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7 Creative Habits of Highly Successful People

7 Creative Habits of Highly Successful People

Highly successful people have empowering creative habits that enable them to achieve remarkable things. Enhancing creativity can help you reach greater heights in your life, too.

According to a TIME Magazine poll, 91% of people say that unleashing creativity is vital to our personal lives and 83% believe it’s important for our professional development. But an Adobe survey shows that only 25% of us think of ourselves as creative. The good news is that we were all imaginative as children, and it’s easier to reawaken that dormant creativity than you’d think.

The ability to create isn’t just about producing great art or making scientific discoveries. It’s a skill that can be honed in any area of life, and involves learning how to view things from different perspectives, find fresh solutions to problems, and express ourselves uniquely.

Here are seven simple habits that can help you boost creativity and succeed in work and life.

1. Nurture Creative Dissent

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    Sir Richard Branson purposefully embeds “mavericks” into every Virgin company to ensure its success because he knows that yes men kill innovation. Likewise Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, says that groundbreaking movies such as Toy Story and Monsters Inc. were only possible because colleagues invited criticism from each other.

    Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. For many years I was a psychologist, singer-songwriter, creativity workshop leader, and innovation consultant, all at the same time. A couple of friends warned me, “You’re spread too thin. You need to focus.” They were right. In a stroke of insight one day I realized that my songs carry the same message as my workshops, so why not sing at my talks and talk about creativity at my concerts? My life became much more streamlined and audiences love the fresh approach.

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    Ask people you trust, “How do you see me limiting myself?” and listen to what they say. Be open to suggestions, and breathe!

    2. Follow Your Bliss

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      Paulo Coelho, author of the best-selling book The Alchemist, was put into a mental institution by his parents because they wanted him to be an engineer. Michelangelo was beaten by his father whenever he caught him painting because he was supposed to grow up to be a cloth merchant. Unfortunately, our true vocations and creative impulses are often crushed by people’s expectations of us.

      “Gina” was a frustrated receptionist who took my creativity workshop because she was unhappy. She refused to speak the first six weeks of class for fear we’d think she was strange. She finally told us she collected stuffed animals and watched Beauty and the Beast over and over again, and her boyfriend made her give all her dolls away. I encouraged Gina to wrap her arms around this child’s world rather than turn away from it because it wasn’t “normal.” Three months later she became a kindergarten teacher.

      Our creative calling often becomes clear when we embrace our passions instead of forcing ourselves to conform. What sparks your curiosity?

      3. Trust Your Gut

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        Apple founder Steve Jobs studied calligraphy after he dropped out of Reed College. He told Stanford’s 2005 graduating class, “When we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts.” Learning calligraphy and studying Zen Buddhism gave Jobs an aesthetic sense that still distinguishes Apple products today. “You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny…”

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        To access creativity, become aware of your initial hunches instead of always obeying “shoulds.” “Lauren,” a bored technical writer, used to scribble ideas for movies in the margins of her tech manuals. It was clear she wasn’t your typical office worker; she often wore bunny slippers to our workshop. I encouraged Lauren to focus on those marginalized writings (her intuition). She ended up writing, directing, and producing an internationally-distributed film. Now Lauren’s flourishing in the entertainment industry.

        What would you do if you listened to the tiny voice inside?

        4. Boost Your Superpowers

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          Jimi Hendrix was not only blessed with a unique gift for playing guitar, but he practiced ALL the time. He wore his guitar when he boarded planes and made scrambled eggs for breakfast. He became a master guitarist because he constantly sought to bolster his innate talent.

          Like Jimi, you are an original just by virtue of being your true self. Sometimes your abilities are hard to detect, though, because they come so easily to you. “Emmy” was a coaching client who complained she wasn’t good at anything. I noticed she had a real genius for choosing clothes she looked beautiful in. “Anyone can shop,” she declared when I pointed out her knack for fashion. I urged Emmy to seek a sales position at a clothing store to gain valuable work experience and develop her eye for style. Soon she became a successful buyer for a trendy children’s boutique.

          What comes naturally to you? Make a commitment to discovering and enhancing your special skills, and you will excel.

