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22 Reasons People with Creative Outlets are More Likely to be Successful

22 Reasons People with Creative Outlets are More Likely to be Successful

Did you know that having fun leads to greater success? Research at San Francisco State University shows that people who have creative outlets outside of work perform better at their jobs. And businesses based on personal pastimes are more likely to turn a profit.

In my workshops I’ve found that expressing ourselves creatively isn’t just about making art. It can also include such hobbies as gardening, fashion, cooking, running, playing hockey…whatever you tend to lose yourself in which brings joy and meaning to your life.

So prepare to be happy and thrive. Here are 22 reasons people with creative outlets are more likely to be successful and you can do it, too.

1. You’re refreshed and more productive

Who can afford to take breaks these days, we’re all so busy, right? But even billionaire Richard Branson, who is responsible for running over 400 companies under the Virgin brand, makes time for kite-boarding. A study shows that taking breaks leads to greater productivity and a higher quality of work. Artistic expressions such as writing and drawing also increase energy and focus. If you want to get more work done in less time, try picking up a surfboard or a paintbrush.

2. You’re happier and more engaged

Having creative outlets lowers stress, increases happiness, and gives us a sense of purpose, which makes us more effective at our jobs. We get better evaluations from managers and customers, and show more helpful behavior at work. That’s a pretty important finding given that only 13% of employees worldwide like their jobs. If you want to experience greater well-being and success in your career, put a date on your calendar to play soccer or practice your drums.

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3. You come up with new ways to do things

In the early years of Microsoft, co-founder Paul Allen picked up his guitar at the end of marathon days of programming. He still plays in a rock band today. “It forces me to look beyond what currently exists and express myself in a new way.” The same is true for you. People with creative pastimes are more likely to come up with creative solutions to work-related problems. If you’re looking for inspiration, try doing something you love to unwind.

4. You make space for breakthroughs

Have you ever noticed how solutions to problems tend to pop into your mind out of nowhere when you’re engaged in your hobby? Albert Einstein is thought to have developed the theory of relativity while riding his bicycle. Research at Stanford shows that walking in particular boosts creative thinking. Will Ferrel, who ran marathons while he was part of the cast of Saturday Night Live, noted, “Whenever I’d run, I’d get these great ideas. I love what running does for your mind.” Carve out some space in your day for yoga, swimming, drawing…and watch the creative ideas flow effortlessly.

5. You discover and develop your unique talents

Walt Disney began drawing pictures at the age of four and kept refining his childhood love of doodling until it turned into a multi-billion dollar business that’s still thriving today. Like Walt, you have a unique gift. Sometimes your special abilities are hard to see, though, because they come so easily. How can you compare yourself to others to find out what talents are natural to you? Make a commitment to develop your innate potential and you will excel.

6. You know how to get in the zone

Meryl Streep knits “to clear her head” on set. By putting herself in the moment she’s able to access powerful acting impulses. What puts you in the groove? It could be sewing, dancing, playing sports—whatever makes time disappear for you. When you’re in flow you do your best work, and the positive effects spread to everything you do.

7. You overcome setbacks and obstacles

Having hobbies makes us more resilient in the face of adversity. Oracle founder Larry Ellison says that sailing competitions help him push through his limits and develop a winning mindset. Research shows that simply writing about your difficult experiences heals you physically and mentally and enables you to persevere. When you have a hobby, you’re more likely to find a way around roadblocks and keep going.

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8. You carry your personal accomplishments to work

Side projects boost your self-confidence and give you greater life satisfaction. Whether it be finishing a painting, running a marathon, or finding another piece for your owl collection, you prove to yourself you can reach your goals and that sense of accomplishment carries over to work.

9. You trust your gut and act on it

After Apple founder Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College, he stuck around to study calligraphy. It gave him an aesthetic sense that still distinguishes Apple products today. We all have powerful hunches, but we learn to censor them out of fear and the need to fit in. Following your passion helps you hear your intuition more clearly and act on it.

