From the desk of Laura Duguid
How often have you heard someone say, “I’m not creative”? Worse yet, how many times have you thought that of yourself? Society has forever defined creativity as a natural gift primarily embodied by artistic types. But science suggests otherwise.
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has coined a state of being called “Flow” as an important contributor to creativity, and a state anyone can achieve. It is a form of intrinsic motivation to pursue an activity (doing something because you love it) where self-consciousness is lost, one surrenders completely to the moment, and time means nothing.1 Plainly, a Flow State is when you are so involved in an endeavor that you are thoroughly absorbed and focused, losing all track of time and mental preoccupations. It is important to note that Flow pursuits are not synonymous with all leisure activities. Flow inducing pursuits need to be challenging, goal-oriented, providing of feedback, and enjoyable to YOU. Watching TV or visiting with a friend are leisure activities, while Flow ventures are:
· Physical activities like sports, dance, martial arts, etc.
· Playing music
· Arts and crafts
· DIY projects
· And so on…
So how does Flow trigger creative thinking? Neurobiology. When in a state of Flow, brainwaves slow down and allow the uncensored blending of unrelated thoughts, thereby giving our brains a subconscious, lateral thinking workout. Flow also triggers the production of large quantities of norepinephrine, dopamine, endorphins, anandamide, and serotonin — all pleasure-inducing, performance-enhancing chemicals with considerable impacts on creativity.2 What’s more, not only are you more creative during Flow, your creativity is heightened the day after being in a Flow state, according to research done by Professor Theresa Amiable of Harvard Business School.3
Here are three practical ways to use Flow as fuel towards big ideas:
Sow n’ Flow: Jot down a problem or challenge for which you need a solution, framed using an idea starter like, “in what ways might I/we…” or “what are all the ways I/we could…”. Then set it aside and don’t think about it. Now get into your Flow. When you are deep into your Flow state, solutions to the problem/challenge seed you planted earlier are likely to emerge. When they do, quickly capture them (e.g. write them down or dictate them) – no matter how absurd – then continue in your flow. DO NOT stop and think about the ideas that surface. When you’re finished with your Flow activity, revisit the thoughts you captured (within a day or two) and use them as inspiration to address your problem or challenge.
Flow Today, Go Tomorrow: Make the conscious decision to engage in a Flow activity one day or several consecutive days before a planned brainstorming session. There’s no need to think about the subject of the brainstorming while you’re “Flowing”. Rather, the purpose of achieving a Flow state in this application is to warm-up and prepare your mind for the forthcoming creative engagement.
Flow Frequently: Keep your creative thinking skills in tip-top shape by engaging in Flow activities often. By subconsciously igniting and exercising your creative thinking ability via Flow, you’re essentially practicing being creative. And, the more you practice, the better you get!
1PositivePsychologyProgram.com, December 16, 2016
2, 3PsychologyToday.com, February 25, 2014