For the past three weeks, we’ve been exploring the concept of Creativity, with the following key premises…
In case you missed the three-part video series, I’ll provide links below. This week will conclude our creativity series with a written recap.
What is the role of creativity in your life right now? Not sure? Take 30 seconds to complete this self-assessment and come back here when you’re finished. Don’t worry, you won’t have to enter your email address or offer up your credit card info. (Feel free to leave those in the comments 😉)
How did you do?
In my experience, most adults struggle a bit when it comes to creativity. Either they don’t think they are creative, they don’t see the value in creativity, or a combination of the two. This is really unfortunate, in my opinion and we’ll get into the reasons why later in this article.
For now, let’s consider what might be the origin of our problems with creativity.
I believe that a big part of the problem is the way that we define the term…creativity. Name a few creative people. Steve Jobs? Pablo Picasso? JK Rowling? Absolutely. No doubt, they are all extremely creative.
But are we setting the bar too high? Are are measuring the wrong thing entirely? When we think of people like these, we think about their accomplishments. We marvel at their work products and we think … I could never do that. That must mean I’m not creative.
This is flawed logic.
We can’t measure creativity purely by the final outcome of the creative process. Much of that is beyond our control. We don’t decide what the market will deem desirable. We don’t control the reaction of the critics or the reader. The only thing we can control is the quality of our thinking. The authenticity of our ideas.
That’s what creativity really boils down to. The source of the ideas. Did we source the ideas from within us, thus creating something unique and novel? Or, did we turn to the outside world and simply rehash and reuse someone else’s ideas?
Each of us is unique. As such, we are each capable of creativity. Creativity is a choice.
Creativity is the choice to express oneself in a completely authentic manner. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Why is creativity worth thinking about? Isn’t creativity just for the handful of people who make their living as artists or designers? Nope.
Once we start thinking of creativity as pure, authentic expression, it becomes much more accessible. I would argue, it becomes an obligation. But there are other reasons why creativity is a worthwhile project.
In my book, Never Too Late, I describe the Four Seasons of Life Design. They are Survival, Success, Significance, and Spirituality, and in many ways, they represent the most basic fundamental human needs. Creativity plays a role in each of them.
Creativity has played a role in the overall health and well-being of our species for millennia, but in recent years, the scientific community has brought research to the conversation. Research suggests that creative expressions, such as music therapy, art therapy, expressive movement, and expressive writing have remarkable health benefits.
These benefits include reduced stress and increased positivity, improved medical outcomes, including reduced pain and depression. Creativity makes a difference in our survival.
When it comes to solving hard problems, we need new ideas. Of course we don’t want to ignore best practices and lessons learned, but those can only get us so far.
In the end, we need new ideas to fix persistent problems. This is true in our professional endeavors as well as in our personal lives. When we’re stuck, the same old solutions won’t work. Creativity is crucial to our success.
On some level, most of us long to be significant, not for ourselves, but for the benefit of others. Our family. Our team. Our community. When we embrace our desire for significance, we recognize that it’s not us, it’s about the people who matter to us.
How can we be truly significant to others if we don’t know what really matters to us? How can we be truly significant to others if they don’t truly know us, in our most authentic form? Creative, authentic expression is a bridge to this kind of significance.
Is creativity a spiritual practice? I think it may very well be the ultimate spiritual practice. What better way to honor the amazing gift of life than total authentic expression?
What better way to serve the world than by humbly offering the one thing that nobody else can offer. Your perspective?
What better way to connect with others than to lay yourself bare, for the world to see. To put yourself in a position of total vulnerability and say to the world … This is me. Please, be gentle. I have no doubt that creativity is among the most important spiritual practices.
The case for creativity is clear. It’s not just for the elite and the esoteric. Creativity is for each one of us. Every Day.
What makes creativity a challenge? Why do so many of us struggle to bring creativity into our life on a regular basis? What can we do about it?
In my experience, there are four major barriers to creativity: Beliefs, Boundaries, Biases, and “Busy”ness
Do you believe that creativity is a special gift that only a small number of people have? Do you believe that you are incapable of being creative? Do you believe that creativity is merely a “nice to have?”
To the extent that we subscribe to any of these beliefs, we will be far less likely to be creative. Creativity takes effort. It takes a willingness to be vulnerable. In other words, there is a cost to creativity. If we harbor limiting beliefs about our creativity or the importance of creativity, we’re not going to put forth the necessary effort to actually BE creative.
Each of us is living within a complex set of boundaries. Some of these boundaries are real (physics, laws, etc.) and some of them are imagined. These boundaries constrain our thinking and they often stifle our creativity. If we are bound to do something a certain way because that’s the way it has always been done, or that’s the only way people will accept it, then we’ve surrendered our opportunity for creativity.
We are bound by the voices of our critics. We are bound by our relationship with failure. When it comes to creativity, these boundaries are massive, because creativity and risk-taking are two sides of the same coin. If we fear we’ll be rejected or blamed for the outcome, we won’t take the risk. We need to give ourselves permission to create things that don’t work. Things that fail. As James Clear writes, we need to give ourselves “permission to create junk."
We need to silence our critics. Not by proving them wrong, but by changing our relationship to their critiques. Critiques are an authentic expression of the critic, whereas our creative effort is an authentic expression of ourself.
Our biases represent a massive barrier to creativity. Familiarity bias, which causes us to favor things that we are already comfortable with. Recency bias, which causes us to favor things that we’ve encountered lately. Availability bias, which is a fancy way to say laziness, causes us to favor that which is readily accessible. Confirmation bias causes us to gravitate towards things that support the beliefs we already hold.
Noticing and managing these biases is tricky, because they like to live beneath our consciousness. If you are intentional about looking for them, you can find them.
Studies show that being busy is a massive barrier to creativity. We need time and space for our brains to do their best work. We don’t have time and space when our calendar is jammed. When our To-Do list is long. And when we fill every potential moment of downtime with some kind of distraction. The
We need to intentionally create time in our schedule. Time to be still. Time to dream. Time to play. Time to be bored. When our inner project manager screams at us that we don’t have time for any of this, we need to gently remind them that time is a fixed resource, but energy is not. Creativity is a generative process. Creativity creates energy.
Creativity is not something reserved for a small number of mythical, magical beings. Creativity is not only accessible to each of us, but it is critical to our personal and professional endeavors.
That said, creativity doesn’t always come easy. There is work to be done and there are barriers to overcome. But it is work worth doing.
If you are interested in doing some of that work, I have a suggestion for you. Take the 5-Day Creativity Deep Dive. When you sign up for the Deep Dive, you’ll receive one email each morning with a new mini-lesson and a daily creativity challenge. After five days, you’ll receive a link to unsubscribe from further emails. It’s completely free, with absolutely no obligation.
The Five Day Deep Dive is a fun way to take the concepts in this article and apply them in your life. Ideas are important, but action always precedes learning.
If you missed the 3-part video series that inspired this article, you can catch them here:
If you missed the first two parts of the Creativity Series, you can watch them here:
The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature, Heather L. Stuckey, Ed and Jeremy Nobel, MD, MPH
Make More Art: The Health Benefits of Creativity, by James Clear
The Myth of Creative Inspiration, by James Clear
Being Busy is Killing Our Ability to Think Creatively, by Derek Beres