Thursday, June 25, 2015

Trusting Yourself: The Gateway to Creativity & Wellness

 By: Jennifer Quarrie

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.  - Lucius Annaeus Seneca

What secret goals do you harbor?  What wishes thump in your heart but remain quietly caged, set aside for another day?  We all realize we have aspirations, but do we know why we arent pursuing them?  What is stopping you?

Many of us are everyday creators, fluidly solving daily challenges in unique ways.  However, as we consider larger-scale change, inertia can become much stronger.  At times this can stall us from approaching change on our most important issues.  During an effort to explore how creativity might foster personal wellness, this phenomenon came into stark relief. 

Social Norms
While interviewing colleagues and reflecting personally on the hurdles to achieving the large-scale challenge of personal wellness, a strong theme emerged: while many were confident in their own creativity and problem solving abilities, implementing their ideal solutions often included an uncomfortable degree of bucking social norms.  Two sets of needs were set in opposition; by pursuing personal wellness needs they risked compromising sources of social acceptance and support.  The same holds true in creativity.  Creators need support to be their most creative, and yet staying true to ones ideas, craft, creative methods and personal needs sometimes opposes social norms and thus reduces that social support.

Self-Trust, Permission & Compassion
So what is required to push people past the tipping point of serving social expectations in favor of personal care and development?  First and foremost, we require self-trust to feel intuitively confident in the direction we have chosen.  Next, we require awareness of both our perceived limitations and the true results of breaking through them.  Then we must grant ourselves personal permission to exceed constraints such as personal habits, social judgment and perceived limitations.  While many seek approval from others as well, the act of acknowledging most limitation as personal threshold is important.  Finally, we require compassion to navigate any bumps in the road along the way, and honesty to see things as they are on the other side of the looking glass.

Hurdles to Self-Trust

Hint: the cage is not locked. - Nova Knutson

     Confidence - No one has a crystal ball, but most of us prefer to feel confident about our own decisions before investing significant resources or changing the direction of our lives.  As hard as it can be to estimate how your decisions may turn out, even more difficult is developing the confidence to recognize what you truly want in the first place.  A nuanced process like Creative Problem Solving (CPS) helps to expose the genuine needs at the heart of complex problems.  In addition, the thorough nature of CPS organically builds confidence as we step through the process by ensuring we have considered the issue from many vantage points.
     Perfectionism - Dont allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good.  Letting go of a specific solution can open you to even better possibilities and create new opportunities.  Partial progress is much better than none at all and places you in a new position to reassess the situation for new paths forward.  Assessing the priorities involved in a challenge can make it far clearer where to begin.
     Fear of Risk - Without risk, there is very little progress.  Understanding risk and learning when and how to take it requires practice.  Start small, then begin to accept a greater possibility of failure, and discover what you can learn from the experiences. 
     Fear of Failure - Complex problems often have complex answers with changing variables.  No solution is permanent; plans are meant to change.  Recognizing that you are committing to finding the right path forward gives you the freedom to pivot as circumstances change rather than remaining wedded to a solution.
     Lack of Experience - Trusting yourself does not mean going it alone.  Sharing your goals and plans may invite positive feedback on your work, and insight toward ways in which you can build your vision.

Building Support
Change is difficult.  Making significant changes in an environment when everyone else keeps the old habits makes it even harder.  Finding support is one of the best ways to facilitate change and solidify a new path forward.  Sharing risk with others makes you more likely to make leaps you might not otherwise take alone and, in the process, build self-trust through experience.

