encouraged to draw as a daily practice. That was decades ago and I had long since stopped drawing, but I often scribbled or doodled without any thought or dexterity, just as an accompaniment to listening or day-dreaming. Then one day I happened upon a concept called Zentangle, which is a form of combined doodling and meditation, devised by Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts in 2004 as an elegant system of structured patterns for zoning out.

One day, Maria told Rick what she experienced as she drew background patterns on a manuscript she was creating. She described her feelings of timelessness, freedom and well-being and complete focus on what she was doing with no thought or worry about anything else. “You’re describing meditation,” Rick said.”

Using deliberate pen strokes and a vocabulary of abstract patterns, artists and non-artists alike are equally able to focus on their marks with no pre-determined end result, while their attention shifts “to a state that allows fresh thoughts, new perspectives, and creative insights to flow unhindered by anxiety or effort.”

I practice Zentangle for its own sake, but it has also led me back to my love of drawing. Doodling seems to open up your natural urges and skills, by tapping into your unconscious. Maybe the act of doodling will awaken the brain surgeon within you or release the long distance trucker desperate to get out on the open road. When you are trying to resolve a problem, take time out, pick up a pen and let it drift around the page. Try repeated circles, or lines, or geometrical shapes, dots, cross-hatching, sweeping curves or angular marks. Place no judgment on what you do, there is no right or wrong. You may come up with a gorilla-headed flamingo surfing a rainstorm of samurai swords across a sea of platypus’ feet on paper, but in your mind you may have just solved the conundrum to why, say, you are still in a job you should have left months ago.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

The shapes, along with your hand movements, stimulate parts of the brain that allow you to make connections between things that you otherwise would likely have never come up with. It helps you tap into your memory, your emotions, your desires, your intellect. Sunni Brown, named one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business” and one of the “10 Most Creative People on Twitter” by Fast Company, is the leader of “The Doodle Revolution” the purpose of which is to “disrupt social norms about visual language and visual thinking, and educate people around the world about doodling’s power and potential.” Brown is an ardent champion of the practice of doodling, saying in her TED Talk, “the doodle has never been the nemesis of intellectual thought. In reality, it is one of its greatest allies.” Sunni Brown’s design consultancy, Sunni Brown Ink, has worked with high-profile clients like Linkedin, Zappos, and Dell, amongst others to improve organization and planning by using doodles.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

In decision-making, problem-solving and creative thinking we need to engage with at least two of the four learning processes: auditory, visual, reading/writing and kinetic. So in a lecture or in class or on the phone, where information density is high, doodling has the benefit of exploiting all four of the processes. Which is why it is so effective. As a visual person I have never liked using the phone. I feel like I am missing too much information, losing the subtleties and nuances of communication. When I started coaching I thought I would never be able to do it via phone. But I discovered by accident that if I sit with a pen and paper and I draw in response to listening that in fact, it becomes an incredibly powerful interaction. I can hear even more deeply the essence of what my client is saying. I also get them to draw as we talk; simple shapes, mind-maps, grids, nothing tricky, but the act of doodling allows them to explore their thoughts, by placing words into the shapes and finding revealing patterns and constellations in the marks before them, which they are then able to describe to me. So simple but we reach profound solutions very quickly.

As humans we have the urge to make marks. We started daubing on cave walls and some of us still like to spray paint our inner primordial urges onto the sides of buildings. The rest of us can just pick up the nearest pen and the back of an envelope and scribble. Who knows you may even end up shrieking Eureka. You just have to start somewhere.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Need help releasing your inner Ralph Steadman? Get doodling with a Creative Thinking Coach and start solving your problems. Email me Lou@createlab.co.uk

Follow my daily inspirational Picture Posts on Twitter @createlab and Instagram create_lab

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Motivational Mondays: I am not Creative

“I’m not creative” is a defensive strike, stated loudly by those wishing to dissociate themselves from Strange Artistic Types. Fear not, opening up to your sleeping creativity will not immediately have you spraying anonymous politico-art statements on the side of bridges or get you suspended from a gallery ceiling while people throw paper balls at you. Here is a fact. To think creatively you do not have to be an Artist.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Yes Artists have finely tuned their creative thinking skills, which they use in the pursuit of Art. But you too can get your creativity out from under the dustcovers of primary school, which was the last time most of us were encouraged to use it, spritz it with a good dose of WD40 and get cracking on directing it in any way you want. But to do that lets first understand what it is, how we can improve it and then how to put it to good use.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

