One of history's most creative people was Leonardo da Vinci. He observed, drew, took notes, and was thoughtful about pretty much everything, and logged pretty much everything in his notebooks. There are about 8,000 notebook pages that still exist. We think that's about half of them.
One of Leonardo's great strengths was his ability to look at the ordinary -- the routine -- and see possibility. (Another was his posture: his posture was said to be so great that people actually went out to watch him walk down the street. Think about that: this guy was such an inspiration that people just wanted to watch him walk.)
In his excellent book (and companion workbook), "How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci," author Michael Gelb breaks the Leonardo approach into seven "mandates" that form a pretty valid way to approach living a life creatively. This is a much-abridged version, and I hope Mr. Gelb will forgive me. For a much more descriptive look, get the book.
So here are the seven steps to living a creative life, ala Leonardo:
1. Be curious. About everything. Ask a lot of questions, of yourself and others, and keep a journal to record your observations. Then thumb through it to look for connections, patterns, new thoughts.
2. Test what you know. Be your own Devil's Advocate. Search for all the ways your conclusion can be wrong to better help it be right. Be willing to accept new information even if it isn't what you want to hear.
3. Trust your senses. Leonardo felt that people should trust their senses as much as their intellect. He especially seemed to like sight, and even talked of "knowing how to see." The implication: immerse yourself in the complete experience: see it, hear it, feel it, smell it, taste it.
4. Love a good mystery. Like Leonardo, cultivate the ability to hold many conflicting thoughts in your head rather than jump to a conclusion, however sound it seems initially. Have internal argument. The right answer will work itself out.
5. Balance art and science. Neither the left brain nor the right brain is the best brain. The whole brain is. In my past life as an advertising creative director, my colleagues and I would debate: is marketing an art or a science? The answer, of course, is both. Smart marketers know this. Dumb ones have no balance.
6. Love your body. No, not in the "Oh yeah, I look good" way (although that's OK too). Leonardo was a big believer in grace, dexterity and being fit. Remember, people just liked to watch the man walk. The implication: be healthy, be physical, have good balance, focus on well-being.
7. See the web. Mufasa (Lion King? Simba's dad? Remember the Disney movie?) was right: "All things are connected, in the great Circle of Life." (It sounds better when James Earl Jones says it). Look for the connections between everything and everything else.
Go out and try just one of those tomorrow. Or right now. Your life just got more creative.