In the year 1666, one of the most influential scientists in the history of the planet was taking a stroll through a garden when he was suddenly hit with a flash of creative brilliance that would revolutionize the world.
Sir Isaac Newton witnessed the fall of an apple to the ground when he was standing in the shadow of an apple tree. Newton pondered for a moment, “Why should that apple always fall in a direction that is perpendicular to the ground?” Why should it not proceed in a sideways or upward direction, but why should it always go to the center of the earth? Without a doubt, the explanation for this is that the earth is the one that draws it. It is necessary for there to be a drawing power in matter.
The idea of gravity came into being as a result of this.
One of the most enduring and classic examples of the creative moment is the story of the apple that fell from the tree. It is a representation of the inspired genius that floods your brain at those “eureka moments” when the conditions for creativity are exactly right.
However, what the majority of people fail to remember is that Newton spent nearly twenty years developing his theories regarding gravity before publishing his seminal work, The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, in the year 1687. The apple that fell was simply the beginning of a line of thought that proceeded for decades after it was first observed.
A well-known page in the book Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’s Life written by William Stukeley describes the incident with Newton’s apple.
It’s not just Newton who has struggled with a brilliant idea for years; other people do as well. Thinking creatively is a process that each of us goes through. In this post, I will describe the science behind creative thinking, as well as the conditions that encourage creativity and those that inhibit it. Additionally, I will provide strategies that can be implemented to improve one’s creative abilities.
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Creative Thinking: Destiny or Development?
The ability to think creatively enables our brains to draw connections between concepts that at first glance appear to be unrelated. Is this a proficiency that we are born with, or is it something that we can cultivate through repeated practice? To get a solution, let’s look at the study that has been done.
In the 1960s, a researcher named George Land who specialized in creative performance did a study on 1,600 children aged five years old. The results of the study showed that 98 percent of the children scored in the “highly creative” range. Dr. Land conducted re-tests on each individual patient at intervals of five years. When the same youngsters were ten years old, just thirty percent of them scored in the extremely creative range. At the age of 15, this percentage had reduced to 12 percent, and by the time the individual reached the age of 25, it had dropped to just 2 percent. The children, as they matured into adults, had their creative potential effectively stifled by the training they received. According to the words of Dr. Land, “Non-creative behavior is learned behavior.”
A number of other scholars have found tendencies that are comparable to these. As an illustration, a study that included 272,599 pupils discovered that while IQ tests have increased since 1990, scores on creative thinking have fallen from that time period.
It is not accurate to argue that creativity is entirely acquired through learning. Hereditary factors do play a part. Professor Barbara Kerr, who specializes in psychology, asserts that “approximately 22 percent of the variance [in creativity] is due to the influence of genes.” The analysis of the differences in creative thinking that exist between sets of twins led to the identification of this phenomenon.
Taking all of this into consideration, the argument that “I’m just not the creative type” is a very feeble justification for avoiding creative thinking is a pretty weak excuse. It is undeniable that some individuals are more conducive to creative thinking than others. On the other hand, almost everyone is born with some degree of creative ability, and the majority of our creative thinking capability is something that can be developed through training.
Having established that creativity is a skill that can be enhanced, let us now discuss the reasons why and the manner in which practice and learning influence the creative output of an individual.
Intelligence and Creative Thinking
What steps must you take in order to discover your full creative potential?
According to what I stated in my essay on the threshold theory, there is no connection between being in the top one percent of IQ and having an extraordinarily creative personality. You simply need to be intelligent (not a genius), and then you need to put in a lot of effort, practice in a deliberate manner, and perform a lot of repetitions.
In the event that you are able to meet a certain level of intelligence, then producing amazing creative work is well within your reach. According to the findings of a study that was conducted in 2013, the researchers stated that they had received evidence that once the IQ threshold is reached, personality traits become more predictive for creativity.
When it comes to finding ways to improve your creative thinking, what precisely are these “personality factors” that academics are referring to?
Having an internal perspective on how you evaluate your abilities is one of the most important factors. More specifically, the way in which you approach the creative process—whether with a fixed perspective or a growth mindset—is a significant factor in determining the extent to which your creative abilities are developed.
The fascinating book titled “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” (audiobook) written by Carol Dweck provides a comprehensive analysis of the distinctions that exist between these two mentalities.
When we approach tasks with a fixed mindset, we approach them as if our talents and abilities are permanent and unchangeable. This is the fundamental principle behind the fixed mindset. On the other hand, when we have a growth mindset, we feel that our capabilities may be enhanced via the application of effort and practice. When we talk about and praise our efforts, we have the ability to easily steer ourselves in a particular direction or another. This is an interesting phenomenon.
The following is a concise overview, as stated by Dweck:
“The entire movement for self-esteem taught us the mistaken belief that praising intelligence, ability, and abilities would lead to increased levels of self-confidence and self-esteem and that once this occurred, great things would follow. However, we have discovered that it is counterproductive. People who have been commended for their genius are now concerned about achieving the next thing, about taking on a difficult assignment, and about not looking talented, which would destroy their reputation for incredible brilliance. It is therefore more likely that they will remain in their comfort zone and become extremely defensive whenever they experience a setback.