10. You see the world through fresh eyes

My friend Peggy Monahan, Creative Director at the New York Hall of Science, builds incredibly cool exhibits that draw huge crowds. She attributes her success to being forced to constantly learn new things, dubbing herself “a professional novice.” Next time you feel stuck, try learning something new, like playing guitar or handball. Or see your product or service through your customers’ eyes. You’ll come back to work with a fresh perspective and find new solutions to old problems.

11. You blur the line between work and play

Some of the best ideas come from fusing work and play. Chuck Hebestreit played guitar at night to unwind from his day working at Gore and Associates (best known for producing Gore-Tex). When he noticed finger oil deadened the strings, two coworkers helped him solve the problem by coating the strings with a polyweb (launching Elixir Strings). I’ve given many innovation workshops at high tech companies that initially hired me to do research. What passion would you bring into work if you could?

12. You recognize and seize opportunities

If you’re an entrepreneur looking for the next big idea, your hobby could give you a clue. Jim Jannard noticed the handlebars on his motorcycle got slippery when he sweated and designed a better grip. He founded Oakley, which today produces a wide variety of sports equipment and eyewear. What about you? Is there an everyday problem you encounter in your side project that could turn into a winning book, song, or product? Get deeply, intensely curious and see what you can cook up.

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13. You see the bigger picture

Mistakes sometimes turn into popular products when we see the bigger picture. Spencer Silver tried to make a stronger glue at 3M but failed because his adhesive was weak. Four years later his colleague, Arthur Fry, had an “a-ha” moment while singing in church. Frustrated that the marker kept falling out of his hymnal, he realized his friend’s weak glue would solve the issue. Together they created Post-it Notes. Initially, penicillin and chocolate chip cookies were accidents, too. How does your life outside of work help you see possibilities that others don’t?

14. You believe the whole is greater than the sum of its parts

When you live in two worlds, you can bring them together in ways that spark cool ideas that are greater than the sum of its parts. Beto Perez was a fitness instructor in Columbia who forgot his aerobics music for class one day and ran back to his car to grab whatever music he could find from his personal collection, which was mostly merengue and salsa. This started the fitness craze we now know as Zumba. How can you merge your passion with your job to create a synergistic effect?

15. You become a solid team player

Many skills cross over from your creative outlets to your job. For example, according to Judd Hollas, CEO of EquityNet, “A football player and his fellow teammates sacrifice for each other for the common good of the team. Business is the same way. Teamwork and camaraderie are what drive success in business.” If you play on a sports team in your off-hours, you’ll naturally be a better team player at work.

16. You develop a good sense of timing

When you develop the ability to do things at exactly the right moment from your creative outlets, it transfers to your work. Scott Picken, CEO of Wealth Migrate, says kitesurfing is just like running a business because it gives you good timing. “You have to wait for the right time to launch. When you’re riding the waves, you must also be on a constant lookout for changes in the environment.” How does your passion project (e.g., fishing, playing bass, performing standup comedy) help you fine-tune your timing?

17. You learn to think on your feet

In my improv classes I learned to trust the first thoughts that pop into my mind and run with them, which makes me be a better speaker, performer and author. Peter Diamond, author of Amplify Your Career, says tennis helps you “to be fully present, able to think on your feet, and change tactics if needed. These same skills are necessary for running a successful business.” What about you? How does your side project help you improvise in other parts of your life and work when necessary?

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18. You keep your mind sharp

Business magnate Warren Buffet stays sharp at age 84 by playing ukulele and online bridge. Research shows that having hobbies bolsters cognitive functioning, stems the advance of dementia, and allows us to live more vibrant lives by increasing our brain connectivity. What hobby can you engage in to keep you on top of your game? If you don’t have one yet, no worries. Constantly learning new things improves your brain health.

