Creatively Planning for a Season With Many Unknowns

Question Mark - PuzzleAs we move into the official summer months of 2020, our normal anticipation is drastically changed. Things that we typically spend time doing, whether for adults or children, may be cancelled or modified – or still have unknown status.  Plans we had made or things we anticipated doing are questionable or changed. Some things that are available may not feel safe yet. And things could revert back to more restrictions if the infection rates rise too much with re-opening. It’s very hard to plan right now.

This has at times paralyzed me – I don’t know how to look forward, even to the next 3 months. So I often go from day to day feeling numb. Have you had that experience?  What can we do?

Creativity in this situation is important and needed.  Yet we may feel as though we have used up a lot of our creative potential just getting through the past 3 months. Managing just the maintenance of daily life – especially if there are children in the household – has required lots of innovation.

How can we re-activate our creative juices as we edge into the summer months with few of the normal anchors and expectations?

I suggest mind mapping as a tool that can release creativity and engage the entire household. Mind mapping is a two-dimensional technique that uses imagery, drawings and color to help us tap into both sides of our brains. It is an alternative to the outline and list making techniques we often use. This powerful tool helps us visualize tasks or ideas, come up with new possibilities as we brainstorm, and organize our thoughts.

Mind Map

 

Basics of Mind Maps

Here are the steps to do simple, hand-drawn mind maps.

  • Gather plain paper, colored pencils, markers, or crayons.
  • Choose a topic you want to explore.
  • Draw a circle in the center of the paper and write in your topic in a word or phrase.
  • Draw lines out from the center where you write a few words, a symbol or drawing for each idea you have, and add sub-topics or related ideas in lines off these main points.

Include all the ideas no matter how absurd they may seem. Here’s where a new perspective or angle may reveal itself.

Make additional maps as off-shoots or expansions of your first map. You can expand, modify or discard ideas from the first map on the topic.

An Example of a Summer Mind Map

Start with the main topic of “Summer 2020” and think of several categories of things you want to be part of the season, like:

Accomplish 1 Big Goal, Have Fun/Recreation, Help Others, Explore, Read, Start a New Hobby

These are the spokes that come out from your main topic. Then add specific things that you want to do under each. For example, under Help Others, you might list Deliver flowers or a treat to a neighbor, Call an isolated relative weekly, etc.

Then start a new mind map for each subtopic, add the ideas as subtopics and think of how, when and who would be involved in each one. Here’s where you may weed out things you don’t want to do, and you can always add additional things that come to mind.

Mind maps become a planning tool that are good reminders of the larger picture and help keep track of details. Keeping your mind maps in a folder or binder is helpful.

This summer is going to be unusual and unique in so many ways. Your household can thrive in the midst of it with creativity and innovation. As things change, regroup with new mind maps. Flexibility and creativity are the keys to having an enjoyable season in the midst of the continual changes.

 

If you’d like to read more about mind-mapping, I have some previous blog posts here:

https://carolbrusegar.com/mind-mapping-enhances-innovative-thinking/

https://carolbrusegar.com/transforming-years-after-50-introducing-mind-mapping-multi-purpose-tool/

If you really want to learn about mind mapping from the originator of the technique, Tony Buzan published this just a couple of years ago. It’s a distillation of global research that has happened in the 5 decades since he first created this technique.

Mind Map Mastery: The Complete Guide to Learning and Using the Most Powerful Thinking Tool in the Universe 

Mind Map Book - Buzan

BACK TO NORMAL OR CREATE A NEW NORMAL WHEN THE CRISIS ABATES?

normal or new normalWhat happens when quite suddenly the normal parts of our lives simply STOP or are drastically changed? When work stops or changes? When family patterns are disrupted? When income changes? When our usual recreational activities are halted? When we are separated from normal family and social interaction?

Many of us, after that, have found ourselves actually wanting a NEW, a different normal when we come out on the other side of this. Some of the new normal will be beyond our control. Other things may be chosen or created by us.

