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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 March 23, 2021

                Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

                Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

                One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

                The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

                You need more than time management. You need energy management

                1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

                How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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                I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

                I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

                2. Determine your “peak hours”

                Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

                Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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                My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

                In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

                Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

                3. Block those high-energy hours

                Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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                Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

                If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

                That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

                There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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                Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

                Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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