Creativity is an attribute that plays a substantial role in our ability to differentiate ourselves. In whatever you do, there’s a need to be creative.

While certainly some people are more creative than others, there are a number of practical things we can do to increase our capacity to be creative.

{ I’ve temporarily removed the video, apparently the audio and video was out of sync… I’ll upload it again once fixed }

1.  Take a nap. Einstein used to do this, short napping, to tap into his more creative subconscious. I usually find 20 min is sufficient. Then when my phone alarm goes off, I turn it off, but remain stationary, and allow my mind to play in that semi-dream state, one level short of lucid dreaming.

2. Take a walk. The exercise increases blood flow and oxygen delivery to the dentate gyrus, a vital constituent of the hippocampus in the brain, which is deeply involved in memory and cognition. Increased blood-flow here allows more brain cells greater access to glucose, the brains main energy supply. Even though it only accounts for about 2% of our body weight, the brain consumes 20% of the body’s total energy. When working hard, it uses more energy per unit of tissue weight than a fully exercising quadricep. The problem is, there’s a feedback system that tells us when our quad is fatigued (it burns), but not one that tells us when our mind is fatigued, or out of energy, other than diminished cognition, which we’re often quick to bemoan, but slow to identify.

Coincidentally, on a molecular level, exercise also stimulates the brains most powerful growth factor, BDNF (Bran Derived Neurotrophic Factor), which aids in the development of healthy tissues (neurogenesis) particularly inside the hippocampus.

3.  Change environments. Far too often our mental (particularly our creative) output becomes conditioned to our environment. After thinking the same ways while being in the same spot over a long period of time, it becomes increasingly difficult to have original thoughts in that same environment. That’s why so many will have “off-site” meetings in order to stimulate creative thought. I find that even just sitting somewhere else, or rearranging my desk/office actually helps.

4. Be Happy. A study was done recently where people were brought into a room, one by one and asked to connect two strings, each hanging from opposite walls. The walls were far enough apart that you couldn’t hold one string and reach the other. They couldn’t do it. The second set of individuals, before entering the room, were given a gift that delighted them. They were able to do it. Enjoyment, happiness, elation, etc. causes release of dopamine into the prefrontal cortex, encouraging thought breadth (rather than depth) and increasing our abilities to think creatively.

For this reason, businesses having “off-site” meetings, will often give gifts before they begin… you just gotta get that squirt of dopamine!

What methods do you use to boost your creativity?

Rusty
Life-engineering.com

Note:  Thank you for being here.  Remember, you matter, and you can make a difference.  Please share this post with someone else, and come back for more.

No I don’t mean litterally. Let me clarify, I literally DID shave my own head bald (just watch the video), but I don’t mean that you should shave your own head, unless of course you really want to. But metaphorically speaking, if there’s something you’ve been wanting to do, but have been held back for some reason or another, just go do it.

Below you’ll find why I decided to shave my head, and why you should too (p.s. if you’re just here to see my bald mug, skip forward to 8:11):

[youtube oS0BstEGNWo 488]

Life-Engineering principles from the video:

I’ll be exploring more context around each of these principles over the next couple of days, I hope you’ll come back to check it out. Otherwise, I’ll see you on my next video presentation.

In the meantime – go do it.

Rusty

Life-Engineering.com is a blog dedicated to the practice of, well, engineering your life. This is a place where you can come to regain confidence in your own potential, and to discover and discuss real principles and practices that will enable you to enact meaningful and enduring change in your life.

Please share this site with others, so they too can come and experience the power of change.

I’m a big fan of O.C. Tanner’s philosophy around what they call the “Carrot Culture” (see here), the idea that you can help people realize their greatest potential through recognition and appreciation.

On their website (here) is a quick video introduction which is worth watching. But here is the text:

Each of us is born with a gift. An ear for music. A knack for science. A flare for writing. For a time, these seeds of genius lie dormant within us, and then it happens. With a mark on a page, or a comment with a smile, someone we trust appreciates a task well done. And appreciation changes everything. It awakens our gift from slumber, and makes it real. Talent becomes expertise. Potential becomes performance.

