This blog will discuss the current issues in creativity by the graduate students at the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State. www.buffalostate.edu/creativity
The views expressed herein are those of the graduate students and do not necessarily represent the views of the International Center for Studies in Creativity or of any other Buffalo State College body.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
The Tools: Transform your problems into courage, confidence, and creativity. A Book Review by Graduate Student Ian Rosenfeldt.
across The Tools in the Cultural Studies section of the bookstore. After
flipping through, it looked appealing enough to investigate. The premise is
straightforward - outlining five tools to be used to develop one’s self
actualization. It occurred to me that there are plenty of cognitive tools to
guide creative thinking and yet I hadn’t come across many whose purpose was to
guide our thoughts so as to optimize our mindset for creative thinking. How do
we suspend judgement? How do we accept opinions even if we disagree with
them? Since the elements of courage and confidence are fundamental to developing
creativity, perhaps The Tools, developed by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels, would
show a path to do just that and more?
one is written in call-and-response style from each author. One talks about his
experience as a psychotherapist, encountering challenges with patients and
looking for answers himself. The other talks about being approached by a young
patient who was searching for answers. Not to why she thought the way she did,
but on how to change her way of thinking. This led Barry Michels on his own
quest to find tools that could do just that. The historical perspective on how
the authors came to be acquainted with each other and the Tools made for an
easy an engaging read and heightened my anticipation for more.
tools are a way to bring positivity to your consciousness and to connect you to
something called the Higher Power (and yes, it’s capitalized in the book). When
first reading about the Higher Power, skepticism came naturally. The authors
invite skepticism and ask only for one thing - for the reader to practice the
tools. Given that simple request, I read on with an open mind, curious about
what lay behind these Higher Powers. By inviting skepticism, the reader is
forced to examine the book from deeper perspectives, to be open minded and yet
look for cracks in the process.
the next five chapters, one for each of the tools, starts with a story from
their experiences - giving personality and context to allow the reader to
identify with. They present situations that would prompt you to use the tool,
the higher force that you will connect with, the process on how to use the tool
(with simple illustrations), how the tool works and what the benefits are. The
authors also address frequently asked questions they’ve had for each tool
before ending off with a summary. This layout works very well. As I progressed
through each chapter, I was trying to identify how I would use each tool. As
each chapter summary drew near, there were additional examples given and
alternative uses offered. Many of my own questions were addressed.
Thus far, I was grateful for finding The Tools and yet, the chapter on Higher
Power was yet to come and my skepticism alarm started to chime. Turns out the
Higher Power is not meant as a concept to challenge or replace anyone’s god,
religion or spiritual belief. It offers a way of explaining how the power of
happiness and confidence is actually a never ending well that we can tap
into...only it comes from inside of us and not from external sources. To
paraphrase the authors - these tools are a means of defeating inner enemies,
using the weapons that enable us to believe in and experience higher forces
without sacrificing our mental freedom to anyone or anything.
my skepticism, I realized that the perspective presented isn’t revolutionary or
even that scary. What is unique about this book is how the tools and this
unique perspective of Higher Powers are presented, in an easily digestible way
with simple and plain language that is not steeped with cultural, religious or
spiritual dressings. I found its
simplicity and presentation refreshing, and after some short term practice I
can say that these tools have had a positive impact on me. More practice is in
the cards, most definitely.
concluding chapter espouses practice and has us consider what might happen if
more and more people tapped into these Higher Powers - how we as a society
could benefit from the resulting positivity. One theme underscoring the entire
book is that Western society is hell bent on consumption as a route to
happiness, as if the latest and greatest will allows us to harness our
creativity and confidence even better than before. What Stutz and Michels
stress, however, is that along with developing a more positive mindset we each
have the limitless power to develop our own creative selves. In effect,
creating is more powerful than consuming.
between the lines, it is not a far cry to draw connections to humanistic
psychologists such as Rollo May or Abraham Maslow. The field of positive
psychology is there as well, with the elements of motivation that could have
easily referenced Teresa Amabile and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and even
psychologist Viktor Frankl.
tools seem like mantras, images and stories to be repeated and experienced
repeatedly in one’s head. What is most interesting is that we’re not being told
what specific images to use (i.e. not of someone else's creation) but scenarios
to create ourselves, based on our own experiences, insecurities, goals and
wishes. It takes imagination to visualize these future scenarios and The Tools
calls upon our metacognitive efforts to practice them.
authors mainly draw upon their experiences as psychotherapists in developing
these tools. It was disconcerting as a reader to have no references to draw
upon, and yet a core tenant of the book is that having faith in a process
despite not being able to prove it, doesn’t detract from its effectiveness.
Getting through the book is pretty easy, so I encourage a temporary suspension
of judgement while you read it. Once through the book, having gained an
understanding of the tools themselves, the concept of Higher Powers may be
easier to digest and reformulate in a way that makes more sense to you.
recommend this book to anyone who is craving an infusion of fresh perspective
to their stale inner dialogue. If you’re looking for techniques to be used to
top up your positivity, courage and confidence then The Tools is worth further
an energizing facilitator of deliberate creativity, team training and Creative
Problem Solving. He is a specialist in coaching for success, providing the
tools to optimize creative thinking and facilitating diverse groups through
their unique challenges.
Ian is a
current Masters student at Buffalo State College, studying creativity,
innovation and change leadership. He pursues optimal experience in the
mountains (not often enough), on bikes of all sorts and behind two turntables.