Part of being creative is to find ways to keep that childlike wonder alive. I like to do things that I loved as a child in order to relax and to connect with a more innocent world. Today I took one of my childhood games and investigated the adult version of it. And what I discovered about it was pretty incredible.
For years I have wanted to Geocache, but have never tried it. Since I recently got a real smartphone (I know, I’m usually about 10 years behind the times), I downloaded the app and gave it a try.
For those of you who do not know, Geocaching is a treasure hunt with GPS coordinates. You can use a handheld GPS unit or a smartphone to locate a treasure that’s been hidden. Some caches, as the treasures are called, are easy to find, while others are very difficult and can take you on a long outdoor outing.
When I downloaded the app, I found a geocache right in my neighborhood, so I took a walk to find it. The GPS gets you close, and you can view clues on the app to help you figure out exactly where it is. I wandered around confused for a few minutes before reading the clues. I then figured out that the cache was actually on the bridge over the creek leading into my neighborhood. As I ran my hand on the underside of the bridge, I felt a plastic box with a magnet attached to the bridge.
Inside the box, I found a plastic purple flower, a small log where I could write my name, and a tiny pencil. I logged my find, took the flower, and replaced it with a turquoise peace sign bead that I had. Take a prize, give a prize. Then I replaced the box back under the bridge, feeling so proud of myself. That afternoon, I proceeded to find two more caches that are within two miles of my house and labeled easy to find.
Why am I talking about this? Because I believe that this could really help foster my creativity, for a couple reasons. First, it is play! Playing in any form brings your mind outside of its conventional ways of thinking. When you do something fun, you interrupt the normal way your brain operates. Play spurs creative thinking. Remember how creative you were as a child, when you played all the time. As adults, we have lost this. Plus, you aren’t worrying about your problems. You are just having a good time, which makes you more creative in general.
Second, as for fostering creativity, I found that, in looking for the caches, I had to put my mind into a less logical and more creative state. The GPS gets you close, but I have to put myself in the place of the person placing the cache, see how he or she sees things, and decide where to look. The first time I tried to geocache, about five years ago, I couldn’t figure it out. I looked for one cache with a handheld GPS unit but could never figure out where it was, so I gave up. I looked at it too logically instead of thinking creatively. This time, however, I chose to change my mindset, to see interesting places that something could be hidden. I had to rely on more than just the coordinates. I had to look at my environment differently. And this is the same thing that one has to do to think creatively: look at things differently.
The last geocache I found was in a national park, hidden on the side of a building in the Italian Garden. I was so excited to find it quickly because I entered the mindset I needed much faster than I had before. And to my excitement, a tiny panda bear was in the box. I traded it for my superball, and now I am the proud parent of a tiny, plastic panda that stands less than one inch tall. He is my new mascot. I will need to give him a suitable name.
So, in rediscovering the joys of activities we once loved as children, we can reignite our creativity.
What did you enjoy as a child and how can you bring this passion and curiosity back to your life as an adult?