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How to Overcome Fear! (Part 2 of Fear, Anxiety, and Stress)

This is my second video on Fear, Anxiety, and Stress, How to Overcome Fear!  First, stop and figure out what you have done to overcome fear.  The easiest way I have found to explain how to overcome fear comes from a common phrase, “Face the Fear!”  What does “face the fear” mean?  Face the fear means that we do what makes us afraid, or experience the fear.  If you fear public speaking, you speak in public.  That doesn’t mean that we should face everything (better to leave bears alone!).  Only face things that reduce quality of life.  A psychological word for facing the fear is systematic desensitization.  One common example of systematic desensitization is facing a fear of spiders.  First, we may have the person only think of a spider (progressively thinking about closer spiders and more spiders), then look at a picture of a spider, then a real spider, until finally holding a spider in their hands.  Between each step the person calms down before starting the next.  When we face the fear, in that moment we feel an increased amount of fear, and then afterwards the fear decreases.  As we continue to face the fear, the fear continues to decrease.  But avoiding fear causes the opposite effect, the fear increases.  I personally have faced some of my fears (although by no means am I saying I’m perfect at it).  One challenge for me was posting these videos.  I was nervous to put myself up on the web, but it has gotten easier and easier over time.  My challenge to you is to face one of your fears.   Then help someone else face their fears.  Good luck!

What Is Fear? (Part 1 on Fear, Anxiety, and Stress)

Here’s a new video on the question: what is fear?  This is the beginning of a new series I am doing on fear, anxiety, and stress.  Many people respond to the question (what is fear?) by saying, “Isn’t fear emotion?”  Yes, you are right, fear is emotion. But sadness, anger, and happiness are also emotions.  So then, what is the difference between fear and other emotions?  One of the best ways to look at the purpose of fear is to look at patterns of experiences in our lives.  What is the purpose when we fear things like spiders, heights, accidents, relationships, etc.?  An example I use to explain the purpose of fear is crossing a bear in the forest.  What would you do?  I might run, climb a tree, make noise, whatever I needed to do.  Why?  Because I want to be safe!  So, the purpose of fear is protection from harm.  How about in situations where there is no physical harm, like relationships?  In that case, we desire protection from emotional harm (or sadness).  Knowing that fear is about protection, start looking at your beliefs connected to fear, and look at fear in other peoples’ lives.  (We can all learn a lot from the people around us.)  Stay tuned for part 2: How to Overcome Fear.

Passion in Public Speaking and Teaching

This video is a little bit different from the other videos I have done on emotion.  I was inspired by a speaker I saw at church who had good content, but was boring.

Many people, when speaking, focus on saying what needs to be said–what “should” be said.  The challenge is that relying on “shoulds” takes us away from our passion.

If we are given a topic to speak on or teach about, the “shoulds” can kill us.  At times I have let what I “should” teach dictate my lessons, and they didn’t turn out so good.  When I stopped and found what was important to me, what I was passionate about, then I was able to deliver an excellent lesson.

What can we do if we are given material we are required to teach?  I, for example, don’t like teaching “I” statements (like I feel blank because blank). Instead of just teaching I statements for a class, I can share how I believe “I” statements are not enough, that there must be deeper change within a person.

When you find what you are passionate about, don’t be afraid to show that you are passionate.  Showing what we feel is a risk, but a risk worth taking.  Being willing to share how I feel is a hard lesson I’ve learned over and over again (and will continue to learn).

By removing the shoulds and focusing on what we are passionate about, we will no longer imitate those boring speakers we have all suffered through (and sometimes been).  Go out there, find a purpose, and make a difference!

Creating a Creativity Plan

I always believed I was a creative person, so I never thought about creating a plan to improve my creativity.  I picked up creative strategies I heard and sought out other strategies, but a plan to improve my creativity was not even an afterthought. The last assignment of my creativity class this semester has been to write a plan to improve my creativity this summer.  I was hesitant at first, but the self reflection on my creative abilities has been helpful.  I believe I may actually improve my creative skills, after all it’s about deliberate practice, not just an inborn talent.

Here are my goals to improve my creative abilities:

1.  Elaboration.

The Torrance Test had an influence on me.  I filled out one section of the test for the class and did well on everything but elaboration–how many details I added to my drawings.  I could also improve not closing off my ideas as quickly, but elaboration had the most room for improvement.

If you read my post about the Torrance Test, I actually complained about how much weight was given to elaboration.  After a discussion with my professor, there could be good reason for the weight elaboration holds.  Many of us come up with ideas, but how many of us carry them out.  We are not willing to flesh out the details, and we never get close to a final product.  I’m still not sure that elaboration should have so much weight in the Torrance Test (many graphic design artists are taught to keep their designs simple), but I do know that I can improve on fleshing out my ideas and making them into a reality.