By nature humans are creative. We are curious, we challenge, we play with ideas, we experiment, we investigate, we invent, we innovate, we imagine, we change, we conceptualise, we solve problems. That is how humanity has developed. And the ability to use it is one the most critical life skills we can develop. We have a monopoly on it. No animal or supercomputer can compare to our capability to think creatively. And if you are choosing a career or business, find one that has infinite capacity to expand on your creativity. Creative Thinking can’t be outsourced to China. Developing it will keep you constantly in demand. It differentiates you from those who are bound by logical, traditional, linear thinking and systemized, number crunching, rule-laden productivity. Build your creative muscle and it will give you the edge. Be the one to generate ideas and procedures, notice how elements can be improved and implemented to make the whole more efficient, more enticing, more in demand.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

David and Tom Kelly of the innovative global design company IDEO, responsible for Apple’s first mouse and Proctor & Gamble’s stand-up toothpaste dispenser, have written a book called Creative Confidence. In it they tell the story of a guy called Doug Deitz who helps lead design and development of high-tech medical imaging systems for GE Healthcare, an $18 billion division of one of the largest companies in the world. His multimillion-dollar CT Scanners peer painlessly inside the human body in ways that would have been considered extraordinary not that long ago.

A few years back, Doug completed a project on a CT scanning machine that he had spent two and a half years working on. When he got the opportunity to see it installed in a hospital’s scanning department, he jumped at the chance. Standing next to his new machine, Doug talked with the technician who was operating it that day. He told her that the CT scanner had been submitted for an International Design Excellence Award—the “Oscars of design”—and asked her how she liked its new features.

Doug was patting himself on the back for a job well done, his question somewhat rhetorical. What happened next certainly wasn’t what he was expecting. The technician asked him to leave, so that her patient could have her scan. He walked out into the corridor and saw the frail girl walking towards him, gripping her parents’ hands, visibly frightened, her parents no less anxious; all in anticipation of her having to climb inside Doug’s machine. As the family passed by, Doug saw the girl was crying.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

In all his self-congratulation Doug had never considered what it was actually like for a child to lie down on the sliding base and be maneuvered into the claustrophic, cylindrical tomb, having to be completely still and alone whilst bombarded by unfamiliar mechanical sounds. In fact most children had to be sedated in order to lie still long enough for the equipment to do its job. It had never once dawned on him that using his ground-breaking machine was so utterly terrifying. The incident shook him to the core. Rather than an elegant, sleek piece of technology, worthy of accolades and admiration, his innovation was the source of anguish and misery.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Doug consulted with his friends and colleagues, wracking his brains for a solution. Someone suggested he attend a week-long executive creative education workshop that would test and challenge his perceptions. He was introduced to the idea of human-centred approach to design and innovation. Instead of thinking about the function and aesthetics of his machine, he thought about the child who was to use it. It re-invigorated his creative confidence. He experimented and played with the concepts that arose around the child’s experience, building on a cross-pollination of ideas with the others in the group. He learned to look outside of his usual frame of reference.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Back home his creative instincts took hold as he talked to child life specialists and paediatric experts and he studied children at play, absorbing what engaged, inspired and excited them. What he came up with completely transformed the children’s experience. He created his ‘Adventure Series’, turning the CT scanning machines into an adventure, decorating them as spaceships or pirate ships, with the staff in character leading the child in the starring role, onto their voyage. The amount children needing to sedated during the scanning process was dramatically reduced.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC

With a spin of creative thought he learned to design not from his ego but from the perspective of the child. He boosted his creative mindset and challenged himself to push beyond the status quo. When we do this we build our creative confidence and we are able to increase the span of our vision. We can have a greater positive impact on the world around us in our lives and at work as we approach problems with our children, our partners, colleagues, and clients, with empathy and intuition.

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Illustration by Lou Hamilton

Creative thinking opens us up to a whole realm of opportunities. Look at The Internet, Space-travel, the Wheel. Wherever we turn we come across the results of someone’s creativity. We are surrounded by potential waiting for us to grab hold of it and turn it into something life-enhancing. The more we look, observe and question the more we can make the most of our lives and our businesses. How can we make money while we sleep, how can we eat more healthily on a budget, how can we stay youthful looking without injecting rat poison into our skin, how can we help our children to develop their ideas and become independent confident young people, how can we avoid getting miserable in the winter, how can we find our passion and purpose, how can can we get more fun out of a longstanding relationship, how can we revamp our wardrobe, how can we grow our business without working ourselves to an early grave?

