Creativity isn’t a talent granted to a privileged few — it’s innate in all humans. And the ebb and flow of personal creativity helps determine whether or lives — and our work — are bright or bleak, eye-opening or sleep-inducing.
But to be creative, we must constantly nourish and exercise our creativity like a muscle. Here are three suggestions for building habits to grow your creativity.
1. Be curious.
For my books and talks on creativity, I’ve interviewed dozens of highly creative people in a variety of fields. And these individuals all share the common trait of curiosity. (In fact, they sometimes ask me so many questions that it’s easy to forget who is conducting the interviews!)
Curiosity is jet fuel for creativity. When we steadily explore and pay attention to the world around us, we feed our imaginations with insights and inspiration.
“People who are curious will develop themselves,” Mark Templeton, president of Citrix, an Internet software company, told The New York Times. “They’ll discover things, they’ll invent things.”
Action: Being relentlessly curious is a habit acquired with practice. Train yourself to stop, look and listen, whether you’re on the clock at work or out on the town at night. Be mindful of family and friends, customers and strangers. As Andy Warhol once put it, “You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.”
2. Be courageous.
Paola Antonelli, curator at the Museum of Modern Art, once called Steve Jobs a “genius combination of talent, vision and guts.” Jobs’ vision and talent allowed him to create revolutionary advances in technology — but without his bold courage, Apple would never have become an innovative powerhouse.
Being creative isn’t for sissies. It takes guts to open our minds, try different approaches and hold up our ideas for the world to judge. But the payoffs are worth the risks.
Action: Have you held back on trying new approaches or discussing new ideas for fear of ridicule or criticism? Review past and present ideas and directions to see if they have value. If so, muster the courage to unveil them, regardless of cynics, pessimists and “devil’s advocates.”
3. Be generous.
Creativity is a team sport. Our creativity stirs and spreads as we share insights and ideas with others.
Be quick to share your ideas and also be available to receive ideas from co-workers and friends. A quarterback won’t succeed unless he has a receiver who can catch his passes. It’s the same with ideas: for every idea thrown out, there has to be a receiver — someone who listens attentively and withholds immediate judgment.
Action: Help create an atmosphere of generosity for ideas in your workplace and in your home. Freely give your ideas. Carefully listen to those of others. Celebrate and support bold, fresh creativity. Also develop a personal network of people to share books, articles, blogs, websites, videos, films and other creative resources.