Do you ever think, “I wish I was more creative?” Do you want to come up with more interesting or original ideas and then share your unique thinking with the world?
Here are some creative-thinking skills that the most creative thinkers throughout history have had in common.
If you’d like to increase your creative thinking skills, start out by developing these skills.
You Were Very Creative Once
We are all born with an insane amount of creativity. But for most of us, it gets squashed as we make our way through life.
Years of formal education teach us to think and act like everybody else. Think of when you were in school growing up. How often did you come up with a new way to solve a problem or do a task, only to have the teacher say, “That’s not the way we do it, so it doesn’t count!” Creativity and uniqueness are rarely encouraged in those environments.
Think of your church if you went to church growing up. Free thinking is not encouraged there, either (at least not in any church I’ve ever gone to). They have their rituals, their dogma, and they think all questions are answered with a specific answer.
If you think differently, or start to question what they say is the one and only truth, you are not met with a response like, “Wow. That’s a great way to think. Maybe you’re right, let’s explore that”. Instead, to be a member of the club, you must think and act just like every other member and not “make waves”.
Think about your family. Some families value individuality and creativity, and others don’t. Did you family encourage you to develop your creative thinking skills, or did they want you do think and act just like them?
The same thing happens in the workplace. Most corporate environments don’t like those who “step outside the box”, although there certainly are exceptions.
The point is, as we go through life, our creative thinking muscles atrophy because we tried not to use them at school, at home, in the workplace, and anywhere that creativity was not welcome. We forget how to be creative and how to spontaneously come up with new, fresh, and exciting ideas.
Develop a Creative Mindset
Creativity isn’t something you turn on and off. You don’t say “I need an idea. I think I’ll be creative for the next 30 minutes”.
Creativity is a state of mind. It’s a different way of seeing the world and experiencing things.
And the best part is, it can be cultivated. So, if you’ve lost that creative spark, there are activities, games, and exercises you can do to get it back (or even become more creative than you were as a child!).
Before You Start: A Word of Caution
Before you start trying to rev up those creative juices, take heed:
When we learn how to do things and become an “expert”, we tend to get stuck in a certain way of thinking. For one, we tend to think things like, “I already know about this. I know how it’s done. I know the rules”.
But attitudes like that kill creativity. Subconsciously, you’re already locked into a box.
You need to scrap everything you know. Forget about the way you “always do things”. Forget about all those rules and limitations. Let it all go, and start fresh. Imagine yourself as a carefree 5-year-old who knows nothing about anything. Start there. Step outside your box.
It’ll probably get uncomfortable. New methods and ways of thinking usually are. Embrace that discomfort. If you feel a bit uncomfortable or anxious or scared, you know you’re doing it right.
Here’s another useful tip: You will do what you believe you can do.
So, if you’re sitting around thinking things like “I’m just not creative” or “I’m not smart” or “I don’t’ have it in me”, you should know that that’s just a bunch of bullcrap that got drilled into your head somewhere along the road of life (probably by somebody else).
The fact is you are absolutely creative and perfectly smart. Once you realize that, your doors will fling wide open, and you can really develop your creativity.
But if you do these creative thinking games while thinking, “This isn’t going to work. I’m just not capable…”, you will get nowhere. I guarantee it. Your brain will always try to prove your beliefs to be correct. So be careful what you choose to believe.
It Takes Persistence
No one gets great at something by doing it an hour a day for three months. To become something great or to get really proficient at something, you have to be persistent and practice it over and over and over.
Malcolm Gladwell talks about the “10,000 hour rule” in his book Outliers. He lists a lot of case studies showing that, to become really good at something, you need to log about 10,000 hours of practice. That’s about 9 years of practicing 3 hours a day!
And the point is to not just practice or emulate everyone else – the point is to be unique, be creative, embellish things, experiment, innovate, and try new things and new ways of doing things.
Doing the same things as everyone else will pretty much get you nowhere. Be unique. Find new ways that are unique to you. Become good, but use your creativity to invent your own style and methods.
Ninety-nine percent of the difference between successful innovative people and those who fail is commitment to self-improvement. The extraordinary amount of time and effort the successful put into developing their work amplifies their abilities. If someone is more successful than you, chances are they work harder at self-development. Practice is important, but it has to be good practice. Bad practice is thoughtlessly repeating something to perfect it. Good practice is putting time into imaginative improvement.Rod Junkins, The Art of Creative Thinking
Creative Thinkers Make Things Happen
Creative thinkers don’t sit around and wait for an opportunity to come their way so they can use their innovative ideas. You have to be proactive, and go out and make it happen.
There’s a story about Coco Chanel’s life. In the 1920’s, women were wearing fashionable clothes that were very uncomfortable. Remember corsets? Coco Chanel thought fashion should be comfortable so she made clothes that were casual.
They were completely different than the fashion of the day, but she wore them anyway. She was ridiculed and made fun of. But her clothes became popular, and she changed the face of fashion as a result.
Remember the story of how Sylvester Stallone got his big break playing Rocky? The story entails how broke he was ($106 in the bank), and that he had to sell his beloved dog because he couldn’t afford to feed him anymore.
