I really, really don’t like snakes. Big ones, little ones, wild ones or pet ones, I don’t discriminate, I dislike them all. I know snakes have their place in the world, however, I would much prefer that place be as far away from me as possible. Believe it or not, I have come a long way in my journey towards my dislike of snakes, in fact, my dislike used to be a full blown fear. A fear so crippling that even a photo of one would have made me leave the room. Now just to be clear, Sydney’s Inner West isn’t exactly teeming with my slithery, limbless comrades, so I was managing my fear quite well, but I always knew that I didn’t want to have this fear control me. I knew I needed help.
Step by step
I came across Systematic Desensitisation during the first year of my Psychology degree. I listened intently to my professor talk about phobias and this step by step approach to facing your fears and controlling your responses to fearful stimuli. Eureka! I finally had an answer for my phobia. Over the following years I stuck with the process and eventually got to the point of being able to touch (albeit reluctantly) an American Corn Snake at Taronga Zoo. That was one of the most empowering moments of my life. I realised that I could do what I had been telling myself I couldn’t do for so long by coming in with an open mind and trusting the process.
Just trust the process.
As a member of the Business Innovation team, a large portion of my effort goes into encouraging our people to think creatively to come up with new ideas. More often than not I’m met with a chuckle and an excuse. Believe me, if I had a dollar for every time someone said to me “I can’t, I’m not the creative type”, I’d be retired and sunning myself on an island in paradise right now. I’m going to let you in on a secret, so listen up…creativity is not a gift. Yes, you heard right! Creativity is not a gift, but a skill that anyone can learn with an open mind and trust for the creative process.
So this got me thinking…if creativity is not a gift bestowed upon us by the grace of any deity, then where does this widespread aversion or, dare I say, fear of creativity come from? Personally, I believe the aversion partially comes from an underlying fear of judgement. A fear that we really can’t be blamed for forming.
From a young age we are conditioned to always recall the ‘right’ answers. Whether it is at school, university or work, society dictates that we must remember what the right answer is in order to progress and be successful in our lives. And this is not at all helped by the fact that our brains are generally lazy organs that want to find the easiest way of doing things. The path of least resistance. From an evolutionary perspective, it was extremely important to be able to quickly recall how we had previously survived an encounter with a sabre-toothed tiger when faced with another similar threat, but in order to think creatively we need to push our lazy brains further and bridge that gap between safe, ‘in the box’ thinking and risky, ‘out of the box’ thinking. Here is where the problem lies…
Right now I am calling on you all to stop saying “I can’t”. Let go of your fear of judgement and face challenges with an open mind. It will feel a bit uncomfortable at first, and that’s great because it means you’re pushing your boundaries. Great things are achieved when we step outside of our comfort zones or take that leap of faith.
So go on, touch the snake – you might surprise yourself with what you can achieve.