The Truth About Creativity

Human beings are essentially born creative, which makes life infinitely more interesting and fulfilling. From infancy onward we find innovative ways to navigate through life and seem to have a knack for finding ways to survive. Creativity is a gift that comes naturally, and some adults are lucky to have retained that gift, for the more rules and restrictions we face through life, the more our creativity can be stunted.

Fortunately it is a skill that can be developed and is certainly not exclusive to artists, musicians or writers. Creativity is a useful skill for people from all walks of life. It expands human perception and helps us find new ways of solving problems and approaching challenging situations. It creates a unique kind of resilience that allows us to see roadblocks as opportunities and can lead to amazing breakthroughs and innovative and profitable ideas.

We should not expect creativity to just “happen” though, as it can be quite elusive. Many times an idea will hit you when you are least expecting it — while taking a shower or driving home from work, when you are half awake in the morning, or even in the middle of the night. However, in order for creativity to “come to you”, it requires new sources of inspiration that bring fresh ideas and motivation. We often think about creativity as making something, but in fact the root meaning of the word means ‘to grow’. When we are creative we feel as if the world and all that is in it is vibrantly alive. Creativity’s byproducts are some of the major achievements of civilization – from the invention of the wheel to Mozart’s sonatas.

Our brain and creativity

When we are doing something creatively, what is actually active in our brain? Researchers Siyuan Liu and Allen Braun did research on this topic by tracking the brain activity of freestyle rappers. It turns out that the parts of the brain that we use in ‘business as usual’ thinking are totally switched off when we are being creative, whereas other parts of our mind that we do not use everyday are quite active. (The medial prefrontal cortex have shown increased activity during improvisation and lower activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex).

They discovered that during creative expression, ‘executive functions’ take a back seat and more uncensored processes and de-focused attention happen.

George Land’s Creativity Test George Land conducted a research study in 1968. What the test shows is that non-creative behavior is learned. Land did a creativity test on children in the age group 3 to 5. This was the same test he conducted to select scientists and innovative engineers for NASA. He tested the same children at 10 years of age, and again at 15 years of age.

The results were shocking: While the creativity in 5 year olds was 98%, it went down to 30% when they reached the age of 10. And it was just 12% when they were tested as 15 year olds. When the same test was given to 280,000 adults, the creativity was just 2%.

The world is changing so rapidly now that just learning a specific skill set and following it exactly won’t get us very far. What prepares us for life beyond the classroom is learning how to be more creative, which includes flexibility in perception and execution of tasks. Schools have started acknowledging the importance of creativity in classrooms and courses in creativity are now provided by academia because it is common knowledge that only creativity can help people succeed in the 21st century. And, in a world where Artificial Intelligence (AI) stands to replace many jobs, people who are creative will always be in high demand as it is not something robots can easily replace!

In a not too distant future a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) will surely become far more in demand than a Masters of Business Administration (MBA); so focus on developing your creativity as much as you can as it will bear you in good stead.

Food for your Creative Self

One of the best ways to develop your creative abilities is to become an expert in that area. By having a rich understanding of the topic, you will be better able to think of novel or innovative solutions to problems. The following tips can help expand your creative skills:

Set aside time:Be prepared to factor developing creativity into your daily timetable This is a good way to train your mind to relax, and it sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to work on creative ideas. You won't be able to develop your creative talents if you don't make time for them, so as well as your daily timetable schedule some time each week to socialize with creative people. Read a book, visit a museum, listen to your favorite music or engage in a lively debate with a friend. Take workshops in painting or music or design. Utilize whatever strategy or technique works best for you.

Find a creative space:

In addition to time, finding a particular space to be creative can help too, as it needs to have the right ambiance. Bright lights and loud music are usually not helpful to a creative brain. Take notice of the way you work and see what provides the best results.

Reward your curiosity:One common roadblock to developing creativity is the sense that curiosity is an indulgence. Rather than reprimanding yourself, reward yourself when you are curious about something. Give yourself the opportunity to explore new topics. While rewarding yourself is important, it is also important to develop intrinsic motivation. Sometimes, the true reward of creativity is the process itself, not the product.

Be willing to take risks:When it comes to building your creative skills, you need to be willing to take risks in order to advance your abilities. While your efforts may not lead to success every time, you will still be boosting your creative talents and building skills that will serve you well in the future.

Build Your Confidence:Insecurity in your abilities can suppress creativity, which is why it is important to build confidence. Make note of the progress you have made, commend your efforts, and always be on the lookout for ways to reward your creativity

Overcome negative attitudes that block creativity:Positive moods can increase your ability to think creatively, so if you are doing something that requires you to be creative, you want to be in a place that puts you in a good mood. Focus on eliminating negative thoughts or self-criticism that may impair your ability to develop strong creative skills.

Fight your fear of failure:

The fear that you might make a mistake or fail in your efforts can paralyze your progress. Whenever you find yourself harboring such feelings, remind yourself that mistakes are simply part of the process. While you may occasionally stumble on your path to creativity, you will eventually reach your goals.

Realize that most problems have multiple solutions:

The next time you approach a problem, try looking for a variety of solutions. Instead of simply going with the first idea you have, take the time to think of other possible ways to approach the situation. This simple activity is a great way to build both your problem-solving and creative thinking skills.

Keep a creativity journal:

If you like writing, start keeping a journal to follow your creative process and track the ideas you produce. A journal is a great way to reflect back on what you have accomplished and look for other possible solutions. This journal can be used to save ideas that can later serve as future inspiration.

Challenge yourself and create opportunities for creativity:

Once you have developed some basic creative skills, it is important to continually challenge yourself in order to further advance your abilities. Look for more approaches, try out new things and avoid always using the same solutions you have used in the past.

Consider alternative scenarios:

When approaching a problem, utilize "what if..." questions to consider each possible scenario. If you take a specific approach, what will the outcome be? By looking at these alternatives beforehand, you'll be better able to develop creative solutions to problems.

Sleep on it:

The brain has a way of “gardening” through ideas while you sleep. It provides a great way for your subconscious to sift through everything and you’ll probably be surprised to see how much work has been done without you knowing when you return to the challenge after a good night’s sleep.

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