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  • Writer's pictureHelen Tyrrell

Creativity and Climate

Updated: Apr 29, 2022

You may be wondering why a creative change coach insists on posting in climate groups and getting stuck into the climate change debate.

How are creativity and climate linked?

Well, my personal story has linked them inexorably (more on that in other places), but that isn’t really the point – or at least not all of the point. The point is that we are at an edge: we are facing potentially overwhelming changes to our environment, experiencing great divisions as a result of polarised views on whether or not to act – and how to act - and, despite our technology and brains, the truth is that, for many people, this problem feels bigger than us. It’s not just climate either; the facts make depressing reading. Since my young husband and I started Global Thinking, our early not-for-profit to save the rainforests in the early 1990s, according to National Geographic Magazine (link) about a billion acres of rainforest have been cut down. We may understand the issues better these days, especially the social aspects, but we carry on down the same path.

So it’s all doom and gloom, right?


Maybe not. Or not in the way that we think.

Collectively we are facing great challenges, but the very existence of these challenges is a strong indicator that we are now ready and equipped to deal with them.

But we don’t know how. And this is where creativity steps in.

They say that you can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created it, so we need something new. In fact, our over-reliance on thinking as a modus operandi is part of the problem. It may have led to great advances in technology, but it has also cut us off from feeling, leading to sometimes brutal and stupid actions harming others and our Earth. We have many, many channels of perception, and thinking is just one of them. We need to flatten the hierarchy that puts thinking at the top, and notice what else is going on for us. We need to get out of our habitual grooves and get into new ones.

One key feature of creativity is its capacity to surprise. When you put together A and B, sometimes you get…C: an unthought of new thing – and that is really what we need right now. This applies to all our challenges, personal or global. It entails the capacity to listen ‘democratically’ – i.e. to our symptoms and pains as much as our joys. Or to our joys and loves as much as to our fears and pains, if that is our most habitual mindset.

If we give ourselves permission to follow a cue from within or without (a flirt), not knowing where it will lead, surprising things can happen. This essence of creativity is the not knowing. If we can live it and yet trust in where we are going, we are in fact ready and equipped to take on the challenges before us. We need courage and confidence to follow where we are led, and sensitivity and awareness to know what we are doing and we will find a way. While I may not have the answers for your problems, or for the world’s problems, I know that you do have the answers for your problems and that humans do have a surprising way forward despite, or even because of our challenges. If only we can learn to listen deeply, creatively and with confidence.

5 steps to foster a creative mindset

  1. Get interested in what is showing up for you right now. If you are afraid, upset or angry, happy or excitable accept that, and explore the feeling and the situation. Ask yourself, ‘what is going on?’ and then ‘what is really going on?’ write the answer. You will have a clearer view of the situation.

  2. Compost – allow things to develop. Sometimes it’s not clear what is needed in a situation. in which case allow for a bit of non-action while you watch. The most useful sailing phrase (everything happens slowly on the water) is ‘let’s see how this develops’. If things seem unclear, don’t rush. Watch and wait. Trust that when the time comes, you will be clearer on what action is needed. .

  3. Make time for you. Whatever the demands on you, make some time to be peaceful and do something that you really love;. Take that walk, sit still, simply be. Read a magazine, watch a film, draw, bake. Indulge yourself, just a little. You are an amazing being, and allowing yourself to follow your bliss is the royal road to creative insights. Do not skimp on this. Watch for what comes to you in these moments and how being kind to you makes you more compassionate towards others.

  4. Attend to necessity. Do something useful. Being on this earth means we have to attend to practicalities. Make sure you know what needs doing and do it. Appreciate yourself for this, especially if they are tasks that feel difficult or boring. Attend to business, or in the language of Zen Buddhism: ‘carry water’.

  5. Listen. If there was only one point to make, it would be to listen and perceive. Notice what is going on around you and how you are feeling; what is catching your attention and ‘flirting’ with you. (This is your intuition and we all have it, only most of us ignore it.) Follow it. That way a new solution may be presenting. Take courage when exploring this new thing. It may feel strange but it won’t be wrong. Trust the process.

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