How to Be More Creative

Want to be more creative and intelligent?  Who doesn’t!  In this post, we’ll look at what creativity is and things you can do to help kick start your creativity.

Many psychologists and managers alike refer to the Big Five personality traits when describing someones personality.  These are traits we all exhibit to varying degrees.  In this post, we’ll look at openness in particular, and how it relates to how creative you are.

Your level for each individual trait is not locked in place throughout life.  It is a combination of both nature and nurture, in that you genetically exhibit certain personality traits, but are not limited to whatever your starting point is.  If you want to improve in one particular area, you can change it with will and effort.

In my life, for example, I was a born an introvert.  I exhibit all the characteristics of an extrovert, yet I live an extroverted life style.  I decided a long time ago that being an extrovert was more fun, so I went out of my way to make those changes.


Shifts Over Time

Psychologists have noted how our personalities shift over time.  Most of them are positive, such as increased conscientiousness in our 20’s and increased agreeableness in our 30’s.  One universal decline for both genders and across all races, however, was a persistent drop in openness.  This has a direct consequential effect on the level of creativity you exhibit.

Creativity is the use of imagination and lateral thinking to come up with new and original ideas.  As kids, our brains are very plastic.  We go about through the world actively absorbing the things around us and connecting dots.  These experiences are then formed into new ideas.  As we begin to age, however, we become ingrained and stuck into certain modes of thinking.

You can think of your brain like a large open field of green grass.  As you walk over the grass, certain paths start to form.  The more you walk a particular way, the more ingrained the path becomes.  Eventually, you decide to just stay on the paths that have been formed and already feel comfortable with.


Avoiding The Decline

If you want to develop your creativity, then, you have to constantly be pushing yourself to try new things (especially into old age).

After performing a routine over and over, it moves from the forefront of conscientious thought to habital tendencies.  Chances are, you didn’t actively think about your routine for getting dressed this morning, the order in which you eat, shower, and brush your teeth, or the route you took to work.  The become so habitual that they become 2nd nature.

By adding in small tweaks, you force your brain to respond by making sense of new situations.

Some Ways You Can Do It

Start by trying something new.  This can be something as simple as switching the hand you use to brush your teeth to changing the direction you lie in bed.  By constantly mixing things up, you keep your brain fueling and actively absorbing new information.

Some other examples are re-arrange the furniture around in your room, go to a new park you’ve never been to, volunteer for something absurd, spend a weekend with a different group of friends you normally wouldn’t hang out with, drive a different route to work even if it’s a bit longer, try a new activity like riding a unicycle or playing the accordion (I once saw a guy in Madrid doing both at the same time).

There are creativity games, too, you can utilize during your idle time.  One of my favorites is while driving or sitting at home, to take a random object nearby and coming up with as many different uses for it as you can; the more illogical the better.  I’ve heard studies of children being able to come up with over 300 different uses for something like a paperclip, while most adults can’t name more than 15.

Another one you can try is taking the seemingly different objects and describing what similarities they exhibit.  If you find yourself running into roadblocks of coming up with ideas, try approaching the problem as if you were a child, an old man, the opposite gender, or a shoe.


Cognitive Exploration

Your brain and the experiences you have form an expansive basin of creativity.  There is no depth!  Continually try new things, no matter how silly or immature they may seem, will keep your creative muscles flourishing late into life when it is a universal characteristic for them to decay.  Keep ingrained in your mind the mentality and curiosity of a little kid in the sandbox.  At the end of the day, you’re still that same kid–your sand box has only gotten a little bigger.


An Added Plus

Want to hear another added bonus?  Openness was the only big 5 trait correlated with intelligence.  Turns out creativity and intellect might have a lot more in common than we thought.  If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy my longer response on empiricism, religion, cosmology, and death.

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