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I am just not creative!

 

Do you daydream? Do you remember with pleasure special times with friends or great sporting moments? Do you have sexual fantasies? Do you mix and match items, colours and accessories when you buy clothes to create your own style? Do you like different kinds of music? Do you have books at home you’d love to read but haven't gotten to yet?

If your answer to any of these questions is yes or even tends towards yes, then you ARE creative. What you believe about your creativity is more important than you may realise.

“If you fight hard enough for your limitations, you to get to keep them.” These are the words of Jim Kwik, world expert in optimal brain performance and a favourite teacher of mine. Are you fighting for this limitation that so many people hang on to? Have you said or thought, ‘I don’t have a creative bone in my body’ or ‘I’m just not creative’?

If you have, please think of the possible implications. This is a self-limiting belief. Look for the clues in this adjective:

  1. Firstly, this is SELF-limiting, because you are deciding this for yourself. This is your current opinion and is not a fact. I hope that by the time you’ve finished reading this you will have changed how you think about your creativity.
  2. Secondly this belief is LIMITING. The more you believe this, literally, the less creative you will be. You can choose not to limit yourself in this way. I’ll show you how.
  3. ‘I am just not creative!’ Fact or opinion?

Let’s start with the notion that you are not creative. Perhaps you have a sibling who is artistic, and you were not the ‘creative one’ in the family. Maybe you are in an industry or job-role that is typically labelled as non-creative; you’re a stock controller, a bank teller or a drone pilot. Perhaps you tried to produce something artistic a long time ago and you were compared with other people and told that your work was not good. This likely happened in your youth and led you to form this belief about yourself. Many people can recall a throw away comment from a teacher or parent that inadvertently sent their creative confidence into lifetime withdrawal. Now you are very likely hearing and reading about creativity being the most sought-after soft skill by companies todaya and you are worried that you could lose out in the economy of the future. Don’t worry! My question to you is: ‘Are you human?’ If your answer is ‘yes’, then my response to you is, ‘Well then, you are creative.’

Creativity is so much more than artistry. If you are equating creativity with artistry, then you are missing out on a world of creative intelligence development that could be helping you thrive right now in the midst of uncertainty and fear. Think of creativity, not as the ability to draw, but as the use of imagination to create something that is both novel and useful.b

If you want to be able to innovate, you may be wondering about the terms creativity and innovation which are often used interchangeably. Innovation can be defined as creativity with economic gainc, which would explain why innovation seems to be used more often in the business and engineering fields, whereas creativity is the term used more in the humanities, arts, and educationd. I believe that that business has missed a trick here because there is no innovation without creativity. Creativity is like physical fitness in a game of football. You need a good strategy to win the game (innovate) but you won’t do this unless your players (employees) are physically fit (creatively fit). You can do this by hiring star players (people who are already using their creativity) but each player should be accountable for achieving and maintaining peak fitness.

So, creativity is your ability to use your imagination, not just to have ideas, but to act and to make or produce a perceptible thing that is new and useful in some way. Creativity is very practical. It is about solving problems. It helps us to find a way forward. Like the intrepid detective McGuyver’s clever escapes, creativity enables us to look at what is around us in a new way and use it to form a solution; in his case, to construct a home-made tool or bomb to break out of a locked room. Creativity comprises a mindset and a skillset, both of which can be developed like a muscle in our bodies.

You are creative because:

  • Your brain is designed for creativity. Your brain is designed as an association machine. It is a network of around 80 billion neurons than can make trillions of connections. Leonardo da Vinci’s formula for developing the creative mind revolved around his Principle of Connection. Da Vinci said, “Everything comes from everything, and everything is made out of everything, and everything returns into everything.” Every brain has the capacity to use neural connections to come up with insights such as Leonardo's extraordinary insights which became the foundations of much of modern science.
  • You were creative as a child, so you have proven that you have this capacity. As a child you were, like all children are, an explorer, a scientist, a learner an artist, a poet, a musician and a learner. With curiosity and delight you pushed and pulled, squished and squashed, wiggled and wobbled everything you could get your tiny digits on. You conducted endless experiments to learn about the world around you, even as an infant, you were getting feedback from the science lab of your mouth by sticking things into it to see what they felt and tasted like. The world was your canvas, whether it was a wall you were scratching on with a stone, the sand you were drawing in with a stick or the friend you were painting on with mud. You used metaphors to describe the world around you: ‘Brother is a piggy!’ You made music with your voice as you learned to speak, copy sounds and sing into the wind. Your brain knew how to be creative then and it still does now.   
  • There is evidence of creativity in your life right now. Answer these questionse in your mind. Do you daydream? Do you plan and cook meals at home? Do you mix and match items, colours and accessories when you buy clothes to create your own style? Do you like different kinds of music? Do you remember with pleasure special times with friends or great sporting moments? Do you have sexual fantasies? Do you have books at home which you'd like to read but for which you have not yet managed to find the time? Are there other things in your life you have promised yourself you would do or accomplish to which you have not yet got around? All of these actions require creativity, so if you answered yes to any of these questions you are already showing signs of creativity in your life.