We look around and see possibilities everywhere, in everything, and we’re inspired, to invent, to create, to discover, to change the world. All because someone appreciated our potential. Then the real epiphany comes. The fastest way we can change the world is to appreciate the potential in those around us.

Because to appreciate doesn’t just mean to notice, to value, and to understand, it means to grow.

Rusty

There are vast amounts of things we consume on a daily basis. Your emails, your texts, your phone calls, TV time, the blogs you follow, the news you watch, every post on every RSS feed you’ve subscribed to, all of the friend requests, or the connection requests, or the posts on your wall, or the photos that get shared to you, or any of the many other things that vie for your attention.

It’s a ridiculously overwhelming amount of content. The advent of the internet, the explosion of blogs, and the numerous technology devices present all of this content in a rich and engaging way, even when we’re mobile.

The problem is that it’s preventing production. We’re so busy consuming, trying to “keep up” (forget staying ahead) that there’s simply little to no time to actually create.

Creation is suffering extinction as consumption siphons every last discretionary minute.

One of my favorite business and marketing bloggers, Seth Godin (who actually blogs quite a lot about productivity and life in general), posted today a similar topic – that every 18 months or so, for the last decade, the data that gets pushed to you is roughly doubled.

His question? Where does that leave you?

There comes a time when you just have to turn off the spigot. Stop consuming, and start creating. What you’ll find, when that happens, is an increase in how engaged you are with life. You’ll find more lasting fulfillment, greater happiness, more purpose, greater clarity, and what’s more, you’ll be leaving a legacy.

In the end, nobody will care what, or how much you consumed. What will matter, what will be remembered, is what, and how much you created.

So turn off the spigot and go create something.

Rusty

Image courtesy rockrunride

On August 5th, 1620, the Pilgrims set out for America on two ships, the Speedwell and the Mayflower. You’ve likely never heard of the Speedwell, and for good reason. She never made it.

Once the 60 ton ship got out into open water, she started taking on water. Discouraged, both ships returned to dartmouth to be refitted, but they could find nothing wrong. They then embarked on their second attempt, and sailed almost 100 leagues before she started to leak again.

This time, they returned to Plymouth, crowded onto the Mayflower, and left the Speedwell behind.

As it turns out, the mast and sail were too large for the ship’s structure to handle. Once it hit the open water and the strong winds, the torque from the sail and mast was so great that it created separation between the planks, allowing water to pour through.

And so, the ship missed it’s opportunity to live in history as the companion to the Mayflower on this momentous voyage.

There are times in our lives, when we will be called into action, when we will be required to move, when the opportunity to do something great will lie before us.

The question, is whether or not we’ll be strong enough, prepared enough, to act. Will the structural integrity of our core be sufficient to handle the demands of the moment?

The point is not to avoid life’s challenges, but rather prepare ourselves for them, in every way possible, so that when they arise, we’re ready for the challenge.

This kind of preparedness happens incrementally, over time. The key is that you have to start. Decide today to be just a little stronger, to work just a little harder, to improve just a little bit, in some meaningful way. If you can do that every day of your life, or even just most days, then you’re sure to be ready to meet the challenges of life when they come.

Challenges are inevitable, and you have no control over them. What you do have control over, is your strength and ability to rise to the challenge.

As Walt Witman quipped in his poem “A Psalm of Life

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow
is our destined end, or way
but to act, that each tomorrow
find us farther than today.

Rusty

The dashboard on my Yukon Denali XL (XL stands for extra long – to fit my 6 kids) has been displaying the message “Service Ride Control”. It’s been that way for 6 months now.

Yes, I’m a bit embarrassed about how slow I’ve been to service my ride control, whatever that means.

I finally took it in to see what was going on, in preparation for an upcoming road trip.

Apparently, these new-fangled cars (it’s not that new) have this thing called adaptive ride control, or something like that. Essentially, there’s an air compressor that attaches to the tires and senses the air pressure. When you’re driving, and you hit a rough patch, it automatically reduces tire pressure to increase traction. Lower tire pressure helps the tires absorb more of the rough terrain, allowing more of the tire to be on the ground, and creating a smoother ride. Then, once you’ve stabilized, it increases air pressure so there’s less absorption, resulting in better ride quality.

