For most of us heading into an office every day, the carefree days of coloring outside the lines and splashing watercolor paint with abandon are over (unless you’re an art teacher, in which case, please ignore the previous statement). Eight or more hours of our day are dedicated to being in front of a computer screen, dealing with spreadsheets, sitting in never-ending meetings, and talking about synergy and core competencies until our ears start to bleed. Logical, efficient thinking is prized above all else – but at what cost?
After weeks of feeling a little burnt out and less-than-inspired at work, I enlisted the help of Jade Wurster, a mood disorder specialist and art therapist at Art of Balance, to help get the creative juices flowing in my life.
When the topic of work came up, Jade pointed out, “We live in a very logical, left-brain world. We rely on words to communicate thoughts, feelings and action. Art communicates more of that visceral, emotional side, the right brain approach that sometimes get neglected in the process.”
In the workplace specifically, we tend to have a very rigid structure of how to think and act at our office. Even though we’re constantly told we can have movement and advancement opportunities, there’s still a very consistent linear fashion to how employees are expected to work, which makes it harder to realize how they can grow in the workplace and as a person.
Creativity, then, helps us to express ourselves more openly while increasing self-esteem and confidence – all essential qualities when trying to build your professional skills and reputation.
“Accessing creativity allows someone to gain new perspectives as well as to create things that they never thought they could in the first place,” explains Jade.
She then shared what she calls the “stick figure idea”: it’s only because we’ve given ourselves this social expectation that if we can’t draw a stick figure (or undertake another creative pursuit) “the right way” it must not be good. Tweaking that thought process to understanding that the right way is much wider and more forgiving than we give ourselves credit for paves the way for embracing individualism and gaining confidence in what we can bring to the table in the workplace.
If you’re a victim of stick figure perfectionism, or if you just consider yourself a left-brain, Type A, not-a-drop-of-creativity-in-your-body type of person, Jade urges you to think again.
“To those who are more left-brained, developing creativity will not only help to expand one’s perception of the world and gain a greater sense of confidence in oneself, you will also gain a better understanding of other people who are more right-brained and potentially develop fiscal and healthy relationships with others.”
Of course, some of us love the idea of being creative and the benefits it can have on us in the office, but you may have no clue where to start besides wandering the aisles of Michael’s aimlessly or scrolling Pinterest for hours (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything). To explore your creative side while benefitting your professional life, Jade suggests starting with one of these grown up art projects.
Mandala Adult Coloring Books
Adult coloring books have been in the spotlight for a while now, and for good reason.
“Some people are afraid of having an open-ended assignment, hence the surge of adult coloring books,” says Jade. “These are great because it gives someone an objective.”
If your brain is particularly crowded with busy thoughts, try a mandala or pattern-based coloring book. It has the same meditative effect as going for a long run or, you know, actually meditating. That’s because it’s easier to focus on patterns than the thoughts bombarding your brain, so you’re able to get your mind off stressful work environments or persistent thoughts.
The Vision Board
Something about the phrase “vision board” seems so retro and hippie-dippie to me, but Jade assured me that they’re legit.
“Sometimes when we lose our creativity or feel out of touch at work, it’s because we’ve lost track of setting goals for ourselves. The visual piece taps into our emotional subconsciousness much quicker than the written word. We see images and it releases different emotional responses as a result.”
While your vision board can portray details of your ten-year plan or ultimate life goals, it can also show your goals and dreams on a much smaller scale. Jade suggested devoting a vision board to your ideal vacation place so you feel more relaxed in your workplace environment. Personally, I see my future vision board filled with pictures of dog breeds I *will* own in the future.
And yes, a vision board is as simple as gathering up old magazines or printing out certain images, then pasting them to a board or even just a piece of letter paper. One thing to avoid? A digital vision board, like – yup – Pinterest.
“The physical piece allows us to say that this is mine, this is something I physically made, I can see it whenever I want. It’s easier to forget it in a digital medium,” says Wurster.
The Road Map
Similar to a road map you’d get from AAA in the good old days, a personal road map gives an individual an opportunity to map out where their life is now, where it’s been, where they want to be.
“It’s more comprehensive and more concrete than a vision board,” reveals Jade. “It can be a one-time project or a constantly morphing project.”
By creating a road map of your workplace life, you accomplish two things. First, you make a loose plan for the future, breaking down the actual steps it till take to get you there. Second, it also gives you a sense of where you been and what you’ve already accomplished, boosting your confidence in the process.
Armed with these new creative tools, I’m heading into July with a mandala coloring book in my Amazon shopping cart and a physical vision board in my future (as soon as I unpack enough from moving to have a desk to hang it by, that is).
What other ways do you use to foster your creative side, and have you noticed that helping your professional life?