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How to Kill Your Creativity

Topics: Career Advice
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Creativity is one of the keys to professional success. Still, many of us do things every single day that diminish our ability to be creative.

Artists and writers aren’t the only professionals who need to be creative at work. Creativity is required for all kinds of jobs. Teachers need to write compelling lessons. Engineers are tasked with developing creative solutions to challenges. Managers have to find new ways to motivate their teams.

These are just a few examples. Being creative is a powerful asset for individuals from a wide array of industries. Improving your ability to be creative could help you in your career, no matter what you do for a living.

The professional benefits of creativity:

flow state
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There are so many wonderful professional benefits associated with creativity. Here are just a few ways it could help you succeed professionally:

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  • Your problem-solving skills will improve – Creativity can help you navigate the challenges of your job more effectively. It encourages you to think outside of the box and that can do wonders for your problem solving abilities. Who wouldn’t benefit from finding some fresh solutions to old challenges at work?
  • It separates you from the robots – A lot of folks are concerned about how automation will change the future job market. There are still a lot of unknowns, but one thing is for sure, robots will definitely take over some jobs in the future. But, new jobs will also be created as a result of emerging technology. Automation is most likely to replace humans in jobs where we can be outperformed. Jobs that require things like precision, endurance and manual dexterity, for example, are the most vulnerable. However, jobs that require uniquely human skills, like emotional intelligence and creativity, will likely increase as a result of automation. Creativity helps you stay competitive.
  • It’ll broaden your self-expression – It’s a powerful thing when you’re able to express yourself more clearly at work. And, creativity can help you get there. You’ll be able to talk about your ideas more authentically when you tap into this resource. Creativity doesn’t just apply to things like making art. It’s more often about seeing the world and expressing your vision in a unique way. You might choose to tell a story to help illustrate a point during a meeting, for example. Or, maybe you’ll propose a totally different approach to a project than what’s been done in the past. The people you work with, and the organization you work for, will benefit when you learn to share your dynamic ideas more thoroughly and consistently.
  • It will reduce stress – Research indicates that creativity can reduce stress. It helps redirect and repurpose negative feelings and stressor as sparks for new ideas or fresh creative products. Scientists have found that about 75 percent of folks experience a decrease in their levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, when they create something. Creativity allows you to step back just enough from stress to process it effectively. It’s a healthy way to combat the tensions that are all too present at work for so many professionals.

Here are a few things that might be killing your creativity:

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Creativity is a wonderful asset. But, so many job environments actually function in a way that works against it. It’s good to be aware of these deterrents if you value your own creativity and don’t want to suppress it.

1. You don’t take breaks

Taking short breaks throughout the day is important if you want to stay creative. Research indicates that working without breaks can lead to creative blocks. (It also causes other harmful effects like stress and exhaustion.) Working harder doesn’t always mean that you produce more. Your brain needs downtime in order to be creative. So, you aren’t doing yourself any favors when you don’t take breaks at work.

2. You worry about what other people think

There’s something very freeing about allowing yourself to be creative. But, if you worry too much about pleasing others or staying within some imaginary safe-zone of expression that doesn’t allow for originality, you might find it’s pretty hard to access that creativity and freedom. Of course you need to be professional at work, but that doesn’t mean you have to suppress who you really are. If you worry too much about what others think, it could diminish your ability to be creative in a big way.

“Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.” – Jack Kerouac

3. You don’t step outside your comfort zone


It’s more difficult to stay passionate and plugged-in creatively when you’re doing the same thing day after day, much less year after year, at work. Stepping outside of your comfort zone can help you be more creative. If you’re always doing the same things, than you’re always thinking in the same way. If you want to be more creative, it might help to take on some new professional challenges.

4. You’re distracted

There are often a lot of distractions in the modern workplace. And that can be a real hindrance to creative work. Experts have found that all aspects of your performance are heightened, including creativity, when you’re in flow state. According to author and journalist Steven Kotler, flow is defined as an “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.”

You’re totally immersed in your work when you’re in this state. You might even lose track of time. Creativity thrives when you’re “in the zone.” But, it can be next to impossible to get there if you’re perpetually distracted by ringing phones, email alerts and coworkers. Finding a way to limit some of these distractions, even just for an hour or two a day, can make a world of difference.

5. You judge yourself

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“The chief enemy of creativity is ‘good’ sense.” – Pablo Picasso

Unfortunately, it’s so easy to be your own worst critic. It’s great to be ambitious, but being a perfectionist can actually really hold you back. Your ability to be creative is diminished when you’re hyper focused on never making a mistake. If you’re in the habit of judging yourself too harshly, it could be working against your creativity.

6. You’re run down

It helps to be at your best when you’re trying to be creative. That means good self-care. If you’re too run down from not getting enough sleep, for example, it will be pretty hard to achieve your creative potential. It’s easier to be creative when you’re taking the time to exercise, eat right and get plenty of rest.

Of course, that’s often easier said than done. But, keep in mind that you’ll benefit from simply making positive changes in the right direction.

7. You’re not taking the time to reflect

Are you’re working in a dull, drab cubicle with nothing interesting around you to spark your creativity? It’s amazing how much one’s mood is a reflection of their environment. If you want to be more creative at work, try adding a little excitement to your workspace. Display some interesting art, or even just some postcards of artwork. Add some color and some creativity to your outside environment and you might just find it helps kindle the spark within.

8. You skip vacations

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If you have a creative job and you’re skipping vacations, you’re making a big mistake. Research has proven that taking time away from work helps you to be more productive and creative upon your return. (Just make sure you plan ahead or the stress of getting your vacation together at the last minute could negate some of the positive effects.) Taking time away gives your mind a chance to rest. That helps spark, generate and restore your creative abilities.

9. You’re getting older

You don’t have to spend a lot of time around kids to realize that many people lose their ability to be creative as they age. Maybe it’s because adults take on more responsibilities and they think that they don’t have the time for “the luxury” of creativity. Or, perhaps it’s because children are less self-conscious than the rest of us — and more willing to be vulnerable — and that makes them more creative.

Your capacity for creativity was almost certainly impacted by the process of growing up. Thinking back to your younger years might help you to tap into that potential again. And, spending time around children probably wouldn’t hurt either.

10. You’re indoors all the time

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The reasons why it works are sort of mysterious, but spending time in nature definitely helps people to be more creative. Being in nature helps you feel inspired and recover from creative blocks. It’s been proven to improve cognitive functioning and reduce stress. If you’re indoors all the time, it could be diminishing your ability to be creative. Keep in mind that sometime you need to get away from your desk in order to move your work forward.

Tell Us What You Think

How does being creative help you to do your best work? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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