Leaders are often asked to create something new. The pressure we place on ourselves to do it “fast” and “right” can be intimidating and stressful. Recently, a leader posted on social media that her thoughts were “all scrambled” when she was trying to create a new work product and she was struggling with self-critical thoughts on her performance.

I immediately thought of a jigsaw puzzle and the similar mental process of seeing all the pieces thrown around. You know the picture will come into view at some point, and the pieces will begin to fit together, but you just aren’t sure exactly how or in what time frame. Some people love puzzles; others, not so much.

Personally, I love doing jigsaw puzzles. I usually start by picking out all the edge pieces and creating the border or the frame of the project, then grouping color pieces together that I think are related to a part of the picture. After the obvious parts of a puzzle are done, I move to fill in the gaps. I love sitting and hunting for a certain shape or a certain color that will fit into the exact spot I need. I also love how ten pieces from the end, I find that one elusive piece that I just couldn’t locate, and all the last few pieces immediately fall into place. The feeling of running my hand on top of the finished work is gives me a sense of accomplishment. I take one last look, then I crumble it apart. I never do the same puzzle twice. I lose interest after accomplishing the goal, and I’m ready to move on to the next.

When I read this leader’s challenges on their social blog, I responded with a comment, “That’s the beauty and stress of creation. It’s a smattering of glimpses, images, thoughts, feelings and experiences until one day the image comes into view and everything suddenly clicks into place. Stay with it!”

How many of you feel similarly stressed and excited when working on a new idea or a new project? Here are four tips that help me create a space for the creative process to unfold.

1) It takes time: You can’t rush the creative process. Ideas can come in waves or come crashing on the shore of your conscious mind all at once. Don’t force yourself or put pressure on yourself to “create”. Let things unfold while you are relaxed and in the flow of your higher self. Time is not linear to the creative mind. When the thought comes, write it down, and DO something with the idea.

2) It’s messy: Don’t place unrealistic expectations of perfection draft one. You may have draft after draft crumpled on the floor. Expect things to be messy, and have fun with the process.

3) Stick with it: If you get stuck walk away, but DON’T give up. Come back to the idea later. Water doesn’t stop when it hits a barrier, it yields to the blockage and creeps around until it finds an opening. Ideas have a way of coming to the surface even if you feel blocked in your conscious mind.  Just allow the time and the space for your subconscious mind to work. Your creative end product will always find a way to emerge.

4) Expect the unexpected: Your first idea of an outcome is rarely what you will end with. Expect that your ideas will ebb and flow in directions you did not envision. Expect to be surprised by what you come up with.

Leadership is often about paving the way into something new. It can be stressful, takes time, and is messy. You’ll get there in the end. Often, the journey and end result will be something you could never have planned out. Like a jigsaw, one day your creation will just click and the picture will come fully into view.

Your behavior profile impacts your personal creative process. DISC is a great behavior profile tool that allows you to improve communication and your effectiveness at work. Schedule a free coaching session to find out more about DISC profiles.