Tapping Your Creativity


I read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Inventionimage1, and the book was so good that I want to share some of his creativity tips with you. Mihaly gathered these techniques first-hand from some of the finest minds of our time (14 Nobel prize winners alone), and using them you can shape your mind into a factory of great ideas. Anyone can be creative, and you can start seeing results very quickly (think weeks, not years).

Mihaly points to the four obstacles that keep most people from actualizing their potential:

  1. Most people are too exhausted from the daily grind, and can’t muster the mental energy to start coming up with novel ideas
  2. There’s a lot of distractions that keep us from searching inside our minds. TV, tabloids, and the Internet are just a few things that are throwing you off the tracks
  3. Laziness and lack of discipline is pretty common these days. With the sort of comfortable lives we lead these days, it’s easier to be a couch potato than a scientist or a painter
  4. Lack of direction is also a problem. With so many fields, it’s hard to find something that can be focused on.

There are, fortunately, several tools that you can use to work through these four problems.

  • Write down your discoveries daily in a journal, and go over them from week to week. This shows your progress, as well as reinforces the lessons learned.
  • Wake up knowing what you want to do - always have the pump primed.
  • You shouldn’t lose your focus in what you are interested if you enjoy your creativity. When boredom strikes, brandish your newly-found creativity instead of reaching for the television remote or the computer.
  • The more you give in to your pursuits and invest yourself into them, the more the rewarding the experiences can be. Just like lifting weights, you need to add more weight in order to keep growing. Digging deeper and adding complexity keeps things fresh.
  • Simplify your life in order to have more energy and time to work on what it is you are interested in. You want to be doing more of the things you want to do, and less of what you hate. As Csikszentmihalyi writes, “Every hour saved from drudgery and routine is an hour added to creativity.”
  • You will want to look into changing your environment, looking to eliminate things that will distract you from your main goal. Neatness isn’t a necessity for creative types, but you should never have to spend 5 minutes to find something on your desk.
  • You should also start working with your own biological rhythm. For example, if you’re a night owl, working at night will take advantage of your own biological rhythm. Find the time that best suits you.

These aren’t hard things to put into practice, but changing your attitude will be necessary. It’s easy, and it’s worth it. Now start coming up with great stuff - everything you need to be creative is within you.