Photo-hailu by Lou Hamilton

Photo-haiku by Lou Hamilton

By asking questions we can instigate and manifest positive change. Using our creative thinking skills we develop a more active and less passive role in our own lives. We implement, cope with and adapt to change. By building our creative muscle we will trust our intuition, act on our instincts and be in the driver’s seat on a journey of opportunity, growth, fulfillment and transformation.

Photo by Lou Hamilton

Photo by Lou Hamilton

So next time you are stuck, ask yourself, how else can I think about this? Write down the problem and brainstorm all other possibilities, keep asking why and how, challenge your first responses, talk to other people, research other approaches, don’t accept a solution until it takes you to where you want to be. Understand it is a process of questioning, challenging and transforming, all in the pursuit of something better.

If you want to feel good, work well and build a better life, invest in a Creative Thinking coach who will work with you to develop your creative thinking skills. Email me on Lou@createlab.co.uk

Follow my daily Picture Posts on Twitter: @createlab.co.uk Instagram: create_lab Facebook: Lou Hamilton

Motivational Mondays: No to Naysayers

‘Who do you think you are?’ is the name of a TV series getting people to trawl through their family history to unearth new information about their forebears and cast a different light on who they are on the back of it.

road less travelled

It implies you are the sum of generations rolled up and reincarnated into a model of baggage and inherited personas. Think of your hang ups. Do you procrastinate, doubt yourself, live in fear, pray for the end of the week, compare yourself negatively with others, put up with naysayers, people please, put yourself down, etc etc? Wherever all that stuff came from (blame the ancestors if you like) it is certainly not helping you now. Is it possible to cast off the shadow and reinvent a new you?

Head in the clouds

Imagine not feeling those things? Imagine waking up in the morning and saying like President Obama “Yes I can?” With New Year’s Resolutions we promise ourselves a mental make-over, but unfortunately sheer will power usually isn’t man or woman enough for the job. You need to get creative to upscale your mindset. Creative thinking will trick your deeply entrenched resistance into shedding the shackles of years of self-sabotage.

Inspiration is everywhere

How does it work? Well it’s basis is in anti-logic. The usual solutions haven’t done the trick, so you have to get cunning. Resistance thinks ‘can’t’- creative thinking does something out of the blue, beyond the pail, something ridiculous or subverted or upside down. It spins our brain and our patterns of behaviour and our damaging beliefs, out of orbit and into a place where ‘Can’ is actually possible.

Light changes everything

The two words we coaches hear more often than anything (yes to our ears they are swear words! ) are : “Yeah but…” When we hear them we know that person is wallowing in the mudflats of misery and will bat you away with the deftness of a hippopotamus’s tail swatting flies.

“Yeah but I’m not creative, yeah but I’m no good at that, yeah but I’m not qualified, yeah but I’m a woman in a man’s world, yeah but I’m too old, yeah but I’m working class, yeah but I’m not clever enough, yeah but I’m shy, yeah but I’m broke, yeah but…” The yeah-butters are very creative in finding reasons to not change or transform themselves even when they say they want to. The yeah-butters put their energy into the treadmill of resistance. What they are really saying is “I have decided it is not possible”.

Sky high dreams

But there is very little that you can’t get around somehow, if you choose to. Beethoven had gone completely deaf when he wrote his 9th Symphony. The great photorealist painter Chuck Close was paralysed so badly by a blood clot on the spine that he couldn’t even pick up a paint brush. He had his paintbrush strapped to his wrist and he developed a new technique in paintings. His work became even more successful than before.  I bet no one heard either Beethoven or Close say “Yeah but…”

Fling open your doors

And then when you’ve won the battle against yourself, you run headlong into the frontline of Naysayers who hide behind the shields of “we don’t want to see you fail, we’re only thinking of your best interests, we don’t want you to get hurt, we’re only trying to protect you, we don’t want you to humiliate yourself.” The list goes on. If they were people who had become immensely successful and happy on the back of this fearful approach, then by all means it would be ok to listen to their concerns. But they’re not. Do you think Richard Branson took any notice of Naysayers proclaiming that setting up an airline was madness? I imagine the only voices he listened to were the ones saying “why the hell not?” And now he owns an Island in the Carribean. I doubt those Naysayers are his neighbours.