“Wow, my car does that?” was my response. “Well, not currently” was the reply, “your compressor is broken, but we can replace it for $700”.

After coughing and groaning at the figure, I was left to ponder the wonderful metaphor.

Like my car, sometimes you hit a rough patch in life. When you do, you need to adapt and adjust dynamically, “on the fly” so to speak. You need to increase your tolerance (absorb more of the blows), and don’t let yourself take the bumps too hard (or seriously).

If you realize that rough patches just happen, and that you can’t control when they hit, or how hard they hit, or how long they last, it gives you a certain perspective. Appreciating their inevitability helps you take them in stride, not letting them hit you so hard, nor jar you off course.

Increasing your tolerance, or your ability to accept those blows, helps you keep traction so you can continue to move forward, and smoothes the ride.

But then when things smooth out, you can lower your tolerances again, expect more out of yourself, push yourself harder, and be less forgiving about slip-ups. That way when life is smoothest, you can go faster and farther, getting the most leverage out of the relative ease of the terrain.

But remember, there will still be rough patches ahead, and when you hit them, be ready to adapt again until you work through them.

A rigid, non-adaptive approach to life only increases the likelihood of losing control in a rough patch, and can make for a really bumpy ride.

Perhaps it’s time to service your ride control.

Rusty

Angela Duckworth and Martin Seligman from the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania recently released a research article titled “Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents”.

The article (here) found that “self-discipline predicted academic performance more robustly than did IQ”.

Highly self-disciplined adolescents outperformed their more impulsive peers on every academic-performance variable, including report-card grades, standardized achievement-test scores, admission to a competitive high school, and attendance. Self-discipline measured in the fall predicted more variance in each of these outcomes than did IQ, and unlike IQ, self-discipline predicted gains in academic performance over the school year.

As you can see from the chart, while having a higher IQ may give you a slight edge to begin with, good old hard work wins out in the end.

Now this study only investigated the correlation of self-discipline and academic achievement. In terms of life, and for the ultimate success formulae, you’ll want to mesh self-discipline and hard work with aptitude and opportunity.

That’s where the COP model comes in (read about the COP model on my post here). The COP model helps you determine your sweet spot, that area of focus where you’re most inclined to succeed.

Intertwine these two principles, and you’ll be setting yourself up for sure success.

Either way, it’s encouraging, to me, how such simple measures like attitude, perseverance, self-discipline and good ‘ol fashioned hard work tend to be such efficient equalizers.

Not too long ago my family was gathering around the kitchen table as we got ready for dinner. I can’t remember now what exactly I had done, but I remember doing something stupid. This is not an altogether unusual experience in my home. Jokingly I exclaimed “Ah man, I’m so stupid”.

Thinking this was more of a funny, rhetorical statement, I was surprised when one of my kids instantly, and consolingly retorted “Dad, you’re not stupid… you just act stupid”.

Uh, thanks. I think.

Still, as I reflect on his profound “encouragement”, I think he may just have got it right. At least as it pertains to parenthood.

I think that, at least in general, we’re not stupid. But sometimes we sure act that way. Sometimes, we act like we don’t know any better.

While we often find ourselves doing stupid things (things we’d later reflect back on in utter dismay), often it’s less because of what we do, and more because of what we don’t do.

It comes from a casual attitude, from laziness, and apathy.

It’s just so easy to let life go by, with no effort to shape it. Suddenly your kids are 8, then 13, then 16, and 19, and it all just went by, and we just watched it, like it was playing out on some big TV screen.

If you were to ask yourself, or even force yourself to write down a list of all the principles you hope to teach them before they leave home, a list of all you want them to know, of all the experiences you want them to have, of all the experiences you want them to NOT have, of all the memories you want to create, of all the memories you want to avoid… how well would you be tracking against your list? How actively are you ensuring these things happen? They certainly don’t happen by themselves.

But it’s your family! And it’s under attack. Society itself totally undervalues the family. I still marvel at the fact that anybody can have a baby and start a family, but I have to have a license to catch a fish.

But the family is the core unit of society, and we have to make our families stronger.

