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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

                More by this author

                Michelle Millis Chappel

                Princeton Ph.D. in psychology, world-acclaimed singer-songwriter, speaker, coach, and author

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                Last Updated on October 17, 2018

                7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

                7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

                How is your memory? Is your cognitive function as strong as you’d like it to be?

                If not, then you’re definitely going to be interested in the memory improvement tips I’ll be sharing with you in this article.

                Despite what you might think – or have been told – improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it. (Don’t worry, as you won’t need to make any significant lifestyle changes.)

                So how to improve memory? Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve your memory significantly.

                1. Meditate

                We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts and figures into our conscious minds.

                Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

                Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. And research suggests that the more information and distractions, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory.[1]

                Fortunately, meditation can help you out.

                Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

                If you need help in shifting into a meditative state, I recommend trying an app like Headspace – which can assist you to achieve this in a convenient and structured way.

                And don’t forget, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

                2. Get plenty of sleep

                If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then I’m guessing you’re not remembering well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

                If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities – including your memory.

                How much sleep should you be getting?

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                Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation, you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things.

                Now, I’ll be honest with you, maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!). But if you care about improving your short-term and long-term ability to remember things, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

                Are there ways to hack the sleep cycle?

                Yes, there are.

                Try these three things:

                • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
                • Don’t eat too late
                • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

                Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

                However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory…

                3. Challenge your brain

                When was the last time you challenged your brain?

                I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or undersleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and memory games.

                To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

                Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself, has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-thinking ability and memory.

                There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

                • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
                • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
                • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

                If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live – while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

                Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it, try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

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                4. Take more breaks

                When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctively remember working all the hours under the sun – and many under the moon too!

                At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat and tears.

                However, I was wrong.

                Taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

                Let me explain.

                Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it – in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

                Namely, extended study sessions are rarely a good thing, as your ability to retain information naturally declines after a certain period of time.

                It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

                It’s the same with your brain. If you overload it with information, you’ll suffer from mental fatigue.

                What’s the answer?

                Make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

                If you don’t want to be as regimented as that, then take breaks as soon as you find yourself losing the ability to focus on the new material. Your brain will thank you – and your learning aptitude will move up a level.

                5. Learn a new skill

                I love this quote, as it’s 100% true – but frequently overlooked:

                “Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

                From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

                Let me give you an example of this:

                Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day – many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

                Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

                The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you – rather than letting you work in your own way.

                Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like, and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction in to learning a new skill (computer coding). It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career – and the ongoing learning made the call centre job much more bearable.

                Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking our new information. And when learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly, becomes a habit too.

                6. Start working out

                If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

                Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory.

                Regular exercise increases blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. And a well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

                “But I just don’t have the time?,” I hear you say.

                Not a problem.

                A research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise, offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines.[2] So, if you’re short on time – now you know what to do.

                Interested in getting started?

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                Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

                • Join a gym
                • Join a sports team
                • Buy a bike
                • Take up hiking
                • Dance to your favorite music

                7. Eat healthier foods

                I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

                This applies to your brain too.

                The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health too.

                Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery and dark chocolate. But anything high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory.

                Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain – leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

                Want to be mentally healthy? Then eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

                • Turmeric – helps new brain cells grown
                • Broccoli – protects the brain against damage
                • Nuts – improves memory
                • Green tea – enhances brain performance, memory and focus[3]
                • Fish oilfish oil supplements can increase your brain power

                Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

                Final thoughts

                I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be of help to you.

                You don’t need to implement them all. I suggest just trying the ones that appeal to you.

                But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested. I’m confident you won’t regret it.

                Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

                Reference

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