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Fears and Creativity

I recently stumbled upon a TED Talk by David Kelley called How to Build your Creative Confidence.  One of my assignments for class was to find a TED Talk that both motivated and inspired me to be a more effective leader.

After looking around the last few days I was surprisingly having a hard time finding one that fit the criteria.  When I came upon this video, the title seemed inspiring enough so I began the short eleven-minute talk.  Little did I know that snakes would be involved.  If you have read my Cat Lady post, you will remember I am very afraid of snakes.

Check out the video here:


If it doesn’t play link to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16p9YRF0l-g

David Kelly challenged the statement “I’m not the creative type.”  He rooted this response back to experiences as far back as elementary school, when as children we were being playfully creative but were told what we were making was terrible.  Experiences like that results in what David calls the Fear of Judgment.
As a result, we stay away from things we may be judged poorly on.  I can relate with this.  I want all the work I produce to be high quality and attempt to take on more of what I know I can do best.  But does that mean I do this because I fear judgment?
The video goes on to describe popular psychologist Albert Bandura, whom at 86 is still active in the field.
Here is where the snake comes in.
He works with individuals whom have phobias and has found a treatment that can ‘cure’ them in literally hours.  This step-by-step process is called Guided Mastery.  In his study, he used the fear of snakes to participants.  With a guided process, he slowly introduced them to the animal, so by the time they were in the same room with the serpent they were calling it beautiful.
Results were so astonishing that this newfound confidence, in overcoming fears, bought positive changes throughout other areas of their lives.  This kind of gained confidence is also what Albert Bandura refers to as self-efficacy and the more you have of it, the more your feel you can go out into the world and accomplish goals.  From psychologyabout.com:

According to Albert Bandura, self-efficacy is “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.” In other words, self-efficacy is a person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation. Bandura described these beliefs as determinants of how people think, behave, and feel (1994).

This sounds pretty appealing, tackle my fear of snakes and in return unveil a secret layer of confidence unknown to me?   But I’d have to hold a snake.  Decisions decisions.

In all seriousness though, the video did present information that made me think about the existence and formation of fears.  How those fears can dictate our actions (or inactions).  If moving past these fears leads us to higher levels of self-efficacy, we are freer to do what we are called to do.
In higher education, how are we promoting students self-efficacy, so they can connect back with their best creative selves. Going back to my class assignment, this video called me as a leader within higher ed to ask myself:

  1. What fears do most students have, that both staff and faculty need to guide them through?
  2. What fears do higher education professionals have that are  resulting in less creative efforts?
  3. In higher education is there a Field of Judgement for students, staff and faculty?
  4. How can we set up university programs that include small successes for participants, so they gain confidence in creativity?

Light bulb moment.  I have held my own version of a snake to overcome a fear.
Instead of Dr. Bandura, it was a number of mentors, family members and friends guiding me step-by-step.
Instead of a snake, it was a phobia of not having a job, title or work identity.
The idea of focusing on school fulltime was first proposed by my husband of which I replied “are you crazy?!” (this is the same response the patients used initially to Dr. Bandura).  Each step closer to this fear, close mentors supported and encouraged me to explore the idea further.
The final step in me fully embracing the decision (holding the snake) was telling my parents.  My emotional revile with them brought me to a new level of self-efficacy.
I must be experiencing what David had promised, “when people gain this confidence, they start working on what is the most important in their lives.”  I’ll save the reveal of what this is for another post, but I am learning more about what I was put on earth to do(I know sounds cheesy).

What David says in this TED Talk is really is true.  “Achieve self-efficacy, you can do what you set out to do.  You reach creative confidence.  You can touch the snake.”
If you would have told me I would just be going to school a year ago, I would have exclaimed “you must be crazy?!”
But to be creative, you just might have to be a little crazy and courageous.
What snakes (aka fears) do you need to face?  What Dr. Bandura’s do you have in your life to guide you through the step-by-step process?  Are you doing in your life what is most important, what you believe you were called to do?  If you could let go of certain fears what would you seek out to accomplish?

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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