I believe there are three primary steps to strengthening your family.

1. You find your family when you lose yourself.

One of the single greatest barriers to building strong families is simply that it’s difficult, it takes effort, commitment, and endurance. As anything of value does. So the only practical way to invest what is required is with personal commitment to overcome selfishness – that self-centered focus that all too often preoccupies our thoughts, time, and energy, and prevents us from observing our families, measuring our progress, and engaging to make them stronger.

You have to realize, with complete and absolute clarity, the importance of the work to which you have been called.

As parents we have a divinely sacred stewardship, called to raise the choicest of our Fathers spirits. Spirits which have been saved from the foundation of the world until now. Spirits which have been sent to fight a mighty battle against a common adversary preparatory to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. A battle for which we have been called to prepare them. But are we?

Our children will be our most important converts.

The Lord has revealed: “If it so be that… ye bring save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father. And now if your joy will be great with one soul… how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me.”

Mothers, the sacred trust God our Father must have in you as the primary caregiver leaves me in awe. Fathers, we must remember that no amount of success can compensate for failure in the home.

If we can arm ourselves with that sobering realization and perspective, commitment and resolve naturally follow.

In line with this is the profound importance of personal righteousness. The more closely your life is sculpted after the pattern of our Savior, the more apparent will be the changes you need to make in your life and with your family, and the more natural those changes will come.

2. Fortify your family

The inspired military leader Moroni established an example of such fortification over 2000 years ago on the ancient American continent. He cast up walls around his sacred cities, protecting them from their adversary and severing themselves from the dangers of total exposure. These walls have recently been discovered by archeologists still intact, having endured all these years.

These fortifications protected these city’s inhabitants from their adversary, guarding them against the dangers of total exposure.

In like manner, we must our families by erecting barriers and boundaries to protect us from our adversary, boundaries that prevent total exposure to things that would cause us harm.

Spiritual fortification comes from daily family scripture study and family prayer. From teaching your children eternal principles, and acceptable standards as found in For The Strength of Youth. From dedicated devotion to Monday night as family night. It can even come from the simple yet inspired practice of family mealtime.

Spiritual fortification also comes from severing our exposure to the adversary, and that, in large part, is through moderation of media.

One of the direct products of passive parental behavior running rampant in our society, is the quantity of media our children consume.

Research shows that the average American household has 2.55 people, and 2.73 televisions. The average American child consumes 40 hours of media per week. The average 8 year old has already watched more hours of television than they’ll ever have talking to their fathers over their entire life. Who then has the most lasting impact in that child’s life? The average teenager will spend almost twice as much time in front of the television as they will in a school classroom by the time they graduate from high school.

(for much more information on research of the impact of media in our homes, see the “Strengthening our families” pamphlet).

The Lord sets forth a standard in the Word of Wisdom, which we tend to view as a temporal law. But the Lord has revealed “Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal.”

It doesn’t teach us about food, it teaches us about consumption. Consumption in moderation, wholly avoiding consumption of ALL things that would cause us harm.

If I gave you a recipe that called for cocaine in the ingredients, you would immediately discard it. You wouldn’t even think twice.

Yet baked into nearly every program, on every channel at every hour, are the ingredients of the adversary. Sex and drugs, violence and greed, complacency and addiction… the philosophies of men and the standards of the world.

It’s not even masked anymore. It’s there without obscurity. It’s part of the ingredients. And advertisements are just marinated in it. Yet somehow, with this medium, unlike with food, we find ways excuse it, even to justify it. Partially because it’s so effective at tending our kids.

Isaiah, who saw our day, submitted the most accurate description of today’s media. “Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter”.

Cunningly crafted and brilliantly packaged, the television is an open conduit that pushes these destructive ingredients directly into the minds of our children.

I just can’t figure out how you can fortify your family against the adversary with the television on.

So I encourage you to just turn it off, as we have. We got rid of our television entirely and cancelled our cable subscription, recovering almost $80 a month that we can now instead invest in books, games, and activities. Wholesome things done together, as a family.