          5. Overcome Failure and Setbacks

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            Oprah Winfrey was demoted early in her career as a news anchor because she didn’t have “the it factor” for TV. She went on to reinvent and rule daytime talk shows for 25 years. She told Harvard’s 2013 graduating class, “There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.” Facing adversity is part of growing into your best self.

            Sometimes we have to fail a few times to find our true creative expression. “Jane” was a Fortune 500 executive who wanted a creative outlet after work. At first she tried writing because her father was an author, but she realized she didn’t have a way with words. Clueless about what to do next, she started making potholders, which had brought her joy as a child. Then she tried drawing, and eventually discovered that painting was her true passion. Jane won an award for a portrait of her husband, who had patiently kept her dinners warm while she lost herself in painting at night.

            Just by virtue of showing up and trying again, we naturally improve and succeed. What would you do if you tried something new?

            6. Unplug and Recharge

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              The GMO of Foster Grant goes outside on campus every day to even out his jam-packed afternoons, and encourages his employees to do the same because he knows that creativity flows when yang (active hard work) is balanced with yin (gentle receptivity).

              A study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign shows that taking breaks leads to greater productivity and higher quality of work than putting in long hours. Albert Einstein is thought to have developed the theory of relativity while riding his bicycle. Just strolling around your building for 15 minutes can get the creative juices going. In fact, research at Stanford shows that walking in particular boosts creative thinking.

              In cognitive psychology we call these breaks “incubation periods.” Other repetitive mindless tasks such as gardening, running, swimming, sweeping, and showering are also particularly helpful for allowing solutions to problems to pop into your mind out of nowhere. Remember Jane from our last story? She got the hunch to try drawing while walking.

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              If you’re stuck and need a little inspiration, take a hike. Literally.

              7. Take Inspired Risks

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                Tesla/SpaceX CEO Elon Musk co-founded PayPal, created America’s first viable all electric car company, and funded his own space mission to Mars. He also hopes to develop Hyperloop—“a cross between a Concord, a rail gun, and an air hockey table”—so that we’ll be able to speed travel from places like LA to San Francisco. “Don’t just follow the trend,” he urged in his Stanford commencement speech. “Now is the time to take risks… do something bold, you won’t regret it.”

                That goes for all of us. “Maria” was a police detective who wanted to retire early and travel the world. She thought she’d write travel brochures to support herself, but she didn’t enjoy writing. I could tell Maria really liked being a police detective; maybe she was just tired of California. By the time our class ended, Maria had sold her house to answer the call to adventure. Her belongings were in storage and she now lived in a small furnished apartment. Six months later she landed a job with the United Nations in Bosnia training the local police to adopt human rights procedures.

                What would you do if you had the courage to take a risk in your life?

                Are there more you’d add to the list? Do you have a creative habit that’s helped you succeed? Share in the comments below!

                Featured photo credit: Jarle Naustvik via flickr.com

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                Dr. Michelle Millis Chappel

                Michelle is a psychology-professor-turned-rock-star who has helped thousands of people create successful meaningful lives by using their superpowers.

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                Last Updated on October 16, 2019

                Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

                Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

                Do you like making mistakes?

                I certainly don’t.

                Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

                Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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                Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

                Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

                • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
                • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
                • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
                • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

                We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

                If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

                Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

                Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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                When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

                Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

                We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

                It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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                Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

                Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

                Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

                1. Point us to something we did not know.
                2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
                3. Deepen our knowledge.
                4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
                5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
                6. Inform us more about our values.
                7. Teach us more about others.
                8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
                9. Show us when someone else has changed.
                10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
                11. Remind us of our humanity.
                12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
                13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
                14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
                15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
                16. Invite us to better choices.
                17. Can teach us how to experiment.
                18. Can reveal a new insight.
                19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
                20. Can serve as a warning.
                21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
                22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
                23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
                24. Remind us how we are like others.
                25. Make us more humble.
                26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
                27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
                28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
                29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
                30. Expose our true feelings.
                31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
                32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
                33. Point us in a more creative direction.
                34. Show us when we are not listening.
                35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
                36. Can create distance with someone else.
                37. Slow us down when we need to.
                38. Can hasten change.
                39. Reveal our blind spots.
                40. Are the invisible made visible.

                Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

                The secret to handling mistakes is to:

                • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
                • Have an experimental mindset.
                • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

                When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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                When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

                It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

                When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

                Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

                Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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                Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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