3 Surprising Ways to Unlock Your Creativity

3 Surprising Ways to Unlock Your Creativity

Creativity tops the heap. It’s the apex of “21st-century skills,” or those skills considered essential for children to thrive today. It’s the same ability that IBM -- after surveying over 1,500 CEOs -- found most critical to being a successful CEO. And, as mental health and successful aging have become national concerns, a bevy of research finds creative expression crucial to both short term happiness and long term satisfaction. Yet, despite being bedrock fundamental to so much that we want from our lives, creativity remains elusive: tricky to understand, nearly impossible to train.

In 2015, for example, the energy drink company Red Bull completed the first phase of Hacking Creativity, the largest meta-analysis of the subject ever undertaken. After combing through more than 30,000 scientific studies and conducting hundreds of interviews with experts, researchers concluded that creativity is, indeed, the most important skill for success in our fast-paced world. Unfortunately, they also found we have very little success teaching people how to be more creative.

For a more creative brain, follow these 5 steps

For a more creative brain, follow these 5 steps

Nearly all great ideas follow a similar creative process. Understanding this is important, because creative thinking is one of the most useful skills you can possess. Nearly every problem you face in work and in life can benefit from creative solutions, lateral thinking, and innovative ideas.

Anyone can learn to be creative by using these five steps. That's not to say being creative is easy. Uncovering your creative genius requires courageand tons of practice. However, this five-step approach should help demystify the creative process and illuminate the path to more innovative thinking.

To explain how this process works, let me tell you a short story.

6 Ways Improv Aligns With Mindfulness

6 Ways Improv Aligns With Mindfulness

What every improviser can learn from being present.

I once had the pleasure of improvising with a group of practicing Buddhists. It was this experience that led me to explore mindfulness and eventually to recognize its connection with my own mindful practice: improvisation.

Definitions

Improvisation: listening and responding in the moment.

Mindfulness: “mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purposein the present moment and non-judgmentally” (defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a leader in the field of mindfulness)

Where do the principles of improvisation align with the practice of mindfulness?

There are many principles known to improvisers that overlap with the mindful mindset.

There are six that stand out as being particularly well aligned:

  • Listen and Respond
  • Be Present
  • Start Anywhere
  • Embrace Uncertainty
  • Be Kind
  • Cultivate Generosity

How to Apply Mindfulness to the Creative Process

How to Apply Mindfulness to the Creative Process

When London School of Economics co-founder Graham Wallas wrote The Art of Thoughtin 1926, he outlined a classic framework for training our minds in the art of the creative process. More than half a century later, most scientists define creativity as “producing something new and useful”, and we have a much richer understanding of creativity’s cognitive and neural underpinnings. But what seems to remain from Wallas’s framework is this: creativity requires both freedom and constraint in our thinking.

Applied neuroscience—a fancy way of saying “how to use neuroscience knowledge in real life”—helps us understand how to practice the creative process. And it turns out, when you break down the brain processes involved in creative achievement, it becomes clear that mindfulness goes hand in hand with creativity. In fact, there are actually scientific ways to apply mindfulness to the creative process. First, let’s look at the key ingredients for the creative process.

Place Your Thoughts Here

Things are not difficult to make; what is difficult is putting ourselves in the state of mind to make them.

~ Constantin Brancusi

“My creative process is a meditation.” I have heard this statement often. While art-making and art-viewing are inherently contemplative activities, they are not the same as a meditation practice. They can parallel one another when they invoke a similar state of mind, but it is what makes them different that provides the ability for formal meditation practice to benefit the way we create and view art.

Meditation helps synchronize mind with body, right hemisphere of the brain with left, enhance intuitive and intellectual abilities, and promote clear perception. Much of art is about seeing and experiencing things as they truly are, and enjoying genuine spontaneity and unselfconscious, pure expression. Meditation helps us to better achieve this. It also dissolves creative blockages, reveals the source of creativity, and offers a path toward experiencing the sublime state in which our experience and knowledge merge into one.