When we did this, our kids grades went up, they found a love in books, all ages EVEN TEENAGERS (and we have 6 kids). We have books in every room. I regularly walk into a room and find the littlest kids all sitting on the couch listening intently as an older sibling reads a book to them. Even our 6 year old daughter, who doesn’t read much, will sit down with our 1 year old and our 3 year old, and flip through picture books with them, making up stories to go along with the pictures.

And even though they’re so young, they will just sit and listen, for 30-45 minutes (or as long as the older sibling is willing). What a wonderful sight that is for a parent.

They play better together, get along better, help each other more, and they have longer attention spans. My 8 year old’s grades improved and whereas he was struggling with reading, he’s now top in his class in reading and math (another topic he struggled with).

They haven’t become social outcasts because they aren’t level 40 wizards on World of Warcraft, or because they don’t know what Glee is, or who got kicked off American Idol. Instead, we find they have more social strengths because they have more practice socializing.

They have more confidence, and stronger testimonies, because they’ve recovered those precious quiet moments. Those opportunities for thought and reflection, those opportunities to hear the still small voice, which is otherwise muted by the constant stream of images and audio.

Turning off the TV was difficult. It took a couple long months before we became totally acclimated to our new lifestyle. But now life is so much easier, because of the positive effects this change has had within our home.

Moderating media, or simply turning it off altogether, is crucial to strengthening our families.

But whatever you choose to do, choose to fortify your family.

3. Be anxiously engaged.

There are so many good things to do together, especially with time freed by placing greater restrictions on media, or by eliminating it all together. Sometimes, in moments of boredom, it’s difficult conjure up something entertaining AND constructive, which frequently drives us back to the television.

But there are vast amounts of things we can do, and lots of places to get ideas. On the last page of the pamphlet “Strengthening your family” is a list of “101 (or more) things to do when you turn off the TV”. It’s just a quick list to spark ideas.

Each of them are activities you can do together.

Family activities create powerful and lasting memories. They develop strong, meaningful relationships among siblings and with you as parents. It and can also be the platform for teaching great lessons about eternal principles or other important concepts about life.

I recommend you tailor projects to your children. Just as a good manager learns his employees strengths and tailors their jobs to leverage those skills, parents can follow this same managerial mindset to create incredible projects of lasting value.

Last summer, I had an idea to give each of my older kids a job such as this, tailored specifically to their own interests. I had one child who was passionate about inventing. So I got him a bunch of stuff he could use to invent something, and told him I’d buy the invention from him at the end of summer, if it met certain guidelines that I outlined for him.

I had another who had a lot of fun making a movie out of photos for his football team. I told him if he made and produced a family movie from our vast digital photo album, I’d buy it from him at the end of the summer. The pay was determined by the length and quality of the production.

Another child, who is incredibly creative, was given the project to write and illustrate his own book, which I would then purchase from him at the end of summer.

None of these tasks were mandatory, each were voluntary, but because they were things that interested them, they got engaged with them. It occupied their free time, it gave them something constructive to do, built valuable skills, and became a rewarding experience, not to mention they were able to learn the value and association of work with reward.

In conclusion, I want to share my personal testimony of the importance of our families.

Growing up I had 4 fathers. I had two mothers. I experienced three divorces. Had three separate sets of siblings. I had no stability for most of my childhood. I moved 8 times. I was surrounded by all the wrong substances. We experienced a substantial amount of poverty, sometimes living for extended durations on seed meal, bread, and water. But more than just temporal poverty I experienced spiritual poverty. But I was fortunate to have been removed from that environment and placed into a strong family, a family that taught me correct principles, that provided an example of love and engagement.

And now I have an incredible family of my own. A beautiful wife and 6 unbelievable children. I’ve been blessed to walk both paths in life, to experience both ends of the spectrum. My life experiences has given me incredible insight as to the importance of the family, and our role as parents in making our families strong.

It is my testimony that we must do what we must do. That we must forget ourselves, fortify our families, and be engaged. As parents, we have been called to create those bastions of paradise we call families, in the sacred environment we call home.

I testify that we have been called and chosen of God, and have a sacred obligation to be proactive in our responsibilities, to magnify this, our greatest calling.

