This is a guest post by Dr. Ronald Alexander
Unless you’re in one of the creative professions, it’s common to think that you don’t have much in the way of creativity. In adulthood, you may have found a rote quality to your day-to-day activities that doesn’t appear to require much in the way of creative thinking.
But think again: Much of today’s world demands more creativity. You may face an unexpected career change that calls on your need to think creatively. Or you may need to apply out-of-the-box thinking to a personal or professional challenge you’ve never faced before. Certainly, the world now needs creative thinkers more than ever in the face of a pandemic, climate change, technical advances, globalization, and other forces that humanity is urgently called upon to solve.
But if you truly believe that you haven’t tapped into your creative abilities since you experimented with fingerpaint in preschool, perhaps you’ve fallen prey to the myth that people automatically lose creativity as they become older. But consider how many late bloomers hit their stride creatively after midlife. For example, Frank McCourt, who taught English at high schools and technical colleges, wrote his first book when he was in his mid-sixties. His memoir about his impoverished upbringing in Ireland won a Pulitzer Prize and became an acclaimed feature film.
Here are some tips for tapping into your latent creativity and expanding any limited ways of thinking:
1. Practice mindfulness.
Researchers have found that as little as half an hour of mindfulness practice a day for eight weeks can train the brain to become more calm and less emotionally reactive. Mindfulness, in which you reign in the brain’s busy-ness and develop more present-moment awareness, enables you to consciously begin to look at situations from new perspectives. Not only does mindfulness give you the ability to control your responses to people and situations, you can remain clear-headed in the midst of turmoil and steer the energy of strong emotions in a direction you choose. Anger, excitement or despair can be transformed into a creative force.
2. Create new neural connections.
Research has also shown that the key brain difference between very creative people and others is having more neural connections among different systems in the brain. Highly creative people are using several areas of the brain collaboratively to shift among daydreaming, analyzing ideas, and discerning what is and isn’t important to explore further. The good news is that the brain remains plastic well into our older years, and the more often a neural pathway is used, the more it’s reinforced and the stronger it becomes.
3. Step out of your comfort zone and take risks.
Creative people aren’t afraid to break the rules. One of the rules you can break as part of your reinvention is the one to “stay in your lane.” Great musicians, for example, are known to venture into film, painting, and sculpting. We wouldn’t have multi-track recording or electric guitars if it weren’t for guitarist Les Paul stepping out of his lane.
4. Recognize and capture moments of inspiration.
Often, ideas come as mere snippets. If a breakthrough idea comes to you while swimming in the ocean, or you get a download of ideas walking in the woods, record them as soon as possible. An idea that seems too brief and lacking detail can be built upon and might become a full-fledged creative way forward if you give it time and attention.
5. Celebrate successes to increase motivation.
As you experience your ability to access your core creativity in ways that bring you joy and fulfillment, take note of your success. Journal about them, capturing all that you did right. Share your achievements with supportive people who will acknowledge your progress and creativity and give you encouragement.
Recapturing that marvelous sense of freedom to create what you had as a child is something that you can consciously do for yourself. Even if you feel that you aren’t creative, you can get it now — and even into your hundreds.
About the Guest Post Author:
Ronald A. Alexander, PhD, is the author of the new book, Core Creativity: The Mindful Way to Unlock Your Creative Self (Rowman & Littlefield, June 21, 2022), upon which this article is based. He is a creativity coach, consultant, and mind-body psychotherapist. He has a private psychotherapy and executive coaching practice in Santa Monica, California. He’s the executive director of the OpenMind® Training Program that offers personal and professional training programs in mindfulness-based therapies, transformational leadership and meditation. He is also the author of the highly acclaimed book, Wise Mind, Open Mind: Finding Purpose and Meaning in Times of Crisis, Loss, and Change (2008). Learn more at www.CoreCreativity.com.