The heart of the entrepreneurial spirit begins with the seed of a creative idea. Entrepreneurs have the gift of nurturing the seed till it flowers and then produces fruit. The process of growing, harvesting, pruning, and planting is continuous -- just like running a business, or the journey of life.
But what happens when your creativity feels stifled, latent, or simply off-the-mark? The essence of entrepreneurs is fed by cutting edge, outside-the-box innovation.
If your creativity feels parched, it's time to take a hard look at your emotional intelligence.
In my last article I outlined the criteria of Emotional Intelligence:
- Emotional Awareness,
- Emotional Management,
- Emotional Relating, and
- Emotional Enlightenment.
I touched on the importance of practicing emotional awareness by learning to tune in more to what you're feeling and how you respond to particular situations.
Making a list of your personal values, slowing down in the moment, and consciously choosing your emotional reaction can all contribute to becoming emotionally aware.
Let's examine how emotional awareness affects your creativity.
As entrepreneurs and natural leaders, we wear a lot of hats and juggle multiple balls (especially female entrepreneurs). It's only a matter of time before these responsibilities begin to erode the creative spirit. Stress, fear, frustration, and the never-ending list of tasks can overwhelm the most successful business person. It's usually easy to pinpoint the problem(s) sabotaging our creativity.
So what's the solution, and how can emotional awareness help?
Becoming emotionally aware requires time and commitment, especially for those of us to whom it doesn't come naturally. Just like any new skill, we need to work at it to improve. Reading about it is merely the first step. Putting it into practice requires some toughness. Keep this in mind as you read the following tips to unblock your creative arteries:
1. Retreat. Ideally, set aside one day a month (or at least a quarter) to unplug. The constant electronic barrage of information and communication distracts us more than we realize. Once you're unplugged, go somewhere that invigorates you, preferably alone. Take a walk, wander downtown, go for a hike, do yoga -- you get the idea.
Carry a notebook and pen with you. Sit somewhere (park bench, coffee shop, etc.) quietly for an hour and observe what's going on around you. Use all your senses, not just your eyes and ears. Jot down your thoughts as the moment moves you. Or wait till the end of your retreat and write a reflection of the day. You may be surprised what bubbles to the surface as a result of your unplugged retreat.
2. Be intentional. You need to seek opportunities to grow in this area. Take a hard look at your daily or weekly schedule and figure out how and where you can build in time for emotional awareness. Can you wake up 15 minutes early to meditate or journal? What about incorporating a daily meditative walk? Or treating yourself to a solo lunch date?
A theme is emerging here: alone time. If you don't purposely carve out time to be self-reflective, your emotional awareness can't fully develop and your creativity won't percolate.
3. Cultivate habits. We make time and repeat actions for things that are important to us. It's not enough to read about it, talk about it, and simply make plans. Implementation and consistency are the challenge. Consider how you spend your time in a typical workday or week. How you spend your time reflects your values. If you're dissatisfied with this ratio, it's time for a change.
Remember the bottomless motivation and creativity that spurred you on to start your business? You channeled that fire into useful habits, which in turn bred success. If you're serious about improving your emotional awareness and tapping into your creativity, discipline yourself to foster just one habit that builds space for this.
4. Practice to strengthen. Have you ever completed a marathon or achieved some other physical feat? Most of us understand that physical challenges require training to get our muscles and heart in shape. Otherwise, we're foolishly risking injury that can take weeks or months to recover from. Training for a marathon requires dedication to build your strength and endurance.
Our emotional intelligence must be strengthened with training and practice. Just like a muscle, emotional awareness will atrophy without a workout. For lifelong emotional strength, we need to exercise our self-awareness consistently. So, be intentional about taking your retreat and cultivating your habits. And keep practicing! No one gets it on the first attempt.
Try implementing these tips to improve your emotional awareness and boost your creativity. You may be pleasantly surprised with the new, energized direction your business takes you.
Have you tried these tips? Do they work for you? What else do you do to boost your creativity? Please comment to share what you have found to work.