2.  Overcome my fears.

I was reading Awaken Your Creativity by Les Christie and she wrote about the need to overcome our fears.  She divided these fears into a fear of failure and a fear of success.  I believe I fall into both of these types of fear.

My fear of failure may come from a deeper fear that I’m not good enough.  For example, the other day I got a critique on my latest video (which I will post soon), that I say  “um” too much.  I really appreciated getting the comment, but then I started to doubt myself, was I really good enough to make videos for other people?  Who am I to try and help others?  I need a lot of help myself.

I know deep down underneath that my fears are unfounded.  I may not be amazing, like a Tony Robbins, but even he had to start somewhere.  I am only as good as I am and I just have to keep going from here.  How am I going to learn if I am not willing to try.  I know I have concepts to share that have worked for people in therapy.  I also know I have other ideas for software that could help people.  So I have to face my fears of not being good enough and keep going.

I believe I have a fear of being successful much for the same reason I have a fear of being a failure.  When I am successful, I get put in the spotlight and “Where there is light, there will be bugs.”  (quote by Howard Hendricks in Awaken Your Creativity).  If I do well, I will get negative responses, and being a perfectionist, I will fret about those negative responses, about possibly not being good enough.  It is a challenge to be vulnerable (see Brene Brown’s TED talk if you haven’t).  I don’t fear success if I can help people and not get any of the negative feedback, like when I work with clients in a therapy setting.  I tend to get mostly positive, and I appreciate the negative feedback I occasionally get.  Maybe my confidence as a therapist is also stronger and the quantity of positive comments bolsters me.  I have to keep facing my fears in those less confident areas.

3.  Play.

Step Four in Keith Sawyer’s book  Zig Zag:The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity is to “Play: How to Free Your Mind to Imagine.”  I have to admit that my best work is done when I am relaxed and having fun, doing the things I enjoy.  That may be tied to flow theory (Csikszentmihalyi)–having just the right level of challenge, but I believe I can play with things I don’t understand or in areas where I have little skill.

I want to relax and have fun, enjoy my life.  I heard a story (I wish I could remember the speaker’s name) at my brother’s graduation from law school.  The man had made millions on medical technology–very successful–and shared a story about his daughter.  The daughter told him she knew the difference between children and adults.  She said that children wake up excited about the next day and adults do not.  The speaker agreed with his daughter and continued to think about it.  He later thanked his daughter for her thought and said he is trying to wake up excited about the next day.  I want to keep that attitude and as I have fun, improve my creativity.

4.  Hire creative people.

I currently have no need to hire anyone, but I want to start considering how to hire creative people.  I think the normal interview process does not ferret out whether people are creative.  Having reviewed different tests on creativity, I think there may be ways to ask people if they are creative without them suspecting and being dishonest on their evaluation.  Most people in an interview probably would not admit they lack creativity, but if they were drawing and did not know the criterion, creative traits may pop to the surface.  I may do some of the sorting online before the interviewees come to the office.  As I ponder how to hire creative people, my pool of ideas should grow.

These are my creative goals for the summer: 1. Elaboration, 2. Overcome my fears, 3. Play, and 4. Hire creative people.    Hopefully I will see some real improvement in my creativity and more happiness in my life.  I have heard that creativity is the next type of currency in businesses.  As I improve my creativity, we’ll see if that is true.

How to Measure Creativity

Recently, for the class I am taking in creativity, we were asked to use tests to measure creativity.  One of these tests was the Torrance test.  There were also a couple multiple choice tests, one being the Runco Ideational Behavior Scale.

Maybe it’s because I have studied measurement, but I really did not like the tests.  The Runco Ideational Behavior Scale really just told me that I like ideas (which I already knew) and could easily be cheated on (not good for employment purposes).  The Torrance test got a lot of its points from how many details you put on your pictures.  I am not sure why more details should always equal being more creative.  Some of the most creative people have learned the power of simplicity.

I did like how the Torrance test had so many different subcategories.  I never realized there were so many pieces to creativity.  The main categories (according to Wikipedia) were fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration. And I found that I have both strengths and weaknesses.  I am good at originality, but I can work on my elaboration skills.  I love thinking of ideas, but I don’t like to flesh them out.  I guess we all have things to work on creatively.  What do you need to work on?

Carl Jung

There have been many experts that have focused on creativity at some point. Carl Jung, a psychiatrist (before they focused mainly on drugs), was one of these people.  I had heard about Jung’s archetypes (even if I may not completely agree with how those archetypes are created), but not his thoughts on creativity.  Well, now I have.

The thoughts below are a summary of some of Jung’s quotes in the book The Creativity Question, edited by Rothenberg and Hausman.  I also briefly contrast those ideas with the beliefs of other experts.  Jung’s thoughts are pretty heavy, so hopefully I distilled it enough.

