The Power of Creativity Affirmations (The Creativity Explorer. Episode 140)

The Power of Creativity Affirmations (The Creativity Explorer. Episode 140)

The following text was inspired by a conversation about creativity with Sonia Flynn of Zego whom I recently interviewed.
The Power of  Creativity Affirmations 
Here is a simple way of getting people to become more creative: Have them affirm their own creative ability.
A very large chunk of humanity does not believe they are creative. (In my 25 years of speaking on the topic of creativity I have asked over a million people if they think they are creative and almost 50% will not say “yes”.)
The reason they do not believe they are creative can be many: They might just be shy or humble and actually believe that they are creative and just feel uncomfortable saying it. But my experience is that the vast majority of people who say that they are not creative actually believe this to be true.
That is sad. Because it’s hard – virtually impossible – to be great at something that you yourself think you suck at.
And it’s also unnecessary. As I think the belief that one is not creative can in many cases be easily overcome.
One of the main reasons why people think they lack the ability to be creative is that they define creativity too narrowly.
They might define “being creative” as knowing how to draw, and if they are bad at drawing they will not look at themselves as creative.
Or they might define “being creative” as being “artistic,” and if they lack a talent for singing and/or playing an instrument they will define themselves as “uncreative”.
And while visual creativity and artistic creativity are creative endeavors there are so many OTHER ways a person can be creative. By defining creativity too narrowly people deny themselves a skill they might actually have. (I will not here address that these people might actually be able to learn how to draw, dance or play an instrument which is a topic for another text. A growth mindset is a powerful way of becoming creative.)
When someone defines “being creative” too narrowly ask them to look at their skills through a wider lens. Perhaps they are problem solvers, or skeptics, or dreamers, or detail finders, or contrarians, etc. There are so many different ways of being creative. By letting people define the way they are creative they can rebuild a creative confidence that they have lost.
No one is creative in all ways, but everyone is creative in some ways.
A simple way of getting people to reframe their approach about not being creative is to get them to affirm their creativity.  Here is one way you can do that: Before you begin a brain-storming session where people are expected to be creative 1) ask everyone to say one fun thing they did over the weekend. Then 2) ask them to identify what part of that fun activity could be described as unusual, unexpected and/or surprising. Then 3) have the person state the connection between the action and creativity. And finally 4) have them express and acknowledge that what they did was creative.
For example:
1) “A fun thing I did this weekend was to prank my son by hiding behind a curtain.”
2) “He was very surprised when I jumped out and startled him.”
3) “A surprising thing is a creative thing.”
4) “I did something creative when I pranked my son.”
Saying out loud that you did something creative, as silly as it might sound, is actually a very effective and quick way of boosting creative confidence.
And creative confidence is crucial for being creative. You are not going to be curious, not have an open mind, not look for new solutions, and not inspire others to be creative unless you have confidence in your own creative abilities.
But it is important that the creativity affirmation does not get stated without context. Just getting everyone to stand up and blurb out “I am creative!” is not going to work. It might even backfire. They need to start by thinking of something they just think of as fun and then connect that back to creativity.
Creativity Affirmations can also work on yourself. The next time you start a new creative project write down the things you did on your last project that are examples of your creative abilities. It does not have to be examples of great successes, just of doing something in a different, unexpected, innovative or inspiring way. Big or small.
The words we use to describe ourselves define how we think of ourselves. And how we think of ourselves affects who we become.
So choose your words wisely. Especially around how you talk about your own creativity.

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