February 5, 2022

7 Creative Beliefs That Will Change Your Life

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If you read enough books about writing, creativity, art, and innovation by experts, you start noticing something. There’s something fundamentally different about how they view their work. There’s something intrinsic and hidden that drives them and that causes them to be more successful at what they do than others. I got curious about this, and I started trying to uncover the beliefs that these people hold. That has led me down a rabbit trail the past few months of reading and learning the research around creativity.

While I’m by no means an expert (see belief #5 below!), I’ve read so many studies and this fantastic book that have opened my eyes to some of the underlying beliefs that great creatives hold about what they do. In an effort to make the implicit explicit, I wanted to share seven big ideas that I’ve found across the research, which have broadened the way I see myself and my authors as creatives.

I’ve already started to see the impacts of these new beliefs in my own and others’ lives: new projects started, old projects finally finished(!), getting unstuck in areas of resistance. That is true power and progress.

People talk a lot about overcoming limiting beliefs, which is great, but they don’t often talk about what you should believe instead. That’s the goal of this post; to give you a new set of foundational beliefs about your creative life to inspire and move you to break through any stuckness and start reaping the benefits of a creative life.

Here we go.

Everyone is creative.

If you asked me ten years ago if I was creative, I would’ve told you no. “I can’t draw to save my life!” I would’ve said. “My sister, though, is very creative.” That’s because somehow in my early years I had adopted the belief that creativity = artistic expression (drawing specifically). It wasn’t until I started a blog at my job and started coming up with new ideas at work that someone else told me I was creative. I had to stop and assess: Was I really creative? Of course I am! But it took someone expanding my definition of creativity for me to realize it.

You are creative, too. It’s just that not everyone is equally creative in all areas of our lives. When we start realizing that creativity is multifaceted and shows up differently in different contexts, we can start learning how to become more creative.

There are different types of creativity.

Arne Dietrich discovered that there are four primary types of creativity, which span across different domains: deliberate and cognitive, deliberate and emotional, spontaneous and cognitive, spontaneous and emotional. You can read more about them here, or read Dietrich’s original research here.

Creativity is something we can nurture and grow.

Just like intelligence, we can actually increase our capacity for creativity. We do that by gathering information and practicing transferring it to new situations, experimenting with “What ifs.” That’s because our brain uses the existing information in our minds to play with and apply to novel situations. This can be either a subconscious or conscious process (cognitive or spontaneous).

I have the power to grow my creativity.

When we own our creative power, we greatly increase our chances of finding success and meeting our creative goals. The key is having a growth mindset (as opposed to a fixed mindset) and start to see challenges and new situations as growth opportunities.

I am a lifelong student of creativity.

Creativity is domain-specific, meaning that you might be more or less creative in certain areas of your life. You might be incredibly creative in writing because you are open to new experiences and experimentation in your writing, but less creative at work because you have strict definitions of what success looks like and how work should happen. When we adopt the perspective of a learner, we start seeing all areas of our lives as opportunities to increase our creativity.

I am a resilient creator.

When you start experimenting and asking “What if,” you’ll quickly find that many ideas don’t work. That doesn’t mean that you’re not creative or that you don’t have good ideas! One of my favorite quotes from Ryan Holiday is, “Creative people naturally produce a lot of false positives” (Perennial Seller). Think of Edison with his legendary 1000 unsuccessful attempts at the lightbulb. Whether or not that story is true, the lesson is true. Often to find what “works,” you have to first discover all the ways it doesn’t work. Expect that creativity often won’t be successful the first time, and don’t let that stop you from trying again.

Ideas that don’t work are learning opportunities.

Failed attempts are feedback to us—moments that we can learn and grow from. Ask yourself, Why didn’t this work? What assumptions was I making? What if I changed something next time?

Undoubtedly, there are more beliefs that we can adopt to change our lives. What would you add to this list?

And perhaps even more important than what we believe is the fundamental willingness to continually reassess what we believe. A good friend of mine once told me that I should “hold my beliefs with open hands.” Those words have stuck with me for years, and I try to live them out. I want to live with an open mind and enough humility and flexibility to continue to change what I think throughout my life. I hope you’ll do the same!