Posted by: Liz Massey | November 22, 2007

Give thanks, get ideas

We’re only a few hours away from what I consider one of America’s most misunderstood holidays—Thanksgiving Day. We know the popular cultural ingredients for a successful celebration: turkey, football and parades. But what exactly are we celebrating?

Gratitude. Thanksgiving is just a fancy, old-fashioned word for gratitude. As the days grow shorter and cooler, it’s the perfect time to appreciate the year’s “harvest” of emotional, social, physical, mental and spiritual assets, whether those assets were provided to us or were generated by our own efforts.

Appreciative explorations can be particularly useful for artists. Try performing this gratitude check this month and see how it affects your creative momentum.

1. Describe in writing one of your artistic “peak experiences”— perhaps a moment when you felt completely “in flow” with a project, or the moment you completed a significant, satisfying piece of work.

2. Now, look for the root causes of your success. What did you do to make this happen? If others played a part, how did you engage their help? Be detailed in your answer.

3. Repeat this exercise using several other creative peak experiences.

4. You’re now ready to map your positive core, that part of you that represents reliable strengths, enthusiasms and skills. To find your positive core, look for patterns between phrases, themes or concepts you use to describe your peak experiences.

5. After discovering your positive core, you may choose to represent it in a more visual way, by creating a mind-map, a cartoon, a collage, or you may want to express your new insights through sound—perhaps creating an audio journal entry or penning a song.

Flexing our appreciative muscles until they have grown strong can lift us through creative doldrums. It’s easier to dream of better creative days ahead when we ground those dreams in a history of remembered positive achievements and a vision of all the good things we are carrying forward with us.

P.S. If you’d like to try another gratitude exercise, check out a presentation developed by Kathryn Britton on gratitude over at her Positive Psychology Reflections blog.

Note: This article was adapted from one originally published in the November 2007 newsletter of the Creativity Coaching Association.

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