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How to become creative, even if you’re left-brained

Think you're not creative? Try these simple, research-backed steps to develop the most important skill in business today.

You are innately creative. So is every human! 


Once upon a time, you loved art. You scribbled and made necklaces out of dried pasta and created with such reckless abandon that your mom had to secretly throw it away.  

As you got older, you started to believe that exuberant source of creativity was unacceptable in a world ruled by status quo. The good news? That deep well of creativity is still within you to access. Our belief in the elusive artistic genius is a total myth.

Research shows that every single one of us has creative potential.

NASA has a creativity test for innovative scientists and engineers, and used it on a group of children over a 15-year period to learn why this happens. They found that, as a 5-year-old, you would get a 98% score (on a test for literal rocket scientists) and decline to just 2% by the time you reach adulthood. This is tragic!

Our creativity is killed by rules, regulations, and fear. Traditional models of learning teach us how to obey instructions, not how to think differently. There’s little room for imagination, day dreaming and imperfection, essential fertilizer for creativity, according to the greatest minds in human history.

Why does your creativity matter?

In addition to advancing the human species and all that jazz, people who use their creativity every day are happier. It’s also an essential skill every human needs to thrive in the future of work, where rapidly advancing technology requires us to adapt more quickly than ever before. (A recent survey says creativity is now the most important skill in business today.)

How can you develop your creativity?

To develop creativity, it’s important to know where to focus. Researchers don’t agree what creativity is, exactly. Some say creativity is a moment of inspiration like Sir Isaac Newton had, others say it’s a practice of self-expression (like painting or songwriting), and many say it’s a thought process like brainstorming.

But there are a few of common threads of truth across the varying creativity research studies and theories:

That creativity is innate in every human, and is unlearned.

That creativity is affected by our environments and influences.

That creativity is limited by fear, judgment and self-editing.

This is not new, or revolutionary. It simply means that creativity can be learned, and that we might be able to help people develop it by making changes to their environments and habits, and by making changes to their mindset.

According to a recent research study, identity-based beliefs about creativity often limit their willingness to cultivate it in themselves.

Take these steps to tap into your creativity:

#1 Stop believing that creativity is a unique personality trait in only certain people. We develop false identity-based beliefs about our creativity, which affects how we explore our creative potential. There is no such thing as “creative” or “uncreative” people: people who are viewed as “creative” simply work on building the skill in themselves.

#2 Know that there are different ways to channel your creativity. It’s something you can apply on the job or in your home by making some changes to how you think about things, or inspiration that pops up from time to time that you can capture and use later, or a practice that brings you joy, like writing or sculpting.

#3 Use simple thought exercises to help you think more creatively. Research shows that fusing unrelated ideas or concepts helps you to stretch your thinking and produce novel ideas. When you have a specific problem to solve, play around with unrelated ideas or analogies to come up with more creative solutions.

#4 Engage with people who are different than you. We tend to hang with people similar to us, instead of those who stretch us. Seek diverse backgrounds, cultures, perspectives, and professions in your network and in the content you consume, and you’ll naturally get better at fusing ideas and be exposed to fresh ways of seeing the world.

#5 Keep an inspiration journal to capture the stuff that lights you up.The easiest way to built a habit of collecting what inspires you is to simply pay attention to what grabs your attention or lights you up, and capture it in a notebook that you can have on hand at all times, and where you can easily reference it. It’s OK to keep it messy (better, really, so it doesn’t feel like work).

#6 Try out different creative activities that interest you. We tend to think of art, but human creativity comes in many forms. Maybe you love cooking or baking. Perhaps you prefer decorating your home or woodworking. Think about what you loved to do as a child, and test if you still like to do it today.

#7 Start engaging with other people’s creativity. When we engage with art, we don’t just see it or hear it, we feel it with our entire body. It triggers our motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls movement, and wakes up our senses, emotions and intellect. Science says it reduces stress and speeds up healing. But more importantly, engaging with art helps us see past our own limitations and think in new ways.

#8 Update your environment to fuel your creative thinking. From the books you read to the art on your walls, everything that enters your mind affects your thoughts. “Garbage in, garbage out” means that low quality inputs create low quality outputs. Simply put, if you want to think more creative thoughts, you need to fill your mind with more creative stuff. Display art that inspires you, surround yourself with books you love, and play music that lights up your mind.

For more ideas and inspiration on how to live a more creative life every day, check out my website or follow along here for more articles like this.

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