Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Do Things Differently

If I want things to be different, I must do things differently. The problem with habituation is that it is so comfortable, so familiar, that often it is also undetectable. We do things a certain way because "that is what works", or "that is how I always do it", or we don't even register the fact that we chose to do it or that there are alternatives. Of course for things like washing dishes, driving to work, or getting kids off to school having a routine is important if not imperative. However when we lose track of what we are doing out of habit - flipping on the TV, getting lost in yammering phone conversations, surfing the net - things that get in the way of our life goals, relationships, and creative energy, well then, it is time to Do Things Differently.

Pick one day this week to be your "Observation Day". Pick another day to be your "Do Things Differently Day". And then carve out an hour or so on a day off, presumably the weekend, when you can be alone to write and reflect about what happened.

"Observation Day" is to take note of what you do. Make a list of all of your activities. Write it out: wake up, shower, groom, eat, talk to spouse, radio, TV, drive, work, etc. Identify what you do automatically and how you do it. Observe yourself. Notice how you always (flick the lights on, then coffee, then the dogs go outside). Can you get down to the details?
Just watching yourself will bring a new level of awareness. Also note what makes you mad, happy, irritated, (rain, traffic, favorite song) particularly unexpected things and surprises.

Then, the night before your "Do Things Differently Day", review your list of observations. Pick a few favorites - the things that are really YOU. Begin to imagine doing those things differently. Have you ever written something with your opposite hand? for how long? all day? Can you see yourself taking a different route to or from work? Asking someone else to drive or taking the wheel yourself? Ordering a different morning coffee, or buying one for the person behind you in line? What would happen if...?

The "Do Things Differently Day" dawns and you realize that the universe provides infinite possibilities and instead of doing routine things the same way, today you will do them differently - just for fun. Even if it is less efficient. Even if those who see you as the sum of your habits start to question and even freak out when you show up wearing red, or with your hair slicked back, or you skip lunch to take a walk around the park. Don't over think it, although you can do things that are good for you, you can do things you've put off doing, just do things differently.

At the end of the "Do Things Differently Day", go over your list again and put a check next to things you did differently, put a smile next to those things you had some fun with, put a lightening bolt next to things that felt energizing, and make up your own symbol for any other trend you noticed.

When you can take some time to reflect, sit down at a time and place when you won't be interrupted. Take about an hour. Write about it and keep your hand moving. Even if you write "I don't know what else to write", another thought will arise regarding this experience. Notice what you resisted, what excuses you made for yourself to abandon the exercise, how you returned to it in fits and starts. Don't judge yourself, just observe. See what else comes up for you about what you did, how you did it, and the potential it brings to life.

If we want things to be different in our lives, we have to do things differently. Much of what happens in life is beyond our control - surrender to that. What is within our control, our own behavior and choices, is often given over to habit, numbed out by routine, and avoided due to fear - observe that. Even a small change of a seemingly insignificant task can have a profound effect on our psyche. Try it. Do Things Differently.

Excursions: Recharge Your Creative Spirit

For those of us who live in and around Chicago there never seems to be a shortage of cool places to go and interesting things to do. And yet all too often we find ourselves getting into a rut or a routine, and even when visiting friends and family come to town and demand our services as tour guides, we look to the obvious solutions and end up in the same places.

Recharge your own creative spirit by treating yourself to a solo excursion to a nearby gem, The Elmhurst Art Museum. By going on your own, opportunities arise to explore your own thoughts, soak up the beautiful surrounding park, and enjoy the quiet of the galleries. Creative ideas often emerge from a well prepared mind that is at rest.

The Elmhurst Art Museum is worth seeing no matter what exhibits are on display. The McCormick house, one of only two Mies van der Rohe residential homes, was moved to this site in one of Elmhurst's parks and then the new museum was built onto it. In this way, the home was preserved (and is mainly used as office and meeting space, but visitors can see and experience the house) and the new construction harmonizes with the Mies van der Rohe architectural aesthetic.

The EAM website will allow you to check back about specific exhibits next time you are looking for a great destination for guests. And the museum is only blocks away from Elmhurst’s bustling shopping and eateries. Recharge your own creative spirit by adding The Elmhurst Art Museum to your creative list of destinations; your friends and family will thank you.