Houston we have lift-off

If those negative voices are your own or someone else’s put up a big STOP sign and work on some creative strategies to turn around the yeah-buts and discard the naysayers:

7 Ways to “Yes!”

  1. For every yeah-but write down 10 reasons it could work out
  2. Write down the consequences of staying the same
  3. Think of the people you admire who have achieved great things, imagine the naysayers they met along the way and what yeah butting things those naysayers would have said. Write them down and then do what your hero did and throw them away.
  4. Research 5 successful people and find out how many rejections they had along the way. Make a colourful collage of all the rejections you’ve received and turn it into a Mandela for never giving up.
  5. Spend the day pretending you are already doing thing you want to do or being the person you want to be.
  6. Put yourself in a different context or with different people. It shifts your perspective.
  7. Focus on what you love doing and are happy to apply yourself to day in and day out. That is the only way to get good at something. Naysayers will have a hard time stopping you from doing what you love.

‘A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do’ Bob Dylan

If you need some help transforming your thinking or you are stuck in a groove, get yourself a Creative Thinking Coach. Email Lou@createlab.co.uk

For my daily photo-quotes & drawings follow me on Twitter @createlab Instagram create_lab Facebook Lou Hamilton

Hideaways gestate ideas

Motivational Mondays: Be Curious

Creativity is thinking outside of the box, it’s turning the box upside down or it’s doing away with the box altogether. Without curiosity our creative thinking skills remain stuck in a box.

Looking up when everyone is else is looking down is what creative thinkers do

Looking up when everyone is else is looking down is what creative thinkers do

Some people think only artistic people are creative but I believe that if you can form a question then you have the ability to think creatively. Creativity is curiosity, wanting to find out more, asking why or why not. It’s taking nothing for granted, it’s disrupting the norm and questioning what is ‘right’. Creative thinkers want to know why, how, where, when; they dig deep. The world is a fathomless dimension of exploration and discovery and each of us has but a short time to make the most of what we’ve been given.

As a filmmaker creating characters I have to continually interrogate their very existence, their purpose, their motives, their behaviors, their thoughts, speech and interactions with others. But you can only go so far before you inevitably get stuck or get to the point where you think you’ve nailed your characters and story. At that point you need to ask for the opinions and comments of others. Are you on the right track or have you backed an articulated lorry onto an airport runway? You need other people to give you the third degree in the same way that you have done to your characters. If they are really creative they’ll get you doing mental backflips, cartwheels and the tango all at once in the hope of getting you out of any place of self-satisfaction and complacency that you may find yourself.

On the RISE scheme (Northern Film & Media are working in partnership with Women in Film and Television and Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art to nurture and develop six emerging female filmmakers over the course of a year) this is exactly the opportunity we have been given. To have our creativity challenged by industry professionals, and contorted into positions we would never have dreamed possible when we first started writing. You start with, ‘here are the characters and this is what happens to them’. Then you get (thankfully) script editor Kate Leys & film director Josh Appignanesi making you think more deeply –  why do they want that, why should we care enough to watch them, do you need that person at all, can’t you see it through someone else’s eyes, what if you got rid of everything you have written up to the midpoint and started the film there, are they the right gender? Etc etc. This is mind acrobatics in free fall.

It’s enough to make your head spin and your brain melt but give it 24 hours and those creative impulses start firing new sparks and making new connections. They have been disrupted enough to see new improved directions for your script to go. So you push your ideas to another level, keeping at it every day, reworking and reworking and reworking. Until eventually you get to someone like film distributor Julia Short who reads your treatment and goes ‘yes I get the story, get the relationships, get the underlying themes, get the journey and the transformation and yes be that ambitious, yes think on that cinematic scale, yes go for that casting and that budget, don’t hold back, ramp it up, why not go the whole hog.’ And your creative juices fire up several notches and off you go again.

Shift things about to create something new.

Shift things about to create something new.
“Melt” Wax Installation by Ruby May London

“You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.“ Jodi Picault

It takes 10,000 hours to master anything and unless we are challenged, questioned, prodded and cajoled we may be tempted to stop at 100 hours. We might think that’s all we need to do. We need those mentors and coaches and influencers and interrogators and investigators to help us get the best out of ourselves and our work. It’s not easy but it’s worth it to not end up with the half hearted, slapdash or dull.

Architect Frank Lloyd-Wright was self-taught. He didn’t know that buildings at that time ‘had’ to be rectangular so he created the oval, arcs and circles of the Guggenheim Museum New York. Steve Jobs bunked out of University, did a short course in calligraphy and created Apple. He didn’t know that you ‘have’ to go to, and stick at, University to get a good job or build a business. The art of Not Knowing is like always having a beginner’s mind, a mind hungry and curious.