Questions

Questions, as is often the case, can open up new things to consider. I found a series of questions posed to his employees by a CEO of a major company in India.* Perhaps you have thought about similar things. For example:

  • “How can we continue to unburden our environment in the future? (Have you seen some of the photos and statistics about how air pollution has changed in some locations during this time of shutdown?)
  • Can we use transport more efficiently?
  • Can we travel less and leave less of a carbon footprint?
  • Can we increase the use of long-distance ways of meeting and communication to work more efficiently and enhance our work life balance?
  • Essentially, can we reboot our personal and professional way of life?”

We may be noticing some of the gaps and weaknesses in the way the country operates while we go through this experience.

  • The inequality of our health care system is certainly being highlighted.
  • As school systems are going to online learning in elementary, middle and high schools, we are hearing about the gap of technology availability within schools and among students of different financial situations.
  • There is a broader technology gap regionally and urban versus rural.
  • The vulnerability of people to this virus in group settings like nursing homes and long-term care facilities and correctional institutions has been highlighted. Are there options that are better for health and safety?

Perhaps we are seeing needs for new structures and services to better meet the needs of individuals and families – more flexibility in how we do our jobs, different kinds of childcare, schools that interact and function differently.  What are you seeing?

New Visions, Values and Priorities?

If we have come out of this experience with new visions, values and priorities for our personal/family lives, for our communities, country and world, it is up to us to be the advocates and activists for those things. We can use the tools of our technology to connect with individuals and groups who are also wanting things to be different. We can help to create the new normal that comes after this.

As things are disrupted by the pandemic, this may be a time when positive changes are more possible than when things are more solidified.  You may find some ideas and inspiration in this book: A Finer Future, Creating an Economy in Service to Life. The authors are world leaders in business, economics and sustainability who have gathered environmental economics evidence, and outlined principles of a regenerative economy, along with a policy road map to achieve it.

 

*Read more about Anand Mahindra and his letter to his employees here: https://www.livemint.com/companies/people/anand-mahindra-tells-employees-to-take-a-relook-at-life-prepare-for-post-corona-world-11585816739150.html

Who Else Feels Life is Getting More and More Surreal?

Who Else Feels Life is Getting More and More Surreal?
surreal
Surreal: “resembling a dream; fantastic and incongruous”

Yes, that’s how I feel these days. Somehow just about everything is different. Is it real?? An 88 year-old friend says she’s never experienced anything like this. And that says a lot.

Whether it’s increased isolation of seniors living alone or in assisted living facilities or nursing homes, or students whose sports and musical competitions are being cancelled, or parents struggling to make arrangements for their children when schools close for periods of time, it hardly seems real.

As with so many things in life, balance is important. Neither listening constantly to media about the outbreak nor ignoring it entirely are advisable. Find and use a trusted source for information and advice. Many advise that our bottom line sources should be the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html) or your state health department. If the media sources you are using don’t refer to those sources, check elsewhere.

Beyond the precautions being recommended, I suggest considering these additional things:

  • Establish some personal and/or household intentions about how you will come through this challenge. They may have to do with accomplishments, relationships among you and with others, future plans or other areas you may
  • Look at ways to make positive use of the restrictions. It is all too easy to slip into fear, anxiety, depression, or a combination of them all because of the changes. How can we use the additional time at home in ways that lift our spirits and other people’s spirits? This includes staying in contact and increasing contact through phone calls, cards, letters, online contact (Face Time, Skype, Facebook, etc.) with others who are feeling isolated and depressed. I think particularly of those older people at home alone or in nursing homes or care facilities.
  • Think of things you and others in your household enjoy doing or want to do at home but never seem to have time for. Reading, watching movies, listening to each others’ favorite music, playing board games and art/crafts are always good. How about setting up some challenges around these or other activities to provide something to work toward? This is a more positive way to think about this rather than just “filling time.”
  • Take on tasks and projects that have been put off over and over. These can become challenges to complete and see as accomplishments during this time. The obvious ones are cleaning out and arranging closets and garages. You may gather things to be given away to others or contributed to organizations helping those in need. It may be rearranging rooms or special cleaning projects. Writing and posting a list of the things you will do from the above suggestions where you can see it and check off accomplishments as well as add new ideas is useful.
  • Journaling during this time can be very helpful. Reflecting on our situation and how we handle it will both record these times for the future and help each of us work through our feelings, challenges and frustrations. Writing is so powerful; take time to do it yourself and encourage others to do the same.
  • Practice Hygge principles. Although Hygge is often connected with surviving winter in cold climates, the principles have to do with creating “a quality of coziness (= feeling warm, comfortable, and safe) that comes from doing simple things such as lighting candles, baking, or spending time at home with your family.” You can read more here: https://carolbrusegar.com/hygge-art-of-coziness/

