by Elmarie Bouwer

 The contest…

Sunlight glinted on the saddle and the deep chestnut hues rippled power. Light played brilliantly on the powerful flanks as the animal readied himself to scale the jump that all others in the competition, less potent than he, leaped with relative ease. This round he would easily win. Triumph was a foregone conclusion.

He approached the jump in a full gallop that would effortlessly lift him over. The crowd on the stands waited with bated breath…

As he leaped, rider tightly positioned, his one front hoof caught the top slat and sent both horse and rider crashing to the muddy earth on the other side. In spite of all his power and looks, he simply could not fly high enough…

A lesser specimen proudly trotted off with the laurels.


 It took time and patient coaching to work on his jumping skills. Later he did best his competition.

He conquered more than a jump. He conquered his fear.


 The inconvenient (and costly) truth…

You not only witnessed a show jumping contest in the example above, gone horribly out of kilter, but a scenario that repeats itself with numbing results whenever there is any kind of barrier between you and true creative thought.

Barriers to creativity are what keep us from those million dollar ideas that will catapult us into true wealth, creative freedom and significant living. Barriers are costly and often we don’t even know they’re there. Because we’re so frequently unaware of them, we settle for half bred ideas and systems that can (and do!) cost us our businesses and livelihoods.

No mere show jumping hurdles these…

 John Adair, action-centered leadership guru, says the following barriers keep people from being creative [and obviously prospering!]:

Negative attitude

The tendency to focus on the negative aspects of problems dwarfs any search of inherent opportunities.


Fear of failure

 It is the fear of looking foolish or being laughed at. Yet Tom Watson, founder of IBM, said: “The way to accelerate your success is to double your failure rate.” Failure is a necessary condition for success.”1

Of this fear, Micheal Michalko of Creative Thinking says: “…because we fear failure we [do] not act. We avoid taking action. If we don’t act, we can’t fail. If we are forced to take action, we do not do anything until we have a perfect plan which will take into account any and everything that can happen. We make sure the plan details all the human and material resources you need. We will seek the guidance and direction of every expert and authority we are able to approach. If any [person] expresses the slightest doubt, we will not take the risk of failure and abandon the plan.

… if you don’t take action when you need new ideas in your personal and business lives and do nothing, nothing bad can happen and nothing is the result. In our culture of helplessness, nothing is better than even the slightest chance of failure, because failure means we are worthless.”2

Adair continues…

Executive stress

 Not having time to think creatively. The over-stressed person finds it difficult to think objectively at all. Unwanted stress reduces the quality of all mental processes.

Overwhelmed by rules

 Although rules are necessary, it tends to encourage mental laziness. A tendency to conform to accepted patterns of belief or thought – the rules and limitations of the status quo – hampers creative breakthroughs.

Over-reliance on logic

Investing all available intellectual capital into logical or analytical thinking – the step-by-step approach – excludes imagination, intuition, feeling or humour.

Not challenging assumptions

 Failure to identify and examine the assumptions you make about any situation or problem can be preventative in even trying to find a new way of doing something.

He also mentions lack of a starting point, lack of perspective, lack of motivation, lack of consultation and criticism if given too soon or of the wrong kind.

“The biggest barrier, however,” he says, “is BELIEVING YOU ARE NOT CREATIVE… this barrier really stops people in their tracks from even entering the race… Whatever may or may not have been your self-image in the past, this is an unproven hypothesis about you as far as the future is concerned….”1

Ami Mattison adds even more barriers to the mix of our creativity struggle. According to her we may struggle with overwhelming emotions such as anger or sadness. Deeply embedded emotions… in our psyches can cause a numbness that disconnects us from our creative impulses and may make creativity painful or even impossible.

Furthermore she says, the drive toward perfectionism keeps “us trapped in fear of failure, and the more we strive for perfection, the more failure and negativity we confront as we crush every nascent or tentative effort to create.” She also lists effects like jealousy, self-pity, creative injury and lost faith as culprits that cull our creative impulses.3


Last but definitely not least, Prof Robert Harris adds his voice to the choir when he observes that we are prone to believe that we cannot do something. He gives some inspiring examples that make mash of this false belief: “Who were the Wright brothers that they could invent an airplane? Aviation engineers? No, they were bicycle mechanics. The ball point pen was invented by a printer’s proofreader… not a mechanical engineer.

… innovations in industry almost always come from individuals… outside of the area of the invention…”4

He lists more obstacles not mentioned here (lack of space!), so you are encouraged to read his full article.


So, what about you?  Has one or more barriers clipped your creative wings?  Fear not! There is more than enough help available to get you flying once more. Like the horse above, you can conquer & scale any barriers with the right coaching, enough time and patience.

Later we will focus on that help, but first join us next week for a look at the myths we believe about creativity. We also look at the characteristics of the creative person. See you there!

© Elmarie Bouwer

  1. Adair, John. Effective Innovation. London 1996, Pan Books
  2. Michalko, Michael. The seven deadly sins that prevent people from being creative thinkers. 27 October 2011.  Web 9 February 2012. http://creativethinking.net/articles/2011/10/27/the-seven-deadly-sins-that-prevent-people-from-being-creative-thinkers/
  3. Mathison, Amy. When creativity goes away: how to unblock your inner artist. 30 March 2010. Par 8…Web 7 February 2012   http://poetrynprogress.com/2010/03/30/when-creativity-goes-away-how-to-unblock-your-inner-artist-part-1/

4. Harris, Robert. Introduction to creative thinking. VirtualSalt. 1 July 1998. Web.      9 February 2012. http://www.virtualsalt.com/crebook1.htm


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