“Inside you there's an artist you don't know about... Say yes quickly, if you know, if you've known it from before the beginning of the universe.” Rumi, 13th-century Persian poet.

  1. ‘I am just not creative!’ How this limits you.

Myths have huge power to shape our behaviour, often to our detriment. So, when people believe the world is flat, they are not likely to venture out to sea for fear of falling off the edge and faraway lands remain undiscovered. When it comes to creativity, these misguided beliefs keep most people firmly on the seashore. We stare out dreamily to the sea, sighing that only artists have creativity and creativity is rare, mysterious and magical. Just like the horizon, it’s something out of our reach.

This self-limiting belief is a self-fulfilling prophesy. Let me explain how this works neurologically. When you imagine, learn and go about your day, you are building thoughts. Thoughts occupy ‘mental real estate’ in your brain. They are the neurobiological correlates of mind activity. Modern brain science has established that these biophysical correlates of memory, which are called memory engrams, have real, solid physical representation and are made of proteins.f As we think, we control what is built in our heads. This is known as mind-directed neuroplasticity. We are in control of what changes (plasticity) we choose to make to the clusters of neurons in our brains. Everything you say or do, first has to exist as a thought that you build.

According to cognitive neuroscientist, Dr Caroline Leaf, “Whatever you think about most, grows in your mind. What you focus on will be imprinted onto your brain, affecting what you say and do. In fact, what you say and do is a reflection of what is going on in your mind – a sobering thought! It is important to remember that what and how you are learning will either lead to success or failure”.g

So, by building up this powerful belief you are closing down your brain from seeking creative solutions. You are building conformist rather than creative ways of thinking/ neural pathways in your brain. In addition, you are not actively developing your creative brain through creative exercises. This is the mind equivalent of staying slouched on the couch because you don’t believe that you are an athlete.  You may not be a Usain Bolt, but you certainly have the muscles to run and running is something that, with a bit of effort and energy, you can become increasingly stronger at.

“When it comes to creativity, there's good news and very good news,” says Robert Epstein Ph.D, psychologist and professor. “The good news is that the mysteries of the creative process are finally giving way to a rigorous scientific analysis. The very good news is that, with the right skills, you can boost your own creative output by a factor of 10 or moreh. Significant creativity is within everyone's reach--no exceptions. What's more, greater creativity breeds greater happiness. The creative process is itself a source of joy for most people. And with new creative powers we're also better able to solve the little problems that beset us daily.” Dr Epstein bases these statements on 20 years of laboratory and in-situ research on the creative process.  He says, “An explosion of creative forces is at hand, and it could make the accomplishments of the Renaissance look like a ride on a stationary bicycle.”

I am creative; it is who I am!

I urge you not to overlook and undervalue this incredible asset of yours. Many bright minds have said that our creativity is the skill of the futurei. You are creative. Just as you invest in your body and your physical health, take time to invest in and develop your creative intelligence.

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” Martha Graham

 

References

  1. LinkedIn Workplace Skills Report 2019
  2. Plucker et al. (2004), Why isn't creativity more important to educational psychologists? Potential, pitfalls, and future directions in creativity research. Educational Psychologist (39)
  3. Green, E. (2013). Innovation: The history of a buzzword. http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/06/innovation-the-historyof-a-buzzword/277067/
  4. Climer, A. (2016) The development of the creative synergy scale. Antioch University Dissertation.
  5. Buzan, T. (2001) The Power of Creative Intelligence. 10 ways to tap into your creative genius. HarperCollins UK.
  6. Stapp, Henry P. (2011) Mindful Universe. Quantum Mechanics and the Participating Observer.
  7. Leaf, Dr C. (2019) Think Learn Succeed: Understanding and Using Your Mind to Thrive at School, the Workplace, and Life.
  8. Epstein, R. (2016) Capturing Creativity. How to enhance the creativity of a person and figuring out the mysteries of the creative process. Psychology Today.
  9. Powers, A. (2018) Creativity Is the Skill of the Future. Forbes.com.
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"If you wait until you are ready, you will be waiting the rest of your life." Lemony Snicket