Taking a Creative Approach to Life’s Challenges

By Maureen Vaught posted 04-29-2022 10:02


I don’t think of myself as creative per se.

I don’t paint. I can’t sing or dance (although that doesn't stop me). And I don’t play an instrument. But then I look around the condo we’re renting, and I see creativity in every choice I’ve made to design a home that we love.

Creativity encompasses so much more than the obvious talents. Creativity is the ability to tap into our right brain to create a joyful life. Whether we’re cooking a meal for a loved one, photographing a sunset on the beach, or planting a garden, we’re expressing ourselves creatively.

Creativity and innovation also help us solve the challenges we encounter in our personal and professional lives. Creative problem solving isn’t a new concept. But World Creativity and Innovation Day (which was last week - 21 April) is a good reminder of how these techniques can help us find solutions that improve our lives.

In the spirit of the day, I thought I’d see if this process could help me solve a problem I’m facing in real life.

I just found out that the owner of the condo we’ve grown to love has decided to sell and we’ll need to find a new place to live when our lease ends. My knee-jerk reaction is to be upset and feel angry and overwhelmed. Not helpful.

So, I decided to take a creative approach to my problem. Here’s a quick overview of my process using creative problem-solving techniques. My husband and I also used a simple mind-mapping tool to generate ideas and identify pros and cons to each option.

  1. Clarify the problem.
    • The lease ends October 1
    • Need to find a new place to live no later than October 1
    • Unknowns:
      • What if the new owner wants us to move out sooner?
      • What if the new owner wants to continue leasing the condo to us?
      • What if the new owner raises the rent?
  1. Gather data.
    • What will it cost us to move?
    • What neighborhoods are desirable?
    • What are the must-haves and deal-breakers for our next home?

  2. Explore ideas. (see mind-mapping graphic below for all our brainstorming)
    • Pack up everything, put it in storage, and travel the world
      • Pros: Enjoy new experiences
      • Cons: No place to call home
    • Buy a place
      • Pros: More control
      • Cons: Less flexibility
    • Rent from an individual
      • Pros: Space is more charming and unique
      • Cons: Owner or property manager may not have your best interests at heart
    • Rent in an apartment building
      • Pros: Professional management and security
      • Cons: Cookie-cutter interiors with little personality

  3. Develop a plan.
    Charm and character won out over the other options. So, the plan below reflects our decision to rent from an individual.
    • Create a timeline
    • Check Zillow and Craigslist for apartments
    • Talk with a realtor
    • Contact movers for estimates

  4. Carry out plan.

What did I learn from this exercise?
Putting it all down on paper made me feel more in control of the situation. Exploring ideas also helped me focus on what I really wanted (and didn’t want). 

Did it help me find a new place? No. I still have to put in the hard work to find our next home. But it took away that gnawing feeling of helplessness so I could move on — literally.

It also illustrated to me that creativity isn’t just something that “happens.” No matter what you’re trying to accomplish — solving a problem or creating joy in your life — it takes effort. But isn’t that true of anything that’s important?

Tell me how have you used creative problem solving to address a challenge in your life? What did you learn?

Our mind map to creatively solve our problem



05-10-2022 10:19

Great tips, Maureen. I enjoy a good pro/con list, especially when it's color-coded! I'm also a fan of sticky notes that I can put on the wall and move around/add to when I have a thought.

05-03-2022 12:35

I love your chart, that itself is creativity in expression including the choice of colors. 
And I admire your ability to Keep Calm and Carry On. Ha!
Such a potentially irritating development and yet it sounds like you are handling it with aplomb. Hopefully you can find a place with a nice view that you can decorate with your own personal touches.