Creativity is a superpower we all possess. It allows us to create something that never existed before; to look into the future and make something, that was once invisible, a reality. But how do we harness creativity? The richer and broader your mind is, the more it has, to utilize and play with. Surrounding yourself with individuals who are seeking to know more about the world, encourages you to do the same. But surrounding yourself with creative people, doesn’t always result in yourself being more creative also. For some, being near bright, artistic people with seemingly natural talent, can be intimidating. Yet more often than not, that artistic person will tell you that they struggled with their craft and are either unhappy with it’s state or aren’t exactly where they want to be, always reaching for a higher goal, essentially pushing limits. In addition, to find their place, naturally, they’ve had to try new things.
Few people in history knew what they wanted to do in life until they got there and then looked back on their foundation. They’ve tried new things, pushed boundaries, and made mistakes. These seem to be the three golden rules for creative people.
Because we are all born with creative ability, it’s how we harness that ability which helps us develop new skills and become truly creative.
Shelley Carson, Ph.D, Harvard researcher and author of Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your Life, gives us 8 Effective Ways To Harness Creativity;
- Keep learning.
Being the perpetual student is critical for creativity. “Whether you learn a new skill or take a course in an academic subject, everything you learn is a potential ‘bit of information’ that can be combined with other knowledge to come up with a creative idea,” Carson says.
- Be insatiably inquisitive.
As Carson said, “Highly creative people are endlessly curious.” And you can be curious about the seemingly smallest of things and still cultivate creativity. “Each object in our environment contains so much to be curious about.”
Carson gave the example of a #2 pencil. You can think about why it’s shaped the way it is, why newer pencils are made of graphite and not lead, where graphite comes from and what kind of tree the wood comes from, she said. Plus, you might consider how a pencil is made, how many people have touched the pencil, where these people are from, what their lives are like and what countries they live in, she added.
- Don’t censor your ideas.
Any idea can lead to a breakthrough but shutting yourself down at the start won’t get you anywhere. “Some of the world’s most innovative products have been derivatives of fairly foolish-sounding ideas,” Carson said.
- Surround yourself with creative works.
Creativity breeds creativity. Carson suggested filling your days with concerts, literary classics or other books, good food and art museums (and considering “what makes great art great”).
- Don’t focus on what others think.
Being self-conscious about others’ opinions squashes creativity, because as with being insecure, you’re shooting yourself down before ideas blossom. It’s another way of censoring your creativity. But “Highly creative people explore activities and ideas without concern that others might negatively evaluate them,” Carson said.
- “Look for connections between disparate objects and concepts.”
One activity that helps people flex their creativity muscles is to compare any two objects in your environment. “This exercise trains you to see how properties of one object could potentially be used to solve problems creatively in a different area.”
For example, consider how a billboard is similar to the keys in your ignition. Both are made of metal and “initiate action (the key initiates the movement of the car, the billboard initiates a desire to buy a product).” Then you might probe deeper: “Are there ways you can use a key to sell products? Can billboards act as keys to something, like personal change?”
- Seek out natural beauty.
Enjoying the great outdoors, whether it’s “a walk in the woods, the beach or even your backyard at sunset,” Carson said, “broadens the attention and awakens the senses.”
- Unplug regularly.
Twitter, Facebook and checking your email every 15 minutes doesn’t exactly allow for thoughtful contemplation. You need solitude in order to “digest and synthesize your daily experience,” which “creates fertile ground for creative ideas.”
The great thing about creativity is that your skills are “transferable,” so a walk in the park or reading the latest novel can very well spark valuable ideas you can use in both your professional and personal lives. “You will be amazed at how worlds will open up when you begin to think creatively.”