Even if the word “creative” would never appear in your job description, cultivating creativity is essential to your success at work.
Without this uniquely human quality, it’s nearly impossible to cope with the challenges of modern professional life. Whether you’re solving technical problems at work or making a long-term career plan, creativity is essential to your success.
1. It’s a coveted 21st century skill
There’s a lot of talk these days about how automation is going to change the way we work. Some estimates claim that as many as 800 million jobs could be lost worldwide by 2030. In this changing job market, it makes sense to cultivate skills that distinguish you from the robots.
Creativity is one of the soft skills that it pays to cultivate in a 21st century job landscape. Learning to be more creative can help you have better job security, and more professional options, now and in the future.
2. You’ll be more innovative
Developing your creativity can help you to innovate fresh solutions to old problems at work. It compels you to think outside of the box. You’ll see challenges a little differently and approach problems in fresh ways as a result of your increased focus on creativity.
Creativity helps you to have a fresh perspective, which allows for more innovative problem-solving strategies. And that could help you stand out from the crowd and find increased success in your career.
3. Creativity makes you smarter
Exercising creativity is great for strengthening your ability to focus and solve problems. And, it can actually help make you smarter. Studies show that people who play musical instruments, for example, have better connectivity between the left and right hemispheres of their brains. Improving these connections also improves cognitive functioning.
Also, exercising creativity can help you get into flow state. Psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi says that flow is a state of complete immersion in an activity. He describes it as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follow inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
You feel happier, more connected, and you do your best work, when you’re in this state. You achieve flow by eliminating distractions and doing work that challenges and stimulates you. Cultivating creativity can help you get there.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt.” quote=”“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt.”]
4. You’ll be more unique (and more irreplaceable)
A lot of job training, unfortunately, is aimed at helping people fit into certain molds. You learn the routines and requirements of your job and how to fulfill them. Then, you get down to business. However, you’re more likely to catch you boss’s attention and actually advance in your career if you bring something more to the table.
Creativity helps you to embrace different ways of doing things, and this makes you more of an individual. The higher-ups will value you for your unique talents and skills. There won’t be anyone at the office who does things the same exact way you do. And, that will help make you irreplaceable.
5. You’ll enjoy your job more
Researchers have found that there is a definite link between exercising creativity and having a healthy and happy life, both inside and outside of the workplace. In fact, the connection between creativity and improved mental and physical health is long established. Creativity helps people to be more resilient, less anxious and better equipped to encounter difficulties and challenges.
As humans, we’re meant to think and work in creative ways. So, when you foster your own creative instincts, you tune into something that helps you feel good. You’ll enjoy your job, and your life, a little more when you’re being more creative.
Once you’ve embraced the goal of becoming more creative, it’s time to focus on sharpening the muscle.
How to Cultivate Creativity
1. Allow yourself to daydream
Maybe you’re been taught to think of daydreaming as an utter waste of time. Actually, it’s anything but. It turns out that daydreaming actually improves your ability to focus. And, it helps you to be more creative, too.
You probably know from personal experience that trying too hard to focus can actually hold you back. Dr. Srini Pillay, author of Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try: Unlocking the Power of the Unfocused Mind, says that your brain only has so much capacity for focus. Giving yourself a chance to rest, daydream and replenish these stores. Your creativity and your work will improve if you give your mind the opportunity to wander in between periods of focused work.
2. Read more
There are so many psychological and cognitive benefits to reading books. That’s probably why most CEOs read a book a week. Think of it like “exercise for the mind.” Reading helps to stimulate your brain. (As opposed to watching television or surfing social media, for example, which tend to have the opposite effect.)
Reading has been shown to improve concentration and communication. And, it is a great way to relax and reduce stress. In addition, reading can help you to think more clearly and in new and fresh ways. That’s excellent for your creativity.
3. Cut back on the self-judgment
Judging yourself and your ideas too quickly or too harshly is a surefire way to cut off your creativity. So, try to let that kind of behavior go. Andy Aylesworth, associate professor of marketing at Bentley University, recommends adapting certain practices to jump-start your creativity, including limiting self-judgment.
“Being good at divergent thinking requires that you eliminate the voice of judgment,” said Aylesworth during a creativity boot camp for Bentley alumni in Boston. “One of the tricks is not giving yourself time to think.”
It can be so easy to focus on pleasing others when you’re at work. And, it’s natural to compare yourself to others sometimes. But, you’ll be more creative if you focus less on being “right” or “better” and more on exploring the possibilities.
One way or another, it will be easier to get in touch with your creative potential if you quiet the voice of self-judgment.
5. Spend time in nature
Research shows that spending time in nature helps to make you more creative. And, it also has a ton of other really awesome benefits. For example, spending time outside has been found to make you kinder and happier, too.
“People have been discussing their profound experiences in nature for the last several 100 years—from Thoreau to John Muir to many other writers,” said University of Utah researcher David Strayer, speaking with UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine. “Now we are seeing changes in the brain and changes in the body that suggest we are physically and mentally more healthy when we are interacting with nature.”
Being in nature has been proven to reduce stress, which in turn helps you to be happier. In this way, spending time outdoors can help to recover from mental fatigue. This allows you to be more open to creative. A 2012 study found that participants who spent four days in nature on a hiking trip could solve puzzles requiring creativity better than the control group.
But, keep in mind that in order to gain the maximum benefit from your time outdoors, you also need to stay away from your phone.
“If you’ve been using your brain to multitask—as most of us do most of the day—and then you set that aside and go on a walk, without all of the gadgets, you’ve let the prefrontal cortex recover,” Strayer continued. “And that’s when we see these bursts in creativity, problem-solving and feelings of well-being.”
6. Take good care of yourself
Everyone knows that getting plenty of rest and exercise, and eating well, helps you to be at your best. And, it’s hard to be creative when you’re rundown. Doing things differently and thinking in fresh and creative ways takes energy, concentration and confidence. All of these skills can be tough to muster when you’re stressed out.
So, if you’re serious about wanting to be more creative, be sure to put the time in at home to take good care of yourself. You’ll be more creative at work and ultimately more successful if you do.
7. Have adventures
It’s all too easy to spend the bulk of your energy, not to mention your time, at work. But, cultivating hobbies after hours can do wonders for your creativity. Even if you can’t seem to find the time to do this on a regular basis, having a new and stimulating adventure once in a while can help you to be more creative.
The trick is to do something new that takes you out of your routine and maybe even your comfort zone. These kinds of experiences help you to see the world — and yourself — in new and fresh ways, which stimulates your creativity.
Tell Us What You Think
How do you think cultivating creativity would help you succeed professionally? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.
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