Back-to-School for Grownups: The Skill That Will Make or Break Your Year

Kathryn HaydonGrow Your Creativity

Back-to-School for Grownups: The Skill That Will Make or Break Your Year

By Kathryn P. Haydon

Grow Your Creativity

Did you know that the state of your personal creativity can make or break your year?

No matter your job, creativity can help you do it more effectively and with more satisfaction. Choose your role(s) below to find out how.

Professionals: When your creativity is in tip-top shape, you are primed to overcome the inertia of no to be more effective, innovative, and engaged at work. You enhance your resilience and agility in the face of change.

Educators: When your creativity is in tip-top shape, you have the flexibility and fluidity of thought to respond to 10,000 student requests, questions, and weird behaviors with humor, new solutions, and grace.

Parents: When your creativity is in tip-top shape, you will have renewable energy to engage with your kids after a long day at work, model important skills, and raise powerful thinkers.

5 Ways to Activate Your Creativity

I wrote my latest book, The Non-Obvious Guide to Being More Creative, to help you activate your personal creativity so you can do your best work, whether your job is to interact with clients or kids at work or at home. Here are five tips from the book to help you start off the school year on the right foot.

1. Be Clear About Creativity

Make sure you understand what creativity really is: a universal thinking process that helps you break through the inertia of no to seek new possibilities and find valuable solutions. You don’t need to make art to use your creativity; just think differently about a problem as mundane as cutting your budget.

2. Get Off the Couch

When I mention the inertia of no, everyone intuitively understands what this means. In a sentence, the inertia of no includes the limitations, beliefs, assumptions, or lack of energy that impede new thinking and forward action. The inertia of no keeps you on the couch when you know you should be out walking, just as it keeps you from making the effort to solve problems in new ways.

What are three things you do “because that’s how we’ve always done it”? Select one of them, think up a couple of new approaches, and try one.

3. Know How You Like to Learn

Effective creative thinkers are constant learners. They consistently seek new inputs and knowledge to form unique connections and develop original insights. To do this, they employ learning approaches that are most effective and enjoyable for them. 

Do you learn best when you: Listen? See visuals? Read? Use metaphors? Make something tangible? Teach? Discuss with others? Pair ideas with music? Move? Write? Doodle? Think back to times when you were most engaged and successful in learning. Notice your process as you learn something new this week. What works? What do you enjoy? Do more of it.

4. Seek Out Your Strengths

There are many lenses through which you can pinpoint your strengths. In The Non-Obvious Guide to Being More Creative, you can take a survey that helps you see which creative thinking skills you enjoy using most and how you can apply them more powerfully at work.

Another way of looking at creative strengths is through personal characteristics, like originality, independence, and perceptivity. For a free resource to help you identify yours, find the Creative Strengths Spotter here.

5. Learn to Embrace Change

Change has descended upon us at breakneck speed. In The Non-Obvious Guide to Being More Creative, I share educator Matt Hall’s Comfort with Change Spectrum. Do you resist change, are you in denial about it, need a nudge, or embrace it with open arms? The only way to thrive in the face of change is to get more comfortable with it.

One exercise to try: Pretend it’s opposite day. Tomorrow, live your life differently. If you tend to wear bright colors, put on neutrals. If you’re a runner, try walking. If you read articles online, pick up a book. Start shaking things up just a little, and notice how you and others respond.

The Start of an Amazing Year

People often ask me to sit down for coffee so they can “pick my brain” about how they can be more creative. (See Dorie Clark’s article here for how I feel about that horrendous phrase!) The Non-Obvious Guide to Being More Creative is designed to be “like having coffee with an expert.” I wrote it to be your creative thinking handbook, with all of the most effective, science-based, and fun-to-use strategies to tap into your highest thinking capacity and apply it at work.

Start with these five tips and you will develop a strong foundation for success this school year!


Kathryn Haydon helps you maximize your creative strengths so you can do your best work. Through keynotes, workshops, and consulting, she trains individuals, leaders, and teams to find the unique spark that leads to deep engagement and productivity.

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