Everybody wants to be Steve Jobs, but no one wants to put in the work that Jobs did to become the creative genius he was. Yes, people may inherit their creative skills — according to this research— but for those who didn’t, you can build your creative muscle with some tips and training, like the ones below:
1. Tap on the 3 components of creativity
According to Teresa Amabile, a Harvard Business Professor and author of, The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work, there are three key components to creativity: experience/expertise, motivation, and good creative thinking skills.
- Expertise: The best person to solve a problem is the one who knows a lot about the topic of discussion.
- Motivation: an intrinsic burning desire to solve a problem or create something special stimulates more creativity, according to Amabile’s studies, and comes first before money.
- Adequate creative thinking skills: Depends on how often you practice creative thinking or come up with new ideas.
To boost your creativity, all you need is improve in one, or all, three areas. You can choose to know more about your topic of interest. You can dig deep and come up with real reasons to why you should solve a specific problem or reach a specific goal.
And finally, you can improve your creative thinking skills through practice. Dedicate some time each day, week or even quarter to nothing but understanding how things work and creating as many ideas as possible no matter how stupid they appear.
2. Step away from routines (for a while)
“Michael Jordan, perhaps the most creative basketball player ever, had ‘a love of the game’ clause inserted into his contract; he insisted that he be free to play pickup basketball games anytime he wished.” Says, Steven Johnson, author of The Innovator’s Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next.
Give yourself permission to turn away from your calendar, ditch your daily routine and do things differently. As author David Deida says, “If you forget your larger purpose while pursuing the small and endless tasks of daily life, then you have reduced yourself to a machine of Picayune.”
Michael Jordan optioned in his contract that he plays pick-u basketball whenever he wanted. Why? Because it made feel good and, subsequently, play better.
3. Take a walk (even if indoors)
Not only it strengthens your heart and makes you burn calories, but walking does also make you creative. A recent study by Stanford University found that walking —be it indoors or outdoors— can increase creativity by 60 percent.
In the study, those walking indoors on a treadmill, or walking outdoors in fresh air, came up with twice as many creative solutions to a given problem compared to other seated participants.
If the goal of being more creative also gets people to walk for a few minutes every now and again during the day, it is a double win.” Says Marily Oppezzo, a Stanford doctoral graduate in, and co-author of the study.
4. Listen to natural sounds
Studies suggest that playing nature sounds such as rain or bird noise can make you more relaxed and, ironically, more creative as well. According to a study published in the Behavioral and Brain Functions journal, background noise improved the cognitive performance of a group of ADHD children.
Another experiment that exposed 12 people to three different sounds: typical office noises, office noises coupled with white noise, and offices noises with nature mountain stream sounds, found that they were more creative and less distracted when they listened to the natural sound.
“The mountain stream sound possessed enough randomness that it did not become a distraction,” said Alana DeLoach the study leading author.
5. Practice Open Monitoring Meditation (OMM)
There are so many types of meditation, but the two main ones are, Open Monitoring Meditation and Focused Attention Meditation.
Open Monitoring Meditation (OMM) is you’re open to anything that enters your awareness at any time during your meditation session without judgment. This is quite the opposite of Focused Attention Meditation (FAM) where you have to focus on just one thing while meditating be it your breath or any specific thought.
Both types are great for your wellbeing, but according to a 2014 study by Leiden University, OMM can spark more creativity in your brain compared to FAM. In the study, the participants were first asked to choose between OMM and FAM.
They were then asked to perform a divergent-thinking session where they have to come up with as many uses as possible for a particular object such as a pen or a cone. The result? The OMM group performed better in divergent thinking compared to the FAM one.
6. Have daily divergent-thinking sessions
Since we mentioned it, you can practice divergent thinking to boost your creativity. It’s how most people on Shark Tank make money.
Simply, take out as little as three minutes each night to come up with 5-10 ways to use something different.
Sounds easy right? But the truth is, we —adults— lose our divergent-thinking capacity over time. Only two percent of people score low in divergent thinking, however, and according to one study, this number jumps to 70 percent by the time they reach 15. So, it makes sense to say that you may lose your creative muscles if you don’t use them.
Previously published on Thrive Global.