19. You are more vital, healthier, and live longer

Many successful people stay fit through physical activities such as swimming (Beyonce) and kitesurfing (Richard Branson). But artistic hobbies like writing and painting are also good for your physical health because they boost your immune system, reduce the symptoms of diseases, and increase longevity. You take fewer sick days and are more vital at work. So next time you’re too tired to play tennis or practice your violin, remember that not only will you feel better afterwards, but you’ll live a healthier and more successful life.

20. You inspire and support others

Oprah loves to read books because they inspire and challenge her, and then shares the books that make a difference to her with her audience. It’s a simple and powerful way to give back. Whenever I learn something new about innovation I always try to include that little tidbit in my next talk, workshop, or blog. What creative outlets do you have that could help others? Spreading joy is one of the most rewarding things you can do with your life.

21. You discover catalyzing career clues

If you’re ho-hum about your career, your hobby may provide clues about what you really want to do with your life. Terry Finley felt unfulfilled selling life insurance, but loved horses. In 1991 he bought his first horse, Sunbelt, for $5,000. He later attracted investors and eventually ended up with 55 horses and a revenue of $6.5 million annually. How can you turn your hobby into a job? Perhaps you can teach what you love to do, speak or write about your hobby, or repair cherished items.

22. You do it for the love

Businesses based on hobbies are more likely to turn a profit because these entrepreneurs don’t do it for the money. They persevere during tough times, even if they don’t make money initially, because they love what they do. Today more people are entrepreneurs than ever before. If that lifestyle also appeals to you, ask yourself how you can you turn your hobby into a business you love.

Don’t worry. Your hobby can stay a hobby. No matter whether you work a 9-to-5 job or you’re an entrepreneur, having a creative outlet feeds your soul and helps you stay fresh and inspired. When you do something you love you’re energized, happy, and focused, and it rolls back positively into your work and all aspects of your life, including your relationships. So the next time you’re afraid to take some time off to have fun and express your unique self because you think it’ll hurt your career, remember that the opposite is true. Start writing or running again, or learn something new. You’ll be happier, healthier, and more successful as a result.

Featured photo credit: smiling young woman using a camera to take photo outdoors at the park/michaeljung via shutterstock.com

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Dr. Michelle Millis Chappel

I'm a psychology professor-turned rock star who has helped thousands of people create happy meaningful lives by using their superpowers.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas

How to Be More Creative and Come up with Incredible Ideas

Regardless of how creative you already consider yourself to be, there’s a good chance you would like to level up your creative abilities.

You might want to write a better song, think of better solutions to problems at work or around the home or maybe paint a picture.

In any case, the good news is that creativity is not born: it’s made, and each one of us has the potential to be more creative and come up with incredible ideas.

“Creativity is any act, idea, or product that changes an existing domain, or that transforms an existing domain into a new one.” — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The definition of creativity is broad, and reminds us that creativity is not limited to artists or musicians. It does however require that we have some kind of impact on the domain in which we create.

Creativity also emphasizes values.

“The process of having original ideas that have value” — Ken Robinson

This makes up for what Csikszentmihalyi misses out. For instance, we can make a change in the world without adding significant value. Any destructive act, like smashing a window, creates change, but it doesn’t necessarily create valuable change.

In short, there isn’t one single definition of creativity It’s up to us to find a definition that feels true and useful. When you know what your standard is, It’s much easier to embrace creativity and start to cultivate it.

And in this article, you will learn how to be more creative and take a good look at what goes into the creative skill:

1. Cultivate Focus

In order to create, there needs to be a focus on creating something, whether it’s a song, a theory, a product, or a sculpture.

You could also call this “drive” – it’s the initial spark that drives the solution to a problem, or the will to get on your laptop and start typing.

However, it’s worth noting there are different stages to the creative process: the divergent stage and the convergent stage.

In the divergent stage, we want a broad focus – we want to be willing to let in lots of different inputs, ideas and insights. This is the time for brainstorming all possible ideas and solutions.