By focusing on balance, positive use of time at home and reflecting on our experiences, all of us can make the best of a challenging situation. Everything we do to keep ourselves and others positive, hopeful and forward-looking will pay large dividends.

 

Journaling Techniques to Boost Your Creativity

Journal and CoffeeWhatever our situation, stage of life, or needs, creativity is a valuable skill. On a personal level as well as in our jobs and groups and institutions in which we are involved, there’s a continual need for creative approaches and solutions.

Journaling can be a tool to expand creativity. Simply writing has great power to bring ideas, possibilities and breakthroughs. Yet, it is easy to get into a pattern – even a rut – with our journaling by doing it the same way continually. And many people either don’t journal at all or sporadically.

Here are some ways to diversify journalers’ practices that can activate new creativity and perhaps inspire non-journalers to try some of these different approaches.

Drawing

You don’t have to be a graphic designer or an artist to use this technique. Simply pick up a pencil or colored pencils/pens and start drawing. You don’t need to have a specific subject in mind, or you may give yourself a topic or a problem that you want to creatively address.

It isn’t about drawing something perfectly – it doesn’t matter how the drawing looks. What matters is that you’re taking the time to just let your creativity flow. Don’t worry about any “rules” and draw whatever comes to mind. You may be surprised what appears.

Use Mixed Media

Mixed media journaling is basically using different types of content. For part of the journal you’ll jot down your ideas, then you can use pictures, ticket stubs and potentially even drawing to inspire your creativity.

Use the Power of Music  

Have you ever noticed just how much of an impact music can have on your creativity? It can really help to play some uplifting or inspiring music while writing or drawing in your journal.

You’ll find as the music plays, you’ll start to experience numerous emotions. Thoughts will also automatically pop into your head – write these down.

It can also help if you listen to the music through headphones as this will block out all other noises, allowing you to be fully immersed in the music.

Try Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a fairly new journaling technique which can work wonders for creative people. It’s a visual style journal – you record your ideas in a visual way.

For example, write down the main theme of your idea or topic, draw a big circle around it, then think of other ideas which relate to it. You then connect your sub ideas to the main idea. Allowing your mind to see and expand on connections can open up new vistas of thought.

Brainstorm

Brainstorming is simply rapidly generating a variety of ideas or possible solutions. It is most commonly used in a group setting, but individuals can use it effectively as well.  Simply focus on the topic you are addressing and write down every idea without worrying about how doable or realistic they are.  Just let the ideas flow. Keep writing, even keep your pen moving when you think you are empty. It’s likely more things will rise to the surface.  A second step after all the ideas are on paper is to either do some traditional journaling about some of the most intriguing thoughts.  This could be augmented by mindmapping.

May your creativity and creative problem solving be expanded by using these techniques.

If you want to explore additional creativity ideas, check out:   21 Ways to Skyrocket Your Creativity

21 Ways to Skyrocket Your Creativity ("21 Ways" Book 5) by [Laidig, Tony]

Need More Clarity, Creativity and Focus?

woman writing in journal

Are you feeling some overwhelm during these unusual times? Many of us are.  In this this time of limitation and many unknowns,  you may want to consider a routine I found in this article: “This 10-Minute Routine Will Increase Your Clarity and Creativity”  It provides a way to both focus and to boost creativity.

The author Benjamin Hardy reminds us of Napoleon Hill’s words, “Your subconscious mind works continuously, while you are awake, and while you sleep.”  If that is the reality, it may be a really good idea to focus that work for our benefit.  How does that work? Hardy again quotes Hill: “The subconscious mind will translate into its physical equivalent, by the most direct and practical method available.”

