It was around 12 months ago that our lives changed and everything we knew before, got challenged.
Schools closed, tourism collapsed, people died. We all stayed in, but only some of us stayed safe.
Now with the vaccination starting to spread around the world, slowly but progressively we’ll go back not to normal, but to a normal. A new normal. We’ll also start returning to the office and reflecting.
At first it was difficult for everyone but as humans do, somehow we adapted. Some people have even managed to thrive during confinement, creating new businesses and discovering new hobbies.
After that original shock of confinement what made some evolve but others shrink?
One can say resilience and of course, resilience is often a key factor in helping you stay sane, healthy and adjust. But resilience alone won’t make you shine.
What other factors can help an individual move forward and make progress during hardships and even help them to grow and develop, even when locked inside the house with little more than your own thoughts?
The key to thinking outside of the box, isn’t being smarter, but realising that there is no box to begin with. Thought has no limits, there is no wrong answer, there are just answers that work or do not work at this particular moment.
And so it's that most interesting of human traits, the characteristic that turned us from primitive beings to sophisticated space–conquering creatures that has helped so many people emerge from this crisis and it is called creativity.
Most of the time, stress comes from our inability to solve a problem or deal with a challenging situation. We might find ourselves tangled in a scenario with no obvious path to take, with no choice that works for us.
But what role in this scenario for creativity and when are people most creative?
Now contrary to common belief, creativity doesn’t correlate positively with intelligence. The relationship between the two variables is what we call curvilinear, which means that as intelligence increases, so does creativity, but only up to a certain point, after which, as the one continues to increase, the other decreases. That’s not hard to imagine, especially if we think how rigid smart people can be or how creative children usually are.
Another false belief is the alleged relationship between creativity and happiness.
Runco found in 2007 that while both positive and negative feelings are able to trigger creativity, the positive ones are more reliable. Moreover, the relationship of creativity and happiness works both ways.
This means that while creative people might experience more positive feelings, being in a good mood also makes you more creative and according to the creativity researcher Dr. Shelley Carson: “Increases in positive mood broaden attention and allow us to see more possible solutions to creative problems.”
Life satisfaction and happiness are usually accompanied with a lot of other positive effects in a person’s life, like balance and stamina. However, creativity isn’t necessarily one of them.
If you are creative, being happier can also make you more creative but both positive and negative attributes can work equally as creativity stimulants and that is probably how important artists like Virginia Woolf and Vincent Van Gogh, with extremely abusive and challenging backgrounds managed to create incredible art anyway.
Brian Bates, a famous psychologist from Sussex university, came to the conclusion that even after years of research on creativity (Berkeley University of California alone produced several studies during the 70’s) we basically learned nothing.
According to Bates, the particular nature of this soft skill called Creativity, can’t be easily understood or explained. The reason for that is that no important other trait, habit, or condition has been correlated with statistical significance with creativity. The mechanism that allows one person to be creative can not be explained with a cause–effect relationship, the same way we could say that eating an orange increases the Vitamin C in our blood.
Further research in 2017 showed that creativity is a distinct mental state and spontaneous processing capacity is better nurtured through formal institutional training than informal. That means that people who are educated are significantly more creative than people less educated, suggesting that training is in fact able to awake our imagination. Therefore, we do know today that creativity is in fact trainable and therefore we can improve.
While we don’t know exactly what factors trigger creativity, we know that there are several conditions where it’s easier for creativity to manifest itself.
For example, while creativity is not a core characteristic we are born with (like introversion and extraversion), it is influenced by the childhood we experience. The opportunities we have to explore, the activities we participate in, the incentives we are given, are all important factors that can help with creativity’s manifestation.
For positive psychology on the other hand, creativity is a modus operandi, a way of acting. You train yourself into doubting the status quo and then new solutions arise. If your standard approach wasn’t an option anymore, what would you do?
Getting back out there and trying to continue life from where it was paused, is of course going to be challenging. No one can tell you that it’s going to be easy. We all have changed so much.
Henry Ford used to say that if you think something is possible, you are right. If you think that it is not possible, you are right again. The boundaries we set are our mind’s prison, to which we are the ones holding the key. So how about some creativity practice?
Article written by CTO Academy Coach and Organisational Psychologist, Zoe Fragou