In the convergent stage, we start to narrow our focus, like a camera lens. At this stage, we start to drill down to a handful of ideas or solutions, discriminating throughout the process.

How to cultivate focus?

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Take a 20 Minute Walk

Walking away and getting your heart rate up is the best free tool you have in regaining your focus.

I know it might seem counterintuitive to take a break right when you’re at your busiest, and especially when you’re drowning in your massive to do list, but the effects it will have on your clarity and ability to focus are undeniable.

Walking is physiologically proven to release stress, and clear your mind. In fact, most of my most brilliant ideas (and some pretty terrible ones too) have occurred on my daily walks.

If you give this technique a try, what you’ll find is that you’re much more productive than you were before you took a breather.

Over time, if you do these walks daily, you’ll quickly find that your to-do list starts to feel a lot less significant, and a lot more doable. It’s all about keeping razor focused, and that’s what short daily walks will gift you.

2. Build a Structure

When I wake up in the morning, I start the day with a structure in mind. I know that 15 minutes will be dedicated to meditation, 30 minutes to coffee and reading, 20 minutes to yoga and so on.

The structure of this morning routine might be boring, but the act of each task in itself has the potential to be, on some level, “creative.”

The point of structure is that it gives you the space to make time for something you want to do. It helps you carve out the time to do your creative work. Once you begin that thing in itself, you are free to go about it however you’d like.

Without structure, we can lose focus and can feel overwhelmed with possibility. If you’ve ever looked at a blank page and felt too overwhelmed with possibility to make a mark on it, you’ll know what I mean. How much easier it gets when you are given some guidelines or a deadline?

The trick is finding the right amount of structure for you and your creative needs. Too little structure and we feel overwhelmed. Too much structure, and we risk feeling limited and stifled.

Again, it’s worth thinking about creating in those two stages: divergent (less structure) and convergent (more structure.)

How to build a structure?

Create a Morning Routine

Your morning routine doesn’t have to be rigid or so arduous you dread waking up. In fact, it should feel like the opposite. When you get a routine that works for you, you’ll look forward to starting the day.

We all have different needs and preferences which can shape our ideal routine. In the book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, you can be inspired over 160 different creators’ daily routines, from Charles Darwin to Pablo Picasso.

Experiment with any that take your fancy, and see how you feel with a bit more structure to start your day.

You can also take a look at this article about morning routine for inspirations: The Ultimate Morning Routine to Make You Happy And Productive All Day

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3. Find Motivation

There is a theory that suggests: people will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself — not by external pressures. This is also known as intrinsic motivation; a drive that comes from within.

Think of a time when you did some of your best work — chances are you were totally absorbed in what you were doing, to the exclusion of everything else. You were completely focused on the work itself, barely noticing time flying by.

Now think of a time when you felt under pressure to perform. Maybe it was an exam, or a commission for an important client, or maybe your boss had told you “there’s a lot riding on this.”

Notice the difference? In the first memory, you were driven by intrinsic motivation, which made it relatively easy, even enjoyable, to be highly creative.

In the second memory however, extrinsic motivation was breathing down your neck, distracting you by whispering about the rewards for success and the horrible consequences of failure: likely making it harder to focus on the task at hand.

For this reason, intrinsic motivation, if you can find it, is what separates the good from great creative work.

This isn’t to say only internal motivators help. I personally get motivated by luring myself to work with a good cappuccino at my favourite cafe. That will get me ready to write or edit or whatever I’ve been avoiding.

How to find motivation?

Connect to Your “Why”

Your “Why” is your fuel: the thing that drives you forward, that gives you a reason to do what you’re doing.

‘He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.’ — Friedrich Nietzche

When you have a reason to do something, a purpose or a goal that matters to you, you can connect your daily actions to it. Then, each act becomes infused with meaning and you find that intrinsic motivation comes naturally.