     Build Your Tribe - Use the hyper-connectivity of the modern world to your advantage.  Find those who understand and share your passions, and work together.  Feeling understood and having support are keys to success in every endeavor. 
     Micro Cultures - Social norms grow from visionary changes that often originate from small groups (such as a few computer whizzes in a garage).  By building a clear vision of the future based on the diverse input of your tribe, the momentum and results form a culture of their own.  Participating in a micro culture can be invigorating as you experience traction for your greater vision and goals.
     Ask - Others will not know you need support unless you ask.  You may be surprised at the results.  Asking others for input or assistance solidifies your commitment to solving the problem and invites an array of input to evolve your ideas further to be their most effective or unique.  The vulnerability and honesty you share may inspire the same in return.  The bond you build through partnership may last well beyond the task at hand.  Finally, involving others also provides you support during a process of exploration and change, which may help you feel comfortable enough to pursue ideas further, and give you the confidence to implement your outcome.  And if they say no?  You may gather valuable insight through that conversation as well.

Creative Risk
Building trust in yourself empowers you to navigate unknown situations, respond to unexpected changes and pursue your deepest aspirations.  Without the awareness of your own needs and the confidence and trust to strive for them, your ability to achieve wellness and self-actualization will be inhibited.  Giving yourself permission to take risks and deconstruct limitations opens the door of opportunity.  Using CPS and creative thinking skills are excellent methods of realizing what is stopping you from pursuing your goals, identifying necessary risks to reach them, and determining the ways to take those risks while minimizing negative impact.  Trusting the creative process is a path to trusting yourself, which is in turn a key step on the road to personal wellness and fully realizing your potential.

Gates, R., & Kenison, K. (2010). Meditations from the mat: Daily reflections on the path of yoga. New York, NY: Anchor.
Kelley, T., & Kelley, D. (2013). Creative confidence: Unleashing the creative potential within us all. New York, NY: Crown Business.
Puccio, G. J., Mance, M., & Murdock, M. C. (2011). Creative leadership: Skills that drive change (2nd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Puccio, G., Mance, M., Switalski, L.B., & Reali, P. D. (2012). Creativity rising: Creative thinking and creative problem solving in the 21st century. Buffalo, NY: ICSC Press.
Robin, M. (2010). Wellness on a shoestring: Seven habits for a healthy life. Unity Village, MO: Unity House.

Image source:

Bio: Jennifer Quarrie is a dynamic innovation strategist and creativity expert with a visionary outlook and a knack for metacognition, facilitation and listening. With a BA in Cognitive Science from the University of Virginia and an MSc in Creative Studies from the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC) at SUNY Buffalo State, she incorporates budding areas of mind and creativity research into all of her work. As a leader and speaker she inspires wellness, fosters transformation and emboldens self-actualization.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


 By: Jennifer Quarrie

Man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes. Gandhi

All matter is made of energy.  Energy forms new thoughts, thus generating reality.  Materialized thought determines neuronal activity and growth - expanding or strengthening brain pathways.  In sum, the thoughts we choose to think direct energy toward specific physical outcomes.  Thus, it is critical to begin the pursuit of any goal with clear and deliberate intentions. 

Energy is one of the most important elements to balance in order to achieve goals while maintaining wellness.  Choosing how to spend your energy, as well as how to gather it into your life, determines your path.  One of the best tools to help achieve that balance is creativity.  Employing a deliberate creative process to clarify the vision, goal or problem at the outset helps to direct energy into solving or achieving it.  When dedicating your energy to any goal, there are five guidelines to keep in mind when spending your precious resources.

Set Intentions
Consciously setting intentions is a powerful way of directing and conserving energy.  As processes, creativity and wellness are most powerful when they begin with intention.  From building a vision and ensuring you are solving the right problems to selecting the right tools and maintaining an open mindset, intention is pivotal throughout creative problem solving. 

Likewise in wellness, approaching habits proactively through intention the food we eat, the way we move, the people we include, and the rest we enjoy empowers our ability to achieve and maintain them.  Further, our intents help our minds and bodies determine how to process everything we take in.  For example, ones emotional and mental approach to eating directly impacts how the body physically digests food.  Meditation and mindfulness, which pervade over all areas of wellness, center on exploring life force and mentally directing energy through attention and intention.