Jeff Stevenson: Artist Bio

Jeff Stevenson is a mixed media collage artist with a strong foundation in representational painting. Born in 1962 and creating art ever since he can remember, Stevenson began his career as an artist and educator in earnest in 1988 when he enrolled in Ohio University’s Masters of Fine Art, Painting program. Jeff Stevenson has exhibited his artwork in group and solo shows and has received numerous awards for his work.

In 2006, through his own investigative journey into the subject of creativity, Stevenson developed a college level course, “Enhancing Creativity” that provides opportunities for students to explore their own creativity and to examine the process of creativity as an academic subject. Stevenson has taught studio art classes, art history, and other subjects through Governors State University, Prairie State College, South Suburban College, Columbia College, The Illinois Institute of Art, Chicago, and Ohio University.

Learn more about Jeff through his website: for information about creativity life coaching, art shows, a creativity blog “8crayoncolors”, and more.

Reading List

Pink, Daniel H. A Whole New Mind - Why Right-brainers Will Rule The Future. London, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 2006

Mumaw, Stefan. Oldfield, Wendy Lee. Caffeine for the Creative Mind - 250 Exercises to Wake up Your Brain. Cincinnati, Ohio: HOW Books., 2006

Cameron, Julia. The Artist's Way. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., 1992.

Cameron, Julia. The Vein of Gold - A Journey to Your Creative Heart. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., 1996

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Finding Flow – The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life. New York: Basic Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group., 1997

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Flow - The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Creativity - Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. New York: HarperCollins., 1996

Kimmelman, Michael. The Accidental Masterpiece - On the Art of Life and Vice Versa. New York: Penguin Press., 2005

Maisel, Eric. Coaching the Artist Within. Novato, California: New World Library., 2005

Pagels, Elaine. Beyond Belief - The Secret Gospel of Thomas. New York: Vintage Books., 2003

Pagels, Elaine. The Gnostic Gospels. New York: Vintage Books., 1979

Harris, Sam. The End of Faith - Religion, Terror, and The Future of Reason. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, Ltd., 2004

Gadwell, Malcolm. Blink - The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. New York: Little, Brown and Company, Time Warner Book Group., 2005

Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point - How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.

Tharp, Twyla. The Creative Habit - Learn It and Use It for Life. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks., 2003

Baptiste, Baron. 40 Days to Personal Revolution. New York: Fireside., 2004

Sawyer, Keith. Group Genius - The Creative Power of Collaboration. New York: Basic Books., 2007

May, Rollo. The Courage to Create. New York: Bantam Books., 1975

Vincent, Norah. Self-Made Man - One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back Again. New York: Penguin Group., 2006

Dyer, Wayne W. The Power of Intention - Learning to Co-create Your World Your Way. Carlsbad, California: Hay House., 2004

Enhancing Creativity, Art 504 SS09

The on-line Class Schedule at Governors State University is now available for Spring-Summer 2009. (it does not appear in the paper printed schedule)

ART504 section A, “Enhancing Creativity” is being offered on Monday and Wednesday evenings, 7:30 to 10:20pm June 29th through August 17th. This is a “Block Three” (second session of summer) condensed time frame class meeting twice a week for 7 weeks, however this is a “hybrid” course, meaning that a portion of the class will be conducted on-line reducing the number of on-land class meetings to about once a week.

This class will provide opportunities for students to explore their own creativity by engaging in exercises, activities, and group discussions, and to examine the process of creativity through research, reading lists, and observation. Participants will gain insights and practical knowledge useful for living their own lives more creatively (no matter the profession or occupation), and fostering creativity in others (in classroom and community settings). Models and methods derived from Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” and “Vein of Gold”, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s “Flow- The Psychology of Optimal Experience”, among others, will be utilized.

Students who have taken this class in the past have really enjoyed it. It is a rigorous course of study and we have a lot of fun - there are always pleasant surprises. So, to those of you who haven’t been able to take the class in the past when it was offered during the day, now is your chance! Please pass this on to anyone you think might be interested.

Contact me with any questions you may have.

It is nice to be thinking about summer,

Jeff Stevenson