Clear link between creative thinking exercises and having an enriching midlife and beyond
Good news for midlifers and beyond about value of creative thinking exercises
Doing creative thinking exercises is one way of becoming more creative. Recent research shows a clear link between developing creativity and having a joyful, enriching midlife and beyond. Two leading thinkers, Gene Cohen and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, show the importance of creativity and suggestions for developing it.
Here is some good news for those between 45 and 75 like myself. There is a strong link between creativity and having a more enjoyable life. In his book, The Creative Age, Gene Cohen asserts that creativity has immediate, long-lasting results for anyone having midlife crisis symptoms. He claims that doing creative thinking exercises:
- strengthens your morale in later life,
- contributes to physical health as you age,
- enriches relationships, and
- is the greatest legacy you can leave your children.
One of my favorite books on creative thinking exercises is appropriately titled Creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. I particularly like the creative thinking exercises for enhancing one's creativity in the final chapter. Interestingly, for his work, Mihaly interviewed 91 exceptionally creative people, all over 60 years of age. Let us see what we, as we get older, can learn from these creative people. Here are a few suggestions that struck me the most.
1. Creative people cultivate curiosity and interest by …
a) being surprised by something every day. According to Mihaly, "life is nothing more than a stream of experiences--the more widely and deeply you swim in it, the richer your life will be."
b) surprising at least one person every day,
c) following something that strikes their interest.
The person who typifies the most this aspect of creativity for me is my octogenarian friend and mentor, Sigy. I am constantly amazed by his level of curiosity and interest. Recently he talked enthusiastically about Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers which he had purchased as an audio book. Recently he recommended I get a new word a day from a website.
Sigy, who has a knack for coming up with up with his own creative thinking exercises, is also a big fan of the The Teaching Company, creator of the Great Courses on such topics as philosophy & intellectual history and fine arts & music. I don’t know how many courses he’s downloaded preferring to learn something rather than watch mind-numbing TV shows.
2. Creative people cultivate flow in everyday life by … -
a) waking up each morning with a specific goal to look forward to. My wife thinks it is corny, but occasionally I wake her up by whispering in her ear, "It is time to get up, Coco. There is a whole world to discover." Actually, one specific goal for my wife and me on waking on weekends in the summer months is deciding whether we’lI go running, swimming, biking or do some weight training together in the park.
b) increasing the complexity of things they enjoy doing. They realize that in order to enjoy the same activity time and again, they need to discover new challenges, new opportunities. I love to workout and I am constantly modifying my workout routines with the help of Men's Health magazine.
3. Creative people look at problems differently by … -
a) not necessarily understanding what is happening around them nor assuming that other people do either. Creative problems usually emerge from areas in our life that have emotional significance for us, such as the loss of a parent, disharmony with our spouse, or disagreements at work.
b) looking at problems from as many viewpoints as possible. Let me illustrate this with a miscommunication problem I had once in dealing with the general manager of a textbook company while I was working on a book project. At the time, I defined the problem as "this fellow is not clear in his communication and avoids making decisions." Instead, I might have defined the problem as "I am not clear in my communication and avoid taking action." Probably there is an element of truth in both assertions. However, if I had looked at it in different ways, I might have opened myself up to different solutions.
4. Creative people use divergent thinking by … -
a) not necessarily concerning themselves with finding a problem but rather responding to what other people say or producing ideas in response to an event. Mihaly proposes three possible actions:: 1) produce as many ideas as possible, 2) have as many different ideas as possible, and 3) produce unlikely ideas.
For example, if you are taking a weekend trip to New York with your wife or husband, come up with as many "zany" ideas as possible. Suggest places you have never been to before. Second, come up with lots of ideas, but do not be repetitive. Think of different types of places you can go to. Be creative in your choice of places. Third, surprise her or him with some seemingly off-the-wall ideas. It might lead to a very romantic weekend indeed.
What to do next: Check out the Midlife Store for my e-Book, Take Charge of Midlife and Beyond, and e-Courses on midlife development.