Exchange Energy
All interaction involves energy exchange.  This flow of emitting and absorbing energy is the biorhythm that allows release and nourishment in wellness, as well as expression and stimulus in creativity.  The goal is to ensure this energy exchange does not stagnate or overwhelm your system and instead remains in an active, fluid balance.  In wellness and creativity alike, this means remaining mindful of what fuels and drains your reserves, and adapting as that changes over time. 

Prana   Ancient philosophies have emphasized the importance of energy flow and exchange for millennia.  Some call the personal energy or life force prana and emphasize that it not only runs through our bodies but also links us to others.  The concept of prana, and of having clear flowing chakras energy loci throughout the body where energy channels intersect is considered by some to be critical to personal wellness and creativity. 

Universal Unconscious   Similarly, Carl Jungs concept of the collective unconscious is a repository of shared energy, ideas and experiences, and some believe that this shared energy fosters creativity through building on past concepts and intents.  Our minds and bodies strive towards goals both consciously and unconsciously.  By setting a clear intention, we maximize the personal resources dedicated to achieving it and increase the likelihood of doing so.  Further, expressing an intention enhances this effect.  By sharing a goal with others, you are inviting them to put energy towards assisting you.  In wellness, this is clearly seen in the way that finding a supportive network or environment enhances personal wellness achievements.  In creativity, this is demonstrated through the power of group problem solving and the ability of a diverse group to consistently generate more novel and useful solutions.

Intake   While intentions customarily relate to the way we spend our energy resources, they are just as important for how we take energy in.  As a result, being as thoughtful and deliberate as possible when choosing an environment or other collaborators can help us to achieve our goals.  Wellness reiterates that we can deliberately empower ourselves simply by choosing supportive energy after all, we are what we eat.  We can choose social avenues that foster growth, eat raw plants, or meditate on a resonant topic to take in considerably more energy than alternatives might provide.

Embrace Possibility
From a quantum standpoint, our energy holds limitless potential.  A multitude of future possibilities simultaneously exist, and it is our intention that helps determine to which path we dedicate our energy.  In creativity, as in wellness, we have the ability to develop ideas and build upon what is there in a way that highlights a previously unnoticed path.  Becoming aware that these unknown paths exist gives us freedom to step out of the well-worn paths that no longer work for us, and creatively find new ones that fit our needs precisely.

Follow Curiosity
Curiosity is a form of motivation and intention, an energy that draws people to investigate new things, absorb new information, and, in the process, make new associations on the way to potentially building novel concepts.  What may not be as obvious is the role of curiosity in wellness.  A 2002 study showed that the degree to which people are curious actively influences their personal growth opportunities and the level of intimacy that develops when they meet someone new.  By helping to foster social relationships, positive experiences, and intrinsic motivation, curiosity plays a crucial role in wellness. 

Curiosity also plays a critical role in forming and asking the right questions, thus honing intention and ensuring that energy is invested most effectively.  Curiosity-based thinking methods like appreciative inquiry, problem deconstruction and problem finding are important roads to creative thinking; however, they are also key to pursuing personal wellness.  Curiosity not only assists in identifying needs, but supports an open-minded approach to trying new means of fulfilling them.  Further, once curiosity helps overcome inertia, energy naturally builds and gathers momentum along the vector of intention.  When it comes to creativity, building on the energy of other thoughts propels the resultant ideas into a much more novel space. 

Do in Order to Be
Wellness is sometimes referred to as well being.  Being infers a state of existing.  But in truth, wellness actually centers more on well doing.  Wellness is not passive; it is an energized state of continual change, adaptation and action.  Just like our bodies and environmental rhythms, maintaining and improving wellness is an ever-present effort.  Wellness is not a plant you water once a week; it needs constant tending.  The same holds true for creativity.  Like strengthening muscle with regular exercise, practicing creative thinking skills throughout each day strengthens and grows your abilities as well as fosters wellness and self-actualization. 

Wellness and creativity ultimately come down to directing and exchanging energy in specific ways to obtain specific outcomes.  Understanding more about our personal energy and the energy systems of the world may foster our abilities to pursue both wellness and creativity.  Learning how to more deliberately set intentions and direct personal energy is a critical wellness and creative habit that helps achieve goals.  The choice on how you manage your energy is the key to how your future will form.

