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Module 2

Happiness and creativity.

Stuff to ponder

Happiness and creativity have a chicken and egg kind of relationship. Creativity breeds happiness, and being happy makes you feel more creative.

Research backs this up. Happy and creative makes you better at all kinds of stuff, like coming up with brilliant ideas, writing a great screenplay, making tamales or setting a beautiful table. Let’s look at creativity and what it means to be creative.

Creativity and being creative

Creativity is the ability to generate new ideas, to process solutions to problems. It’s about finding new ways — of seeing, doing or being. You don’t have to be Picasso, Martha Graham, Shostakovitch or Julia Child to exercise creativity. Being creative is something that anyone can do.

Creativity is not about the finished product. It’s about the process. Unfortunately many people proclaim that they are not creative. They’re afraid that the painting they created at the kitchen table isn’t worthy of hanging in a gallery or museum.

Or the poetry that graces the pages of their journal isn’t ready for publication in The Sun. Understanding the separation of product from process can help take away the fear around quality of the finished product. Remember, everyone is creative. It’s not about what you make or do, but that you’re making and doing.

Flow

Remember when you were a kid and there was that favorite thing you did, like drawing comic book characters or tap dancing in the basement, where you were so absorbed in the activity that you forgot time and dinner? Psychologists call this state of absorption being in flow. Athletes call it being in the zone.

Flow is good. It’s a kind of hyper-focus, an intense immersion, where your entire body, including your emotional system, are “all in” the task. This in-the-zone alignment produces joy.

The creativity-happiness connection

Back in 1966 in his article, “Capturing Creativity,” Robert Epstein wrote, “…greater creativity breeds greater happiness. The creative process is itself a source of joy for most people. And with new creative powers we’re also better able to solve the little problems that beset us daily.”

There are infinite ways to be creative. You can paint, draw, play the piano, bake a cake, move the furniture in your living room, clean and organize your closet, build a piece of furniture, write a novel, craft your business plan. (See the Resources below for a worksheet on more ways to be creative.)

Here’s another cool thing. You don’t have to make stuff in order to experience the benefits that creativity has on the body (mind and spirit). A study from the University of London found that simply viewing art produces the same responses in the body as romantic love: an increase in dopamine and activity in the brain’s frontal cortex.

Even cooler, these benefits are almost immediate upon looking at the art! Time to visit a museum or gallery, or hang some inspiring art in your home or office.

Life and Work connection

Creativity isn’t only about art. As we discussed earlier, creativity is coming up with novel solutions to problems, generating ideas, seeing with new eyes. Creativity has a place in your life — and your work. Even if you’re in a field that is traditionally seen as less creative, like engineering or accounting, there is plenty of space where you can be creative (and I don’t mean cooking the books).

Perhaps you organize your desk or workspace in a way that changes your view (outer and inner), or introduce a creative flourish in the uniform you wear in your office.

Creativity, and creative acts, affect your overall well-being and help you to be more open. That’s a recipe for success, in life and in business.

Prime the creativity pump

Kudos if you’ve integrated creativity into your life and work. If you’d like to exercise creative muscles that may be a little lax, or if you’ve drifted from the potter’s wheel or pen, here are a few ideas to help you spark the creative:

Go back to your childhood.

Children are free spirits and it’s likely that there were things you really enjoyed doing or making as a kid. We often forget about these as adults.

Not only can you search your childhood for creativity projects, engaging in those projects will often reconnect you with thoughts and dreams long forgotten. If you liked drawing, grab some pens or markers and get going. Loved model airplanes?

Get thyself to the hobby store. Go back in time to get reacquainted with your creative mojo. You may even find a new purpose along the way.

Go outside your zone.

Your comfort zone, that is. For many of us, life becomes routine, and routine is the antithesis of creative energy.

So…take a new way to work, go sky diving, ride a horse, go to an ethnic restaurant or volunteer at something outside of your skill set. Things will look and feel different when you stretch outside of your comfort zone.

Travel.

Studies show that people who travel are more creative, have improved cognitive health and fewer heart attacks. New horizons are the point here, as novelty is one of the keys to creativity. You can go to a foreign country that you’ve never been to before, or even to a part of town that’s new to you.

The point is to experience the new: colors, food, culture, smells, architecture, etc. Travel can make you a more creative thinker. It can also provide you with new discoveries that you can apply to your life and business.

Mentoring challenge

Where can you introduce creativity in your life, work or business? What are you going to do and what resources do you need? When will you start?

Resources

101 Ideas to Boost Your Creativity (pdf)

Coloring Pages (pdf)

The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp

Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi