This blog looks at the vital importance of creativity for young people, and its connection with well-being and sustainability.
After years of working as a lawyer, I knew something wasn’t right. I was no longer thinking for myself. The generous salary, the pension promise, the comfy inertia of the comfort zone, they’d all put paid to that.
I was well-off and comfortable, but I’d lost something. Why did I feel like I no longer had control of my destiny? Why did I feel stuck, frustrated and depressed? And why did it take pursuits like photography, poetry and playwriting to make me feel better?
My relationship with creativity...
I realised the creativity that had sustained me so well while I was young had deserted me. Or rather, I’d allowed myself to abandon it.
My all-consuming work as a solicitor, the continuous study and the pressure to bill hours and bring in new business, had, slowly and virtually unnoticed, suffocated my creativity and relegated it to a place of little importance. My retreat from my true self was affecting my professional performance, my relationships and my well-being.
Creativity is one of those underrated and misunderstood attributes, often dismissed by parents, teachers and business leaders as non-essential, a characteristic only required by artists and clowns. Too often ‘creatives’ are misrepresented as the whacky ones with the loud shirts, whose ideas will never stick because they’re too crazy. Creative people are disruptive, ill-disciplined and hard to control.
Thankfully, the times they are a’changin’. Creativity has entered the mainstream, in response to a global need for new ways of thinking: there are urgent problems the world now needs to solve.
I was drawn to the Cymbrogi project because of its grand vision. Our multi-disciplined team of committed professionals will help teachers become pioneers in a new way forward, where creativity will form an integral part of learning and the growth of a new generation of thinkers.
Creativity and well-being...
“Every child is an artist,” Picasso famously said. “The problem is how to remain an artist once they grow up.” As teachers, we need to ensure that the natural creativity children possess is allowed to flourish, and isn’t suppressed. As I discovered, the squashing of my creativity was detrimental to my self-esteem.
We can’t allow the education and social system to ignore the creative potential of our young people. To do so will cause long-lasting damage to a generation in real need of original thinking, brilliant ideas and taking risks. After all, they’re on the threshold of a world of work in which some of the jobs they’ll be applying for haven’t even been invented yet.
But there’s more to creativity than merely meeting a social need. Most of us will have experienced how good it feels to get lost in a creative pursuit: painting, gardening, baking. Being creative is good for us. When I watch my sourdough loaf rise in the oven, the dopamine rush is almost tangible.
Creativity is an innate part of being human, an essential contributor to helping us feeling challenged, fulfilled and happy. It’s part of what Mihály Csíkszentmihályi identified in his concept of ‘flow’, where the right balance of challenge and skill enables us to perform at our best. The recipe for happiness that positive psychologists have developed over recent years includes that critical blend of stretching ourselves in something we enjoy doing.
At Cymbrogi, we’re all about enabling teachers and their students to tap into this creativity/well-being cycle: when a student pushes her creativity, she improves her well-being; and by focussing time on improving his well-being, a student will have the mental space to enable him to think more creatively.
Creativity for a sustainable future...
As Cymbrogi lead on Sustainability & Circular Futures, Dr Verity Jones, says in her blog, we’re surrounded by “warnings of flood, of drought, of fire… warnings of economic collapse, ecological collapse, everyone’s collapse”.
It’s difficult to remain hopeful and optimistic in these apocalyptic times. We’re asking a lot of the new generation to be the ones who steer the earth back on course. It wasn’t even them who got us into this mess, but it’s fallen to them to clear it up.
Creativity will be front and centre of the battle to tackle the climate emergency. We’re going to need some big, creative brains. So it’s never too late to get this generation of children excited about coming up with ideas. Three-minute showers, reuse paper, plant a tree… That’s all good. It’s a start.
We’re passionate at Cymbrogi about enabling our children to take their rightful place as workers on the road to a sustainable future. We want them to feel they can be, and are, a part of the solution. We must not only permit them, but encourage and enthuse them to embrace the role.
That all starts in (or out of) the classroom, with change-making teachers showing their pupils how to use their powerful creative selves to be the change they want to see in the world.
And Cymbrogi is here to help make that happen.