We either live with intention or exist by default. - Kristin Armstrong

Berger, W. (2014). A more beautiful question: The power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing.
 Donovan, P. (2002, December 16). Study finds that curiosity is key to personal growth in many spheres, including intimate relationships. University at Buffalo SUNY. Retrieved from
 Gandhi, M. (1968). Ethical religion. Navajivan Publishing House.
 Goleman, D. (2013). Focus: The hidden driver of excellence. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing.
 Goswami, A. (2014). Quantum creativity: Think quantum, be creative. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House.
 Hever, J. (2012, July 1). Plant Base Nutrition: Julieanna Hever.  TEDxConejo. Retrieved from
 Puccio, G. J., Mance, M., & Murdock, M. C. (2011). Creative leadership: Skills that drive change (2nd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
 Ross, S., & Rosewood, O. (2003). Happy yoga: 7 Reasons why there's nothing to worry about. New York, NY: Regan Books.
 Image source:

Bio: Jennifer Quarrie is a dynamic innovation strategist and creativity expert with a visionary outlook and a knack for metacognition, facilitation and listening. With a BA in Cognitive Science from the University of Virginia and an MSc in Creative Studies from the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC) at SUNY Buffalo State, she incorporates budding areas of mind and creativity research into all of her work. As a leader and speaker she inspires wellness, fosters transformation and emboldens self-actualization. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Ten Ways to Weave Creativity into your Classroom!

by Julia Figliotti

What is creativity? How can you foster it in your classroom? And how can you incorporate it into your lessons without falling behind on your curriculum plans? As teachers, these are questions that you might face every day – and today, we have answers.

Creativity is a key skill for your students, both within the classroom and outside of it, so we interviewed more than 100 teachers and creativity experts from around the world to gather their favorite techniques for bringing creative thinking skills into any curriculum. Out of 750 tips and ideas, here are our ten favorites to help you deliberately weave various creative thinking skills into every one of your lessons and bring creativity into your classroom!  

 Ten Ways to Weave Creativity into Your Curriculum

When students ask questions, don’t rush to give them “the answer.” First ask, “What do you think?” Often we focus on providing answers, but allowing students to think about their own questions can be very powerful. (Skill: Curiosity)

Talk about engaging! By encouraging your students to explore the possibilities on their own, you are both opening their minds to a whole world of potential, and empowering their imaginations.

Challenge students to use sketches or Mind Maps to illustrate problems, processes, and/or understandings of a topic. (Skill: Embrace the Challenge)

In order to completely accept a challenge, your students must first understand it. With Mind Maps, you will be encouraging your students to explore every aspect of the challenge at hand before diving into finding a solution.

Stop reading a story at the climax and list all the possible conclusions. (Skill: Produce and Consider Many Alternatives)

This exercise is a lot of fun – it engages the class and allows for some wild and crazy ideas to come forward. Who knows? It may even lead a few of your students down the path of writing!

Watch old Science Fiction videos and TV shows in class and see what has actually been invented. (Skill: Enjoy and Use Fantasy)

This is a great activity! Your students will love the old-time special effects, marvel at the predictions that came to be, and maybe even make a few futuristic predictions of their own!

Have students play PowerPoint karaoke. You control the slides as they present the material, and they don’t know what’s coming next. (Skill: Tolerate the Ambiguity)

This one can be a little stressful, so it’s important to keep a light-hearted environment. Students will be teaching others the content, and themselves! For extra fun, ask them to present in character (as a boring professor, as Miss Frizzle, etc.)!

Have students write a Tweet (140 characters or less) to highlight what they have learned. (Skill: Highlight the Essence)

Finally, students can put all of their tweeting to good use! And if they use less than 140 characters to reflect on a lesson, encourage the use of hashtags. #becausewedonthaveenoughofthosealready

Switch theoretical perspectives – have students defend a point of view that they don’t agree with, and see how their perspectives change. (Skill: Look at it Another Way)

This exercise is interesting to participate in, and even more interesting to watch. At first, your students will end up arguing against their assigned perspectives, but with gentle reminders, they may even convince themselves that this new point of view is the way to go!

Introduce students to songs that match up with your lesson (“Oliver Cromwell,” “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” the Quadratic Formula song, etc.). (Skill: Make it Swing! Make it Ring!)

Music makes everything more memorable! Most people know all of the words to at least one song – whether they understand what they mean or not. By applying lyrics to your lesson, students will have an easier time remembering the details.

Introduce the Nine Dots puzzle (Skill: Break Through and Extend the Boundaries)

This quintessential “think outside the box” puzzle will have your students stumped – until you give them a little hint and introduce new possibilities!

Literally keep things open (i.e. windows, doors, books) to see what other things come in (i.e. leaves, wind, people, dust). Use this as a metaphor for open minds and ideas. (Skill: Keep Open)

Who would’ve thought that such a simple parallel could have such a strong message behind it? This exercise can be brought back as the perfect reminder to defer judgment and not reject – or accept – ideas too quickly.

About the Book

Weaving Creativity into Every Strand of Your Curriculum is an educational must-have, written by Dr. Cyndi Burnett and Julia Figliotti. It incorporates the input of creativity professionals and educators worldwide to bring you the best ways to bring creativity into your lesson plans. From kindergarten through college, it is the go-to book for a more creative classroom environment! Buy it here:

Kindle: (FREE through June 19!)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


By: Jennifer Quarrie

Have you ever hit one of those points in your life when youre ready to move in a healthier direction?  Whether its getting better sleep, moving more throughout the day or walking away from junk food, the realization dawns that now is the time.  New Years resolutions come to mind.  Well, not long ago I reached that point and what I learned on my journey towards wellness reflected many of the critical tenets of creativity.

Pursuing wellness can be a beautiful, creative process.  Inviting new ideas into your life often feels invigorating and meaningful.  Yet since wellness is a holistic balance across many life areas - physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, social, occupational, financial, and environmental - achieving full wellness takes significant attention in each individual area, in addition to the effort involved in balancing all of them.  Its an investment, but the outcome is worth the effort.

I was motivated!  Not only did I want to improve bad habits (like not getting enough sleep), I also wanted to improve even those I felt were pretty good (like nutrition).  It was time for a whole new look at what it meant to be well.  Research and insights abounded!  My free time was filled with everything from recipe searches to athletic classes to insightful chats with friends about their own wellness journeys.  I used Creative Problem Solving (CPS) to identify, select, develop and implement new habits.  I was on my way with immediate positive results!  Nothing could stop me now!

Insight through Illness

Let go or be dragged.  - Zen Proverb

Except for illness.  Only a few weeks in and my body called a time out.  Sidelined by a nasty cold, I knew it was not just the fact that it was going around.  Intuitively I understood my decisions had played a role in compromising my immune system.  How had I gone the opposite direction from my intention?  Had I failed at wellness by getting sick?  And so soon at that?

Upon reflection, I realized that in the process of attempting holistic wellness, I had diverged brilliantly, but had not held true to the principles of convergence in CPS.  While I had converged on which new habits to add to my life, when it came to implementing, I had not converged on which elements would stay in my overall calendar.  I had taken an already busy schedule and added to it until there was not a moment free. I even started cutting back on my already meager sleep schedule to fit it all in.  And when my sleep habits faltered, not even all of the other positive physical benefits of nutrition, exercise, and meditation could compensate.

Luckily, in this instance being physically unwell did not reduce my wellness in any other area; in fact, it fostered greater wellness in certain ways.  I had more time for phone calls, increasing social wellness.  I spent more time reading and improving my intellectual wellness.  The reduction in responsibilities lowered my stress levels and increased emotional wellness.  It was a fantastic insight to realize that despite a rough cold I was really still mostly well! 


When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.  - Lao Tzu

It was also surprising to realize that during my illness, I treated myself far better than I did on any normal day, even during a deliberate exploration of wellness behaviors.  More startling still was the insight that illness is one of the few socially acceptable reasons to throttle back in our modern, fast-paced society.  It takes significant courage and insight to prioritize personal needs and values over social expectations.  This means saying no even when it might feel uncomfortable.  It was easy for me to diverge and say yes to all of the new wellness habits, but it was much more difficult to converge and say no and choose between the things I valued.  That kind of everyday creativity takes courage.  We are accustomed to asking for permission when we go against expectations.   May I please stay home from work for a few days because I am sick?  May I please substitute another option in my meal? I have an allergy.  Yet the truth is that we need permission from ourselves to make self-supporting, affirmative choices - in any area of creative problem solving, wellness or not.

Creating Space

The music is not in the notes, but in the silence in between.  - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

In truth, we are only able to enjoy the things we create when we have the time and space to do so.  Wellness practices do not create wellness if they exceed your available resources.  Experiences and information do not provide as much value without the time to synthesize and reflect on them.  In wellness, as in all creative change, we require space to rest, incubate, and simply be. 

One of the most critical aspects of wellness and creative change is building different types of free space.  Space in schedules, space from demands, physical space, personal space, social space, and even mental space where you are not required to think about anything specific, or perhaps instead where you are required to deliberately think of nothing at all.

Letting Go

Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn't you - all of the expectations, all of the beliefs - and becoming who you are. - Rachel Naomi Remen

In order to make space in our lives, we must let go of some things.  As they say, we can have it all, just not at the same time.  By embracing the power of the polarity between creating and letting go, we are more likely to have a successful outcome.  Wellness practices exemplify this concept.
     Meditation and sleep, two habits that empower all areas of wellness, exemplify the fact that rest is productive in and of itself, and is required to make waking hours productive.
     In the realm of nutrition, fasting (according to medical guidelines) is a very beneficial practice for the metabolism and immune system.
     Breathing, a critical practice to physical and mental wellness, demonstrates that every inhalation requires a balancing (and ideally longer) exhale.
     In mindfulness, three primary pillars are defusion (letting go of unhelpful thoughts), acceptance (making room for uncomfortable feelings), and contact with the present moment in a curious and open way.

Some wellness literature calls this type of letting go decluttering.  While on the surface the concept of decluttering might seem to pale in comparison to something like proper nutrition, the greater mindset is critical to wellness in every realm because it helps to create and protect space in life.  In the realm of creativity, we frequently refer to this idea as convergence or prioritization.  We empower ourselves to succeed by providing the resources we need to do so. 

As we journey toward self-actualization, becoming our complete selves, fulfilling our true potentials, and letting go of the inauthentic pieces of ourselves allows for space to accept and embrace our true selves.  As part of that greater effort, we must discern why we are wedded to certain expectations and whether they are worth retaining in our lives.  Creativity and wellness are important tools to assist in doing so.    

It is here along my wellness journey that Ive hit one of those points yet again.  I made some space and healed from illness.  I made some more space and was able to permanently institute several new wellness practices.  I felt the power of letting go.  The impact of such simplification became apparent.  Through it all, it became clearer that there is still more to let go and now is the time to do so.

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 Puccio, G. J., Mance, M., & Murdock, M. C. (2011). Creative leadership: Skills that drive change (2nd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
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 Ross, S., & Rosewood, O. (2003). Happy yoga: 7 Reasons why there's nothing to worry about. New York, NY: Regan Books.
Wellness model image source:
Balloon image source:

Bio: Jennifer Quarrie is a dynamic innovation strategist and creativity expert with a visionary outlook and a knack for metacognition, facilitation and listening. With a BA in Cognitive Science from the University of Virginia and an MSc in Creative Studies from the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC) at SUNY Buffalo State, she incorporates budding areas of mind and creativity research into all of her work. As a leader and speaker she inspires wellness, fosters transformation and emboldens self-actualization.