He wanted to be an actor but couldn’t land an acting job. So he write the screenplay for Rocky, and was persistent in pitching it. He demanded that he play the leading role. And the rest is history.
A similar story is about a Shakespearean actor who repeatedly went on auditions but couldn’t land a role. So, he decided to make his own one-man show.
He, himself, played all the characters. He built his own set (mainly out of cardboard). He scheduled his own performances.
Slowly, he gained notoriety and his audiences grew bigger. Eventually, he was in demand and producers wanted to hire him. But at that point, he had already become successful, and he was in control.
His fate was in his hands, not in the hands of a producer or a director. So, he declined the job offers that came his way and enjoyed a successful career in acting where he was in charge.
There are a million stories like this. The point is that you don’t sit around waiting for opportunity to find you.
Go out and create your own road and your own path. If you have something unique to share with the world, find a way to share it. The world needs to experience what you have to offer!
Don’t Think About What Others Think
Throughout history, those with new and novel ideas have historically been ridiculed and chastised. Society generally doesn’t like the new and innovative ideas, methods, and products that creative thinkers come up with.
As a creative thinker, you must learn to do something because it’s interesting to you. It doesn’t matter if no one else is interested. It doesn’t matter if everyone laughs at you or ridicules you. As long as you care about it, that’s all that should matter to you.
Others will probably follow along and jump on your bandwagon later. Sometimes, the best ideas have only become popular after the creative thinker died!
Hopefully, your ideas won’t take that long to catch on, but whether they do or whether they don’t, the thing to focus on is making your unique ideas become a part of the world. No applause or recognition is necessary.
Your time is limited; so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma —which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.Steve Jobs
Get Out of the “I Already Know It” Trap
One of the biggest obstacles to living a life as a creative thinker is to fall into the” I Already Know It” trap. If you think you already have all the answers and know everything already, there will never be any innovation, new ideas, or new ways of looking at things.
Make doubt and uncertainty your friend.
If you embrace a mindset where you doubt the way things are, or ask new questions about everything, you’re well on your way to becoming a creative thinker.
Doubt and uncertainty are uncomfortable, for sure, but embracing insecurity is the way to lead an unconventional life filled with new possibilities and new ways of seeing things.
No new things are possible if you don’t look at what everyone else does and say “Hmmm….maybe that’s not the best way. Maybe I can come up with a better way”. Learn to look at things with doubt. Question everything.
Come Up with a Lot of Ideas
One trick of being a creative thinker and coming up with great new ideas is to come up with a LOT of ideas. Sounds silly, doesn’t it?
But think about it. Say you want to come up with a new idea. So you sit and brainstorm and you make a list of everything you can think of. If you only come up with 5 ideas, chances are pretty high that those ideas are going to be mundane and well, not-so-good.
Now say you pushed a little harder and spent more time on it, and come up with 50 ideas. Well, maybe 1-2 of those will be gems. The chances for a really good are idea are better because now there are 50 to choose from.
But say you really push yourself. You ponder, you put yourself in a new environment, you really strive hard to come up with 100 ideas.
Usually, the group containing the last 20 or so items on your list are the best ones, because you’ve already exhausted all the ordinary, logical-thinking ideas. For those last 20 ideas, you probably had to really stretch your imagination and venture into obscure territory.
Maybe those last 20 are really “out there”. Those are the true gems. Oftentimes, that’s where ingenious ideas come from. Out beyond the ordinary. And chances are, out of 100 (or more), there’s bound to be one or two great ones.
Grow Old, but Keep the Mind of a Child
You can’t stop growing older, but you can stop from having the mindset of an old person.
I had an aunt who was 82. She was passionately curious, she was very active, and she brushed off all the negative things that happened in her life and kept going, always focusing on what good things would happen next.
She had no friends who were over 70, so I asked her, “How come all your friends are young people?” She said, “I hate senior citizens. They act old, they complain a lot, they sit and talk about their health problems, and they’re boring”. It made me laugh.
But there’s truth in there. Just because you get older doesn’t mean you have to lose your sense of humor, your curiosity, your spontaneity, or that child-like wonder when you look at the world around you.Just because you get older doesn’t mean you have to lose your humor, curiosity, spontaneity, or wonder... Click To Tweet
Creative thinkers take hard hits in life like anyone else, but they don’t sit around and brood about them for days, weeks, or even years.
They get up, forget about it, and work on making things better. They focus on the good things they can do now. They think about the good things that can happen in the future. They put all the negative events and people back in the dark recesses of their mind.
Stay curious, stay positive, and stay active.
What Do You Think?Are you great at creative thinking? What do you think helps improve your creative thinking skills? Share in the comments below.
Here are 7 little changes that will make a big impact on improving your creative thinking skills. We'll cover:
- You Were Very Creative Once
- Develop a Creative Mindset
- Before You Start: A Word of Caution
- It Takes Persistence
- Creative Thinkers Make Things Happen
- Don’t Think About What Others Think
- Get Out of the “I Already Know It” Trap
- Come Up with a Lot of Ideas
- Grow Old, but Keep the Mind of a Child