Some of you may think:
it’s easy to read about exceptional people who do exceptional things, but I’m just an ordinary person. I never seem to have any ideas. I’m just not that creative.
I’m here to tell you that you are mistaken. You have creativity inside of you. You just haven’t figured out how to unleash it yet. You may have never considered yourself a creative person. This doesn’t mean however that you don’t have the ability to be creative; it is just that you don’t fully understanding the process of unleashing it. Understanding how to spark the creative side, that may be living dormant up until this point, is a critical thing, unless you want to spend the rest of your life building someone else’s dream and living an inauthentic life.
As a follow up to his national bestseller Flow, Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote Creativity: Flow And The Psychology of Discovery and Invention. Here, Dr. Csikszentmihalyi conducted over one hundred interviews with creative individuals from a broad cross section of fields and incorporated them into his vast research on the subject of “flow psychology”. The resultant work is a fascinating study of how flow theory can be used to bring clarity to the creative process and knowledge of this theory can help us to tap our own inner creative genius.
Each person, Dr. Csikszentmihalyi believes, has the “potential” to lead a creative life, and tapping this creativity is an important aspect of one’s fulfillment. He notes,
Even though personal creativity may not lead to fame and fortune, it can do something that from the individual’s point of view is even more important: make day to day experiences more vivid, more enjoyable, more rewarding. When we live creativity, boredom is banished and every moment holds the promise of a fresh discovery.
There are however, four major obstacles that Dr. Csikszentmihalyi derives from his vast research of why people aren’t often creative.
The First Obstacle To Creativity: There Are Too Many Demands On Us
First, he notes many people are simply “exhausted by too many demands”. As a result, they are not able to focus the psychic energy necessary to activate the creative aspects of our neurochemistry. Many people can relate to this first obstacle. It seems that despite the continual progress of technology, our lives continue to get cluttered and overcomplicated. Compound that with what seems to be a continual rising cost of living, and the societal pressure to “get ahead”, “acquire the good things in life”, and “save for retirement” you have the context for a storm of psychic entropy. The pressure of continual demands is the enemy of psychic freedom, which in turn impedes our ability to tap creativity. This obstacle is understandably challenging, he notes:
It is difficult to approach the world creativity when one is hungry or shivering from cold, because then all one’s mental energy is focused on is securing the necessities one lacks. And it is equally difficult when a person is rich and famous but devotes all of his or her energies to getting more money and fame. To free up creative energy we need to let go and divert some attention from the pursuit of the predictable goals that genes and memes have programmed in our minds and use it instead to explore the world around us on its own terms.
The second obstacle preventing us from being creative is a close cousin to the first.
The Second Obstacle To Creativity: There Are Too Many Distractions Around Us
In addition to continual pressure, where there is “continual distraction” we will have difficulty channeling creativity. This one can take us out without much effort. The culprit: any form of social media and a smartphone. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest have a wildly addictive propensity for distraction, and the distraction is enjoyable. It is fun to see the pictures of your buddy’s vacation. It is fun to see the link shared by your buddy about someone else’s dysfunctional life. But these distractions are a death touch to creativity. In order to be creative you have to be able to focus, free from distraction.
The Third Obstacle To Creativity: Not Being Able To Control The Flow of Our Own Energy
The third obstacle to creativity is our often lack of ability to control the flow of our own energy. For some people this may be just plain laziness. Many people don’t understand how to channel their energy. This is a difficult one however, because in all fairness, many people get stuck in an “energy rut”. They work long and hard hours in an unfulfilling job. When they are in their “off hours” they are tired. When they are tired they are not able to channel their creativity. In order to change this they may have to fundamentally change some of their lifestyle habits (including their diets and their exercise routines).
The Fourth Obstacle To Creativity: Not Having A Clear Vision Of What You Want (Living In Generalities)
The final obstacle noted by Dr. Csikszentmihalyi is that many people don’t have a clear vision for what they want out of life. They haven’t determined what life is about for them, what their purpose is, or what life means to them. As a result, they don’t really know what to do with the restless energy that they possess. Many will the just fall into one of the ever-ready distractions, whether it be surfing the internet or watching TV. Others will pass their time, and energy, pursuing a hobby that brings them a sense of contentment. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this; however it doesn’t bring out their inner creative ability.