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People Talk: Buff State educator promotes a creative approach to New Year’s resolutions

Gerard J. Puccio believes in the power of a creative New Year’s resolution.

“You must have the means to be creative,” said Puccio, the chairman of the International Center for Studies in Creativity at SUNY Buffalo State. “You must have the imagination, knowledge, intrinsic drive and passion – and then you need opportunity.”

A new year, he said, brings the potential to start a new chapter in your life – as well as the opportunity to write it.

Puccio, 53, grew up on the south side of Erie, Pa., where he spent much time on his own writing stories and creating his own games. A psychology major, Puccio moved to Buffalo after he landed a job at Buffalo State’s unique creativity center.

Puccio lives in East Amherst and travels the world to countries like Spain, Ireland, Brazil and England where he presents his findings on deliberate creativity. His books include: “The Innovative Team,” “Creative Leadership” and “Creativity Rising.”

People Talk: What is a benefit of New Year’s resolutions?

Gerard Puccio: Resolutions are about not being satisfied with the status quo. It sets a target for the change, a destination. Without a clear and specific destination, you wallow in the status quo. Vague resolutions do not create a strong impetus for change. If you are more specific, the chances are better you will reach your destination.

PT: When do resolutions fail?

GP: When they are made to please another person. You are more likely to succeed if you are passionate and you are doing it for yourself. Some people pursue change only if they have a guarantee of success. They set the bar low. You should have a plan to implement your resolution. A resolution without a plan is an idle daydream.

PT: Give me an example?

GP: If you want to run a marathon by the end of the year, you need to break it down into action steps, short- and long-term. So in the next 24 to 48 hours, shop for running shoes. I’m writing a book, so I took a short-term action step. Last night I set my coffee maker to go on at 7 in the morning and I set the brew time to one hour so I had to get up. It’s also important when you have a resolution to start immediately.

PT: Do resolutions offer opportunities for self-improvement?

GP: They’re really about working on yourself. Since resolutions are all about self-reflection, it’s only natural they focus on what you aspire to do in the coming year. It could be missed opportunities or regrets looking forward. What you can do to correct something or what you would have done differently. In part, it’s reactionary, but it’s also being forward thinking in terms of the opportunities you may wish to seize.

PT: Where have you made inroads into the creative process?

GP: Helping people to identify their creative thinking preferences. Some people are clarifiers who like to research. Ideators think in big bold abstract terms. Developers take a concept and fashion, craft and perfect it. Implementors like to move into action and see ideas come to fruition.

PT: How do you stimulate creativity?

GP: Think about your life as a product. Most people think of creativity as a piece of art, poetry, a new service. But it’s also creating your life. You can learn to think creatively when you generate ideas without judgment. You start judging your own thinking and the next thing you know, you’re not even making resolutions. Don’t let critical thinking supersede creative thinking.

PT: Why did you branch off into creativity?

GP: I’m a psychologist. To me, psychology has focused too much on mental illness and dysfunctions, but there is an area called positive psychology where you’re looking at well-being and self-actualization. Creativity falls into that arena. How do you use your imagination to fulfill your potential? The data is pretty clear. When you engage in creative acts, you are happier, more satisfied. You are more flexible and resilient. You’re a healthier human being. Staying creative will fight off dementia.