The trick is to remember your “why” and connect with it on a regular basis.

Think about how you want to feel on a daily basis. What would you like to accomplish in the next year? What would you like for yourself in the next five years? How about in your lifetime?

Ultimately, the tasks you face on a daily basis, or at least some of them, will connect to a greater purpose if you follow this path and you will find you feel more motivated to create and less resistance.

If you aren’t sure where to start looking for motivation, this will help: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

4. Be an Expert in a Chosen Domain

Research has shown that just as expertise in one domain does not predict expertise in other unrelated domains; creativity in one domain does not predict creativity in other unrelated domains.[1]

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So just because you can paint a pretty picture, doesn’t mean you can creatively solve a mathematical problem.

If you’ve taken one of those tests like the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, which will ask you to think of a bazillion uses for a pencil, and scored well, unfortunately this is only an indicator of divergent thinking skills. It is not a predictor for creativity all round.

The good news is, you can train your creativity in your chosen domain. Much like a muscle, you can isolate exercises to strengthen it.

Of course you can still do a total body workout – or atotal creativity workout – but it means your creativity-training exercises need to come from a wide variety of domains; not just thinking up uses for a pencil.

How to become an expert?

Make a Mastery Training Plan

Following our physical workout analogy, it’s worth applying the habits of great athletes to your chosen creative domain. For example:

1. Decide what area/s you want to work on

Much like a tennis player who decides they need to improve their serving technique, you can decide what area within your creative domain you want to improve at. Get specific.

2. Decide how much time you can dedicate

Most of us don’t have all day to train like a pro tennis player might, but you can likely squeeze 20 to 30 minutes in a day, if you want to. Whatever the time you can allow is, decide to dedicate yourself to it.

3. Review your progress

Finally, in order to check your progress, you can take regular reviews. Decide what your metrics are, and take time each week to check in with yourself.

How many days did you practice? How did you compare to the previous week? This kind of review can help you stay on track, and actually creates more intrinsic motivation as you see yourself develop.

5. Create a Conducive Environment

A psychologist in 1943 proposed that behaviour is:[2]

“a function of both the person as well as the physical environment they are in.”

I would suggest that the act of creating is a behaviour and that, even though it begins as an internal process, it’s very much affected by and even dependent on the environment we are in.

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I started noticing how environment affects me when I worked in an office. Over time, I realized that the more people who were in or who were talking, the more distracted I was. If I got to the office early before my coworkers arrived, I was twice as effective.

I was even more effective if I was at home. Now that I work from home, I know I’m even more effective when in certain coffee shops. Ideally, places that have high ceilings, gentle lighting, some barely noticeable background music – and excellent coffee.

It’s these little variations in our environment that can really shape our creative output.

If you’re an introvert, you probably do your best work alone. If you’re an extrovert, you probably do your best work in the company of others.

This isn’t to say you should find one way of doing things and stick to it: in fact, varying your environment from time to time is a great way to stoke the creative fire too, which we’ll touch on more later.

How to create a conducive environment?

Add or Subtract Stimuli

Novelty in our environment has been shown to stimulate the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that increases our desire to seek out reward.[3]

If you’re looking for creative motivation, adding some novelty into your environment can be just what you need.

On the other hand, some people are highly sensitive and when it comes to having too much stimulation in their environment, they find it difficult to focus.

Experiment with working in different environments. Note how you feel. Note whether you do better creative work or have more interesting ideas when you’re alone or with others.

Try listening to music, people chatting or try being in complete silence. Try a dimly lit room, try working in bright sunlight.

In each case, note how you feel before, during and afterwards and rate the quality of your work.

The Bottom Line

Creativity is not one particular skill or talent one can have. It comes in as many broad and unique flavors as there are people on this earth.

To be more creative, take little steps each day. Acknowledge where and when you feel most inspired, motivated and original and spend more energy in those areas.

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Featured photo credit: Sticker Mule via unsplash.com

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