Carl Jung focused a lot of archetypes.  An archetype is a pattern that reoccurs in history.  Often archetypes are a certain characters or roles (like the hero, the caregiver, etc.–here’s some more if you’re interested), but they also can be processes.  These archetypes come from the collective unconscious–an aggregation of experiences over many generations that are held in our brains, much like the way instincts are held inside us.  These archetypes are expressed in creativity.  When expressed effectively, archetypes bring emotional experiences for those who view the art.

Jung claims that the purpose of the collective unconscious, expressed as archetypes in art, is to educate nations.  Ideals that are important to the survival of our species, but have been forgotten, are brought out by the artist.  Current examples of this may be seen in the movies that become popular.  Superhero movies have grossed a lot lately; our culture may need more heroes. (Of course, the hero’s journey is always popping up.  That could be taken as either supporting or disproving Jung’s theory; maybe we always need more heroes.)

Jung believed that most creative people stay out of the main stream of society.  Being out of the main stream allows them to pick up on the missing ideals in society.  He also pointed out that many artists throughout history have been strange people.  Van Gogh is a perfect example–everyone loves to cite his cutting off his ear to give to his girlfriend.  These artists educate us through shaping the archetypes in their art and creating emotional experiences for the rest of us.

Carl Jung contrasted a lot with many of the other experts of creativity.  The oldest thoughts on creativity (Socrates) posited that creativity was a divine experience.  The most recent thoughts (Csikszentmihalyi, what a name) on creativity pointed toward the importance of mastery in creativity.  Even though we believe mastery is essential in developing creativity, that does not leave out the possibility of archetypes and the collective unconscious.  Some artists always wonder why an artistic work becomes more popular than another.  The popular work may have captured the archetype needed by society at that moment.  Maybe we are all learning from that popular TV show or the movie we paid $10 to see.  Or maybe the shows are degrading us like many of the psychologists think (or are we watching too many shows from the mainstream of society with no emotional experiences).  Either way, archetypes are a concept that keeps popping up, so it may be worth our creative time to understand them a little better.

Was Steve Jobs Really that Creative?

Task: study a creative person. So who was the first person I thought of? Steve Jobs.  Steve Jobs influenced Apple, Pixar, Disney, and the millions of us that use their products.  Apple made one of the biggest turnarounds in business ever.  But was Steve Jobs really that creative?  I am not so sure anymore.  Here are some of the interesting facts that I found as I browsed his huge Wikipedia article and some other websites.

1. What about their environment enabled them to be so creative?

  • Steve started tinkering with electronics early (deliberate practice)
  • His caligraphy class influenced Apple to use multiple fonts
  • He traveled to India and learned about Zen Buddhism, which contributed to many cross-cultural ideas
  • He lived in the 60s–enough said.
  • He experienced LSD in India, which he said influenced him.  I think LSD would change anyone.

2. Describe how their mind and thinking process works.

  • He was influenced by Zen Buddhism and India.
  • He thought about design, not just creating a product.
  • Steve stuck to deadlines.  A phrase he was known for was “real artists ship.”

3. What personal characteristics contribute to their creativity?

  • Jobs had a cut throat personality, he was more than willing to fire people (and was avoided by employees because of it).
  • He was a perfectionist.
  • He was a persuasive salesman for the company.
  • He was loved and hated (even to the point that he got thrown out of his own company–Apple).

4. What barriers did they have to overcome? Did the constraints help or hinder their creativity? How?

  • Being kicked out of his own company became the best “medicine” for him (cited by three articles in Wikipedia)

5. What is their best piece of advice in encouraging others to be more creative?

6. What did they create (what was the product of their creativity)? How can you know this was creative?

  • iPhone
  • iMac
  • Proponent of Mouse
  • Software (NeXT)
  • Is there any doubt that these products were creative?  Did he actually create them though?

7. Were they born creative? Or did they develop it?

  • I would say that everyone develops it.

On paper, Steve Jobs looks very creative.  But how much did he really develop. Wikipedia again cited an interview with an Apple employee that stated, “Daniel Kottke, one of Apple’s earliest employees and a college friend of Jobs’, stated that ‘Between Woz and Jobs, Woz was the innovator, the inventor. Steve Jobs was the marketing person.'”  He may not have been as creative as people gave him credit.

This may go to show that being creative is only one piece of the puzzle.  We have to get our ideas out there.  Ideas are only worth something if they reach people.

From a psychological perspective, some of Steve Jobs’ traits may point to a lower amount of empathy.  He did not mind hurting people to make things happen.  An article I read recently in Psychology Today talked about how many leaders of businesses are psychopaths.  Psychopaths have low levels of empathy and do not mind hurting people to get what they want.  Steve Jobs may not qualify as a psychopath, but his cut-throat traits created a powerful salesman heading innovative companies.  Wikipedia did point out that he influenced some of his designs, but influencing people was his true talent.