Let not negligence condemn us. Rather, let us be engaged, and galvanize our families that the fabric of our society might be strengthened, that our children might know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins, and grow up walking in the light of truth.

Rusty

The other day I had the opportunity to speak at my church’s stake conference (a large regional meeting of latter-day saints), and have since been frequently asked about the material I covered.

There are two resources I wanted to make available, the first is the downloadable pamphlet I spoke about called “Tips for Strengthening our Families”.

This covers much of the research regarding the impact of media on our families, as well as 101 (or more) suggestions and ideas about what to do when you turn off your TV (we got rid of ours entirely, and now don’t even own one).

Also available is the actual talk I gave. This is available in text format here, although since it’s been requested, I’ll likely make it available in video format soon.

Both of these resources are available at www.Life-Engineering.com/family. I’ll also be adding additional resources there regarding life-engineering for families.

For context for those who were not there, I spoke on the importance of strengthening our families, the foundational unit of our society. If you’ve read my “about me” page, you’ll know why I feel so strongly about this.

I outline three primary steps to strengthening your family:

  1. You’ll find your family when you lose yourself
  2. Fortify your family
  3. Be anxiously engaged

Within the “Fortify your family” section, I delve extensively into the importance of media moderation, and share some frightening statistics regarding the impact of media on our children.

There are obviously many more ways in which we can strengthen our families, and this page (life-engineering.com/family) will become dedicated to exploring life-engineering principles centered around strengthening and building your family.

Each post/topic will be open for comments with the hope that many will choose to share their own ideas, what they’ve found works, and what doesn’t, what fears they have, and so that we all can engage in a constructive dialogue that will benefit all.

Rusty

Engagement. It’s a measure of how emotional you are about something, how much you care, how involved you are, and how active you are in its pursuit.

Being engaged is crucial to being productive. An employee who is engaged will work far harder, and accomplish far more than one who is disengaged. Unfortunately, engagement at work is rare.

A recent Gallup poll, based on more than 30 years of behavioral economic research with more than 12 million employees, showed that 50% of all American workers aren’t engaged in their careers. And 20% are actively disengaged.

Gallup’s estimation of the cost of this lack of engagement? More than $300,000,000,000 a year. Three… hundred… billion… dollars. As Author Daniel H. Pink states in his book “Drive”, that’s more than the entire gross domestic product of Portugal, Singapore, or Israel.

How does this come to be?

It’s easy to blame managers and leaders within these organizations. Blame them for failing to keep their employees involved, for constructing environments that don’t give people autonomy crucial to engagement (autonomy over task, time, team, and technique). And certainly, in many instances, they are to blame.

But how is it that so many employees continue day in and day out to settle? To settle for jobs or careers that don’t motivate or inspire them?

Comfort and security are often some of the strongest reasons people are held within the gravitational pull of these environments.

But recently, psychologists have begun to understand some of the more important ramifications of disengagement on your emotional and psychological well being.

What they’ve found is that engagement leads to flow. Flow describes those moments when you are so engaged in what you’re doing that you lose all sense of self, all sense of time, all sense of everything, and are wholly, utterly consumed in your focus.

It turns out that your level of happiness is usually directly proportional to the frequency with which you experience flow in your life.

Amongst a number of experiments they conducted, was one where they required that people stop doing the things they enjoyed, just for a week. They only made it a couple of days before they had to call off the experiment because the test subjects were becoming so depressed. They complained about lack of energy, feeling lethargic, lack of enthusiasm, depression, even headaches.

The simple state of being in “flow” is therapeutic not just for your productivity and emotional well being, but for your mental capacity as well.

Those who find themselves regularly, anxiously engaged in a cause that matters to them, are happier and healthier. They have more energy, more enthusiasm for life, more purpose, and better perspective.

And while I’m a huge fan of doing what you love, and loving what you do, when it comes to work, there are ways you can introduce flow into your life without having to change careers.

Sports and exercise are one of the surest methods, that hold the wonderful side effect of keeping you fit and healthy. There are games, conversations, social groups and settings, or even just a good book or a good movie.

Whatever strategies you choose, make sure that you’re anxiously engaged in a good cause. You’ll be happier and more productive for it.

Rusty