Creativity is the remarkable human capacity to imagine new possibilities.
And generate innovative ideas and solutions.
It involves thinking and doing things in fresh, unconventional ways.
We all have a deep wellspring of creativity inside us.
Even if we don’t recognize it.
When we learn to tap into this source we can unlock our hidden creative potential.
And help it continue to flow.
Characteristics of Creativity
Creative geniuses share certain characteristics in how they think and approach problems:
- Divergent thinking — This refers to thinking flexibly. Opening your mind to consider problems from different angles and perspectives. Divergent thinking involves brainstorming without limiting yourself too early. It also involves making connections between ideas that, at first, may seem unrelated. People who are skilled at divergent thinking can see possibilities and combinations that those with more rigid thinking styles may miss.
- Flexibility — Creative individuals are open to new information and adapt well to change. They don’t cling to one way of doing things. Their flexibility allows them to pivot and find fresh approaches. When one strategy doesn’t work, they try something different. This ability to adapt helps them to further their creative thinking.
- Originality — Creative thinkers have a knack for crafting unusual ideas. Instead of revisiting the same old solutions, they focus on producing new concepts. Their ideas often surprise or intrigue people because of their originality and inventiveness. Creative people have distinctive imaginations that reflect their individuality.
- Elaboration — Creative people not only generate new ideas. They build on them by adding depth, detail, and nuance. Their abilities to engage in playful and iterative exploration allows them to more fully develop ideas. They imagine possibilities, embellish on ideas, and follow trains of thought in unusual directions to see where they lead.
Barriers to Creativity
Though we're all born with the potential to be a creative genius, there are certain barriers that can squash or suppress it:
- Perfectionism — The tendency to obsess over producing perfect results can make people afraid of making mistakes. This excessive wariness shuts down the creative process. To generate new ideas you have to get messy and be willing to fail. People crippled by perfectionism may never take the first step in starting creative work.
- Overthinking — While analysis has its place, overthinking can prevent creative thinking. When creative juices are flowing ideas emerge without intense scrutiny and examination. Too much contemplation takes you out of the magic of the moment. And prevents original ideas from arising spontaneously. Silencing your inner critic is key.
- Judging ideas prematurely — Artists, inventors, and other creative types know that generating a large quantity of ideas without critique is key during brainstorming. Filtering out ideas too soon limits the possibilities. Withholding judgment and letting ideas flow results in greater creative output.
- Rigidity — Creativite thinking stops when people are unwilling to consider alternate approaches. Or challenge old ways of thinking. Adhering to the status quo means important new ideas get ignored. Creative thinkers stay open and flexible, willing to try unconventional options.
- Lack of motivation — Creativity requires engaging your mind and spirit. Lacking the passion that drives discovery means missing out on creative insights. Forcing creativity usually backfires. The desire to create for pure enjoyment and challenge fuels imaginative thought.
Tips for Unlocking Creativity
Fortunately, there are proven techniques you can use to undo creative blocks and set free your inner creative genius:
- Set aside regular time for brainstorming — Treat free-form creative thinking like an important appointment with yourself. One that you never miss. When it becomes a habit you’ll gain momentum. And have regular opportunities for ideas to emerge.
- Change up your environment — Shake things up physically and mentally by traveling or working in different settings. Exposing yourself to new sights, sounds, and people nudges your brain in novel directions. Even small tweaks like rearranging furniture sparks creativity by disrupting old patterns.
- Expose yourself to new experiences — Gathering fresh perspectives expands your outlook so you can make connections between previously unrelated things. Immerse yourself in the arts, science, culture, and different walks of life to fuel your inner muse. Meet people very unlike yourself.
- Combine existing ideas in new ways — Borrow concepts from different fields you’re familiar with, then tinker by blending them together. Let ideas blend into each other to see what interesting new combinations are created as a result.
- Relax — Take the pressure off of yourself — stress and anxiety block creative thinking. Schedule time for activities that calm and refuel. Like walking in nature, listening to music, or meditating. Let ideas stir below the surface when you give your busy mind a rest.
- Engage your senses — Notice visual details, sounds, scents and textures in the world around you. Fine-tune your powers of observation. Vivid sensory experiences make it easier to form mental images that aid imagination. Record sensory experiences in a notebook to revisit later.
- Move your body — Physical movement gets your creative juices flowing. Take a walk, do stretches, dance or do other activities that get you energetically engaged. Greater blood circulation can enhance cognitive function and original thinking.
- Let your mind wander — Allow your thoughts to drift and make unexpected leaps. Daydream. Let ideas bubble up from your subconscious. Follow trains of thought in playful, serendipitous directions.
- Collaborate — Brainstorming together with others builds energy and enables you to riff off each other’s ideas, taking them in new directions. Feedback and different viewpoints stimulate creativity. Try creative collaboration online or in person.
The key is being proactive about establishing creative habits and rituals.
View creativity as a lifelong journey.
With regular practice, you can unlock untapped creative potential.
Approach it with beginner’s mind — with openness, curiosity and playfulness.
Allow ideas to emerge organically without self-judgment.