“Creativity takes courage.” –Henri Matisse
Want to know a secret?
Actually, it’s not really a secret…just something not many people realize. It’s this:
Creativity is for everybody… not just artists.
One of the myths of creativity is that it’s an innate talent that a select few have. The correct way to think about people and creativity is that they are on a spectrum. Some are more creative than others – but anyone can enjoy the benefits of enhanced creativity by incorporating a handful of mindset habits into their daily life.
“Habits? Yuck! Why would I want to develop creative habits?”
Creativity helps everybody. Have you ever been in a situation where you had to:
- Improvise when something didn’t work out as planned?
- Come up with a solution to a problem that was passed along to you?
- Think of a new way to do something because the old way stopped working?
A habit shouldn’t be thought of as something that is drudgery. Look through the concepts in the slideshow above and just absorb and think about them for a bit. Look at the picture and let it wash over your mind. Is it something you think would help your daily life? Hopefully it is.
If so, then there’s a good chance it may stick. The next time you encounter this line of thinking, you may be more inclined to follow that line of thought. There may be a glimmer of something that wasn’t quite there before, an idea that helps you come to a solution. If this is the case, then you’re well on your way to developing a creative habit!
Here’s a summary of the habits I talk about in the slideshow:
1. Daydream: Take Your Mind For A Stroll Once In Awhile.
If you’re like me, daydreaming was certainly NOT a subject on the report card you took home with you from elementary school. (In fact, it did show up on that report card… but not with a grade next to it. It usually had a written note that went something like this:
“Needs to pay attention in class! – Teacher.”
So I was one of those who, like many of you, developed a habit of daydreaming early in life. So I don’t need be told to daydream, it just comes naturally.
But for the rest of you, just think of it as a stream of consciousness exercise. Block out the next five minutes to think about whatever your mind wants to. Let your eyes drift over the room, or a picture, and entertain whatever thought comes to mind. Or think of a memory you have, and dwell on it – why did you think of it? How does it make you feel?
You may think this is silly and meaningless… but please consider it. Because daydreaming is the key to generating ideas, solutions, and is the stuff of genius. While the prevailing cultural thought may be that the semi-catatonic state you look like you’re in isn’t doing anything, studies have shown that actually a lot is going on in your brain when you daydream.
A warning: you may encounter anxiety, or resistance, or really scary stuff. It’s okay… this may mean you’re repressing feelings that you need to stop running away from. I’ll leave you with that for now… I don’t want to get into too much psychology, I just want to help you peek though the doorway of possibility. It’s yours to take if you want to.
2. Empathize: Put Yourself In Someone Else’s Shoes.
Besides fostering understanding between people, empathy is a key ingredient in creative thinking.
Think about it: to be empathetic, you have to actually change your perspective. You have to see the world through another person’s eyes.
That’s creativity in action!
When you empathize, you’re removing yourself from your own presence of mind and putting it in another’s. Since this is very difficult when you don’t necessarily agree with the other person’s viewpoints, you can start with feelings. Here’s a quick example to illustrate my point:
When you see someone stub their toe and howl in pain, not matter who they are, you can certainly relate to them. We have all done that, and you may imagine this very moment a recent time when you walked through a dark room and didn’t see that chair leg in the way. Ouch! The pain shoots up your leg and back down again, and for a moment it’s all you can focus on.
If you’re wincing right now, you’re well on your way to feeling more empathy! (sorry about that, by the way…)
3. Bravely Face Emotions, Even The Painful Ones.
Some of us are repelled from the touchy-feely. I actually place myself on that end of the spectrum. I don’t like to feel too much, and I defer especially painful feelings as long as possible.
But this actually hinders our ability to draw upon our life experiences as a source of creativity.
Imagine that you are in a long hallway with a lot of doors. You’re told that something you need is behind one of those doors. It’s very urgent that you find it. But when you come to the first door, it’s very difficult to open. So you go to the next door. It’s also near impossible to open. You do find a few doors that open, but what you need isn’t inside any of them. By the time you get to the end of the hall, you still haven’t found what you need, and you spent a lot of time already.
That’s what unanswered emotions are like: they forbid us to progress further.
Inevitably, we will need to revisit them to get what we need out of life. And if we keep ignoring them, we’ll miss out on a lot of progress.
When we do bravely deal with our emotions, we find an enormous amount of material to draw from there. If you’re an artist, you may find that a whole path of productivity opens up when you have the heart to face those emotions… they are like a fiery furnace, giving crazy boundless energy to your art.
4. Observe Everything. Inspiration Can Be Found Everywhere.
Michelangelo was known for observing everything. He kept copious journals of his research and everything he saw. In one instance, he went into detail about the shadows on a table, and how they were softer the farther they got away from the plate. He also observed how they were more blue in hue compared to the sunlit colors.
When you give yourself permission to observe without purpose, you can come up with some pretty fantastic material. Do you feel like all your ideas are stale? To come up with different observations, simply move yourself to a different location and observe there. Go to a homeless shelter, or a foreign airport, or lay down on your kitchen floor and look up at the bottom of your dinner table.
Feel silly? Sure. But you’re actually doing some powerful stuff… you’re forging new neural pathways in your brain, and setting yourself up for truly new, original thinking.
5. Welcome Change. See It As A Chance To Grow In New Soil.
Many of us resist change. I know people who resist it tooth and nail. But those same people also lack coping skills that many of the rest of us have.
I’m not bagging on them or anything, I just know that change facilitates resilience in a person, an ability to foster new internal growth.
One of the agricultural advances in the time after the middle ages was the concept of rotating crops. It was found that if a crop was taken from one field and planted in the next, the crop was much more disease-resistant and grew better. Soon the strategy of rotating these crops became commonplace, and we were able to maximize our production and feed more people.
Think back on a time when you had to change your living space or your career. Did you grow significantly because of it? Hopefully you will see that you did… and embrace new change as an opportunity to develop and grow.
Even change that you perceive as painful and negative can have positive outcomes. There are endless stories of people who got downsized, let go, or fired from the company that they thought was their refuge, then starting a new business or career that provided much more fulfillment.
Embrace The Creative Habit Every Day
Creative thinking through a few naturally developed habits will dramatically increase your ability to solve problems and get more joy out of life. I sincerely hope you set a goal for yourself to pick at least one of these mindsets and develop it. You won’t regret it.
The habits I mentioned are just a handful of creativity concepts. I know you have more! Why don’t you share them in the comments below?
Here are a few questions to get the comment juice flowing:
- Do you ever daydream? What do you tend to think about? Do you feel guilty about it? Why?
- Do you have a hard time putting yourself in someone else’s shoes? Why do you think that is?
- Try watching a documentary about a person or band or group that you don’t identify with. After watching it, do you feel you understand them better?
- Are you someone who embraces emotions (maybe too much) or do you run away from them? Why?
- In what ways do your emotions fuel your creative output?
- What are some ways you can observe the world around you to see it in a different light? Do it now… what did you think about?
- Do you embrace or resist change? In what ways have changes in your life prodded you to develop skills or other things that made you a better person?
Thanks for reading this article, and my hope is that you will endeavor to live more creative lives through developing new mindsets and habits.