The Creative Spectrum: How Much Does Personality Determine Innovation?
People have been trying to understand personality since antiquity, a curiosity which certainly hasn’t slowed down. One of the areas of personality that continue to captivate and mystify us is creativity- where it comes from, what incites it and how to potentially harness it. No longer attributed to divine inspiration, we are all capable of creativity whether we consider it a cornerstone of our personalities or not. By identifying our own creative potential, and figuring out how best to express it, we can use creativity to open ourselves to new experiences and improve our overall mental health.
Creativity is hard to fit into a single definition but at the core, it relies on originality of thought. Major creative innovations shape how we live our lives, but creativity can be expressed in countless everyday ways. A good way to think about it is to consider a spectrum of creativity that lies within us all- with finding beauty in everyday things or simple problem-solving end, and once-in-a-lifetime groundbreaking ideas towards the epiphany end.
No matter what your interests or goals are, creative thinking and/or expression can be applied to each of our lifestyles – and maybe in some unexpected ways. If you’re wondering how to be more creative, it helps to consider your own personality.
You’re a Snowflake
You’ve probably heard of the good old Left Brain vs Right Brain Theory. While it’s true that certain activities take place on either hemisphere of the brain, research has debunked the myth that personality is determined by a dominance of one side over the other. The notion that logic and creativity cannot coexist in the same person is just not true, which is why standardized personality tests can often leave us with more questions than answers.
Today, the most widely-used method of personality research is the Five Factor Model, which states that the variations among five main traits, each comprised of about a dozen characteristics, are what determine our personalities. “O.C.E.A.N” should be thought of as a range or scale rather than a yes or no. You can be higher in certain categories and lower in others. All of the unique thoughts, traits, and dispositions come together to make up your individual personality.
Openness to Experiences
- characteristics such as imagination and insight
- include high levels of thoughtfulness, with good impulse control and goal-directed behaviors, organized and mindful of details.
- characterized by excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness, and high amounts of emotional expressiveness.
- attributes such as trust, altruism, kindness, affection, and other prosocial behaviors.
- characterized by sadness, moodiness, and emotional instability.
Research has shown a positive link between creativity and openness to experiences and a contrastingly negative correlation with conscientiousness. While the Five Factor Model can help us understand personality more clearly, we shouldn’t look at it as a checklist of traits that some people have and others don’t- especially when it comes to creativity, as it’s all very relative.
How to Awaken Our Individual Creativity
Openness to experiences is most closely connected to what we think of as creativity. This is a good entry point into exploring the benefits of awakening our creative selves. Remember, we’re not trying to create an all-new characteristic, just coax out a latent creativity that already exists within ourselves. Despite differences in personalities, scientific research has shown that there are certain activities and actions that can prompt creative thinking.
- Go for a walk. It can be hard to conjure your creativity sitting at a desk all day. In fact, people are more creative during and immediately after walking. Plus, you never know what you might see outside that inspires you!
- Can’t go for a walk? Okay, fine, but at least try to surround yourself with some foliage, or anything green, really. Research shows that people are more likely to perform a task with greater creativity after observing something green, even for a moment.
- Try meditating. Certain forms of meditation can help establish the ideal mental conditions for creativity- like a primer for your brain.
If it’s not coming as easily as you expected, try not to be too hard on yourself. Like most things, creative thinking requires practice, and it may take time and commitment before you’re seeing results or producing creative work that you’re proud of. I find it can help to hold myself accountable by asking, “what did I do to be creative today?”. The answer doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. Maybe you cooked something from scratch, redecorated your office nook, had an insightful conversation with someone new, wrote a journal entry, drew a picture- be open to what creativity can mean to you.
Not only is creative thinking mentally uplifting, you may be surprised by what comes along with it. Innovative thinking is one of the most widely valued traits among the world’s most successful companies, and by being more creative in your own life you are likely setting yourself up for success down the line. Furthermore, by opening yourself to new experiences you never know who you might meet, and what unexpected opportunities may come your way.