Thus, what should we be praising? The amount of work, the methods, the doggedness and persistence, the grit that individuals exhibit, the resilience that they exhibit in the face of challenges, the ability to bounce back when things go wrong and the ability to know what to attempt next are all traits that people exhibit. Therefore, I believe that a significant component of fostering a development mindset in the workplace is to communicate the importance of process, to provide feedback, and to recognize and reward individuals who are actively participating in the process rather than merely focusing on the end.
Embarrassment and Creativity
To what extent can we put the development mentality into practice when it comes to creative endeavors? My observations have shown that it boils down to one thing: the desire to make a fool of oneself in order to take part in an activity.
The growth mentality, as described by Dweck, places a greater emphasis on the process than it does on the result. Theoretically, this is simple to acknowledge, but in practice, it is extremely challenging to adhere to. When it comes to learning a new talent, the majority of individuals do not want to deal with the accompanying feelings of embarrassment or shame that are frequently required.
A very brief list of errors from which you will never be able to recover is presented here. I believe that most of us are aware of this on some level. We are aware that our life will not be ruined in the event that the book we write does not sell if we are rejected by a potential date, or if we forget someone’s name when we introduce them to them. One of the things that causes us concern is not necessarily what happens after the event. One of the things that inhibits us from getting started at all is the prospect of appearing foolish, experiencing humiliation, or having to cope with shame along the way.
You must be willing to take action in the face of these sensations, which so frequently discourage us, in order to completely embrace the development mindset and enhance your creativity. This is necessary in order to achieve both of these goals.
How to Be More Creative
In the event that you are willing to put in the effort required to confront your inner concerns and persevere through the process of failure, the following are some practical tactics that can help you become more creative.
Do not overextend yourself. Constraints that have been thoughtfully crafted are some of the most effective tools you can use to stimulate creative thinking. When Dr. Seuss wrote his most famous book, he restricted himself to writing only fifty words. When playing on a smaller field, soccer players develop more complex skill sets than when playing on a larger one. Designers can improve the quality of their large-scale works by using a three- or five-inch canvas. As we restrict ourselves more, we develop a greater capacity for resourcefulness.
During the course of nearly three years, I was responsible for publishing a new article on JamesClear.com on Mondays and Thursdays. After adhering to this routine for a longer period of time, I became more aware of the fact that I needed to compose approximately a dozen ideas that were ordinary before I came up with a spectacular one. I was able to create a greater surface area for a creative spark to strike me with the help of the volume of work that I produced.
You have no interest in making your writing available to the public? Even if you have no intention of writing for other people, the Morning Pages process that Julia Cameron recommends is an excellent method to use writing to enhance your creativity while you are writing.
Broaden your knowledge.
Forcing myself to write about thoughts and topics that appear to be unrelated is one of the creative tactics that has shown to be the most fruitful for me. As an illustration, I need to exercise my creativity when I utilize basketball methods from the 1980s, antiquated word processing software, or Zen Buddhism to describe the behaviors that we engage in on a regular basis. According to the words of Robert Epstein, a psychologist, “You will do better in psychology and life if you broaden your knowledge.”
I mentioned a study that was conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, which proved the significant influence that sleep has on mental performance, in the post that I wrote about how to improve the quality of sleep that you get. The most important discovery was that sleep debt is a cumulative phenomenon. If you obtain six hours of sleep every night for two weeks in a row, your mental and physical performance will fall to the same level as if you had remained awake for forty-eight hours in a row. Depriving oneself of sleep has a considerable negative impact on creative thinking, just as it does on all other cognitive functions.
Enjoy sunshine and nature.
Before and after a four-day backpacking trip, 56 individuals participated in a study designed to measure their creative thinking skills by asking them a number of questions. The findings of the study revealed that by the time the backpackers returned home, they had seen a fifty percent increase in their creative output. The results of this study provide credence to the findings of earlier studies, which demonstrate that spending time in natural settings and increasing the amount of time spent in sunlight can lead to increased levels of creative output.
Embrace positive thinking.
The idea that positive thinking can lead to big advances in creative thinking is one that I find to be a little lacking in my personal preferences. How come? We have a tendency to think more broadly when we are pleased, according to research that was conducted in the field of positive psychology. With the help of this theory, which is referred to as the Broaden and Build Theory, it is much simpler for humans to establish imaginative links between different concepts. On the other hand, it appears that feelings of melancholy and despair are associated with restricting and constrained thinking.
Send it out. To tell you the truth, creativity is nothing more than a lot of hard labor. Choosing a speed that you are able to maintain and continuing to deliver material on a regular basis is the single most effective thing you can do. Make a commitment to the process, and develop a timetable. The only way for creativity to become a reality is through the method of shipping.
Read More:Behavioral Therapy Techniques for Anxiety and Depression
Final Thoughts on Creative Thinking
Rather than being an event, creativity is a process. It’s not merely a flash of insight right now. You will need to overcome mental obstacles and psychological roadblocks in order to succeed. A commitment to practicing your craft in a thoughtful manner is required of you. In order to witness the development of your creative genius, you will need to remain committed to the process for a considerable amount of time, possibly even decades, just like Newton did.
The concepts presented in this article provide a range of different ways to increase one’s creative output. In the event that you are looking for extra practical techniques on how to improve your creative habits, then you should read my free guide titled “Mastering Creativity.”