Sounds like a good idea to me, then, to harness that power. Part of the routine described in the article has to do with using a few minutes before you go to bed and within 10 or so minutes of waking up to do the suggested activities.  For many of us, checking our electronic devices fill that space both before bed and first thing in the morning.  As we do that, we are focusing on input into our thoughts and consciousness.  This approach instead puts our attention to output from our subconscious to our conscious in a targeted way. It expands our creativity.

Try This Routine

To summarize the two parts of the routine, Hardy suggests we:

  1. “Take a few moments before you go to bed to meditate on and write down the things you’re trying to accomplish. Ask yourself loads of questions related to that thing….make some ‘requests.’ Write those questions and thoughts down on paper. The more specific the questions, the more clear will be your answers.
  2. “Now, first thing in the morning, when your creative brain is most attuned, after its subconscious workout while you slept, start writing down whatever comes to mind about those things.”

You can include any areas of your life – relationships, work, life balance, or anything else you want to address. Perhaps start with one topic. This approach is a routine and also a skill to develop and in which to become proficient. As with all routines or habits, it is a good idea to commit to practicing it for a minimum of 21 days in order to assess its effectiveness for you. I would love to hear how this works for you! 

For more details, you can read the entire article here:  “This 10-Minute Routine Will Increase Your Clarity and Creativity”

And you can see the books Benjamin Hardy has written here: Books by Benjamin Hardy, PhD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Innovation Around Housing for Seniors – Your Parents Now, You Later

InnovationThe Baby Boomer generation has been responsible, directly and indirectly, for vast changes within society as they moved through the life cycle. Sometimes we forget all that happened from the time of our large cohort being born after the end of World War II and through about 1964. It started with the housing boom as the young families being formed after the (mostly) men returned from military service. The whole list of innovations, revolutions and changed viewpoints is clearly more than I can address in this post.

Now this generation is changing what it means to be over 50, and especially over 65. There are multiple facets of this, but the one I want to talk about here is about housing and care beyond independent living. Baby Boomers are 71 and younger right now, and have dealt or are dealing with these issues for their parents. What is created now will impact us as we move into the ages where we cannot live alone in our own homes.

An extremely exciting project addressing this need is MAGIC, a pilot project being conducted in connection with the University of Southern Indiana (USI) in Evansville and Dr. Bill Thomas, a nationally-renowned expert on aging.

MAGIC is aimed at creating a cultural transformation related to aging in community (Read the full release). With support from AARP, Indiana AARP and numerous stakeholders, we will pioneer a new (and very old) way of living. MAGIC stands for: Multi-Ability, multiGenerational, Inclusive Community.

Our goal is to bring together people of different ages, with different abilities and from different backgrounds, and look at ways to inspire and sustain a genuine human community….

We will kick off the MAGIC Pilot Project this spring by co-designing a model smart home. This “MAGIC Model House” will serve as a demonstration home showcasing the latest accessibility design, smart-home connectivity and low cost modular prefabrication methods I’ve developed through my Minka Dwelling project. We designed the Minka as an affordable housing platform that can be adapted to meet the needs of people of different ages and abilities.

The full article can be found here: I Believe in MAGIC

What exciting possibilities there are in this project, and others that will be inspired because of it. We truly can change the depressing scenario embedded in many aging persons’ minds of ending their years in a nursing home that fails to provide a good quality of life for them.

The numbers, though not as current as would be most helpful, are these: “The aging of the baby boom generation could fuel a 75 percent increase in the number of Americans ages 65 and older requiring nursing home care, to about 2.3 million in 2030 from 1.3 million in 2010.” Source:  Fact Sheet: Aging in the United States from the Population Reference Bureau.

Alternatives such as MAGIC can be effective in improving quality of life in our later years. It’s time for the creativity and innovation of our generation to focus more on this and similar issues. I can hardly wait to see what we can do!!

Dr. Bill Thomas is an expert in aging issues. His book, Second Wind: Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper, and More Connected Life covers a wide range of important topics.