Let go and see where your creative thinking takes you

Let go and see where your creative thinking takes you

Creativity is problem-solving without rules, it’s the spirit of curiosity in the face of the mundane, logical and routine, it’s the picking apart of the safe or commercial or obvious or trite, it’s throwing things up in the air and seeing where they land. Be fearless in your day and question everything and everyone. That’s how humans got to fly, it’s how we transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. The only people who aren’t creative are the ones unwilling to try.

Are you in the business of doing things normally and getting predictable results but actually really, you want to rock your world? Then get yourself a Creative Thinking Coach and transform your life or work into something you’ll want to tell your grandkids about. Email me HERE to find out more and lets get started!

For daily uplifts and inspirational photo-quotes follow me on Twitter: @createlab Instagram: create_lab or Facebook: Lou Hamilton

We all have the ability to think creatively at our core

We all have the ability to think creatively at our core

WHY we do what we do- Passion with Purpose

“Every being is intended to be on earth for a certain purpose.” — Sa’di, 12th Century Persian poet

Simon Sinek in his Ted Talk describes the theory of the Golden Circle. The Outer Ring contains something everybody can answer: WHAT do you do? The middle ring, most people can have a stab at: HOW do you do what you do? But the Inner Circle few people take the time to consider, let alone have clarity on: WHY do you do what you do?

It light your fire

It took me years to work out my ‘WHY’ but I know it now. I am a Coach and I am driven by the belief that through the coaching process I can help people change themselves and their lives for the better. I am able to give people a set of tools that helps them build fulfilling and meaningful lives by tapping into their own passions and talents, their ability to think creatively and their primal need to have a sense of purpose.

But how did I get to the point where I’d found my ‘why’? I had always been artistic so I made sculptures and videos, but I’d struggled to come up with ideas that were driven by a singular ‘purpose’. Then I got a job for QTV and Channel 4 making the BAFTA-winning 5 part documentary series DEATH on people with terminal illness. We filmed 12 people over a period of 3 years and it was an extraordinary journey. What we realised was that when people are dying they become very focused on what is important to them and how they want to spent the time they have left.

I also realised that I didn’t want to wait until I was dying, to work out what was important to me. I wanted to find out what would give my life purpose now. When the TV series went out, something amazing happened.  One of the people we’d filmed, who had chronic Chrone’s Disease, received enough unsolicited financial donations from the viewing public, that she could pay for the treatments she needed (and didn’t have access to via postcode lottery) to allow her a longer and pain-free life. The indirect effect of the film impacting on someone’s quality of life decided my Purpose. I would use my Passion for creativity to make a positive difference in people’s lives.

But films take a long time to make and I wanted to do something I could do everyday. I knew Creativity isn’t just tied to being Artistic. Creativity is about how we approach life, problem solving, using our imaginations, about communicating about how we think and feel. So how could I use Creativity or rather Creative Thinking, and give it Purpose? It was the early days of Life Coaching as an industry but I knew that by combining creative thinking skills and coaching I could help people lead better lives.

Since then, I have continued to make films about inspirational people who overcome the odds, and I have a successful life coaching practice with clients who are courageous enough to take the necessary steps towards a positive future. Everybody has the potential to think creatively and through the process of coaching I help shift them from feeling stuck into building and sustaining good lives.

Everyone thrives when they live with Passion and Purpose. Knowing who you are inside and what MOTIVATES you, helps you find your Purpose. If you find yourself singing U2’s song, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” then why not get yourself a Coach and take the first steps to a more meaningful life.

10 Coaching Tips on Finding your Purpose

  1. What are the things that make you smile?
  2. What would make you leap out of bed in the morning?
  3. Are you ever ‘pulled’ towards something and you’re not sure why? Trust your instincts and follow the trail.
  4. What Cause has made your throat tighten with emotion? Could you have a leaning towards helping them in some way?
  5. Is there a theme in the books you read, in the films you watch? Maybe you are attracted to something that could inform a new direction?
  6. Is there something that you lose yourself in, lose track of time, could do all day and never be bored or tired of it? Why not incorporate it into other areas of your life.
  7. You believe yourself to be ‘successful’ but actually feel hollow? Could you give some time to your community in someway that would give your life more meaning?
  8. Tie your hobbies, gifts and talents with something that has significance to others. Being appreciated boosts our self-esteem and sense of self-worth.
  9. What were your dreams when you were a child? Could you revisit some of those ideas, see if they still resonate with you
  10. List your values and see how you might better align your daily   activities with these values.