How to Stop Reacting and Live a Creative Life

October 30, 2019
Creative people are bold and take risks. When life hits them hard, they don't react by falling down. They act in an innovative way and find opportunities. They listen to their intuition to find original responses.

Beginning to live a creative life can be a major challenge. It means, above all, being able to break old patterns and habits. Creativity is synonymous with self-invention and boldness. Both of these things can help you build a freer life.

When people talk about innovation and the importance of using your creative mind, they assume that it means being able to produce new and different ideas. But believing that that’s all it takes will leave you disappointed. Creativity is more than your cognitive abilities. It also involves taking action.

This is the conclusion experts came to at the most recent international conference on creativity at the Marconi Institute for Creativity in Bologna, Italy. An idea isn’t worth much if it doesn’t come to fruition. A project never gets done if you don’t bring commitment, responsibility, and boldness to it.

Let’s take some examples. Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t have existed if Arthur Conan Doyle hadn’t worked meticulously on his writing. He even pushed aside his career as a doctor to do so. Beethoven is another example. He composed his Ninth Symphony when he was nearly deaf. 

These examples show that being creative goes beyond just having imagination. It takes tenacity and, in many cases, sacrifice.

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you can’t paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”

-Vincent Van Gogh-

A man holding a glowing orb.

Stop reacting: Take action, take a chance, and live a creative life

Many people settle for reacting to life. Things happen and the actions they take in consequence are like leaves blowing in the wind. They forget that there’s a space of time between an event and their response and that it’s the key to everything. You can free yourself in that space of time. It gives you the ability to act in a different, individual, and innovative way.

The American Psychological Association (APA) worked with the University of Amsterdam on a study that showed that you can really improve your well-being if you begin to live a creative life.

When you turn creativity into action, it’ll be easier for you to leave negative behavioral patterns in the past. From there, you can build a better relationship with yourself. In the end, desire and behavior always go hand in hand.

It’s also important because it’ll mean having more options available when a problem comes up. At the end of the day, creative people are the ones who move the world forward.

But how can you begin to live a creative life? How do you do that when your daily reality is full of rigid, inflexible structures and routines? Here are some of the key things to work on.

Lateral thinking

Lateral thinking is a concept introduced by Edward de Bono in his 1967 book, The Use of Lateral Thinking. He helped people understand the foundations of creativity with it.

This is what he said about lateral thinking:

  • For one thing, it can help you see problems from new angles.
  • Lateral thinking means going beyond logic. It means playing with reality, making combinations, finding links, and breaking old patterns.
  • This ability can also spark your thought processes and help you find new, unexplored paths. 
  • It means moving past the comfort of logic.
An outline of a woman's head with the sun setting within.

You can change more than you think

Your mind is probably full of I should’s and I have to’s. These are two powerful enemies that do nothing but keep you living a life ruled by obligations, stress, and the anxiety of never being able to satisfy those internal demands.

You need to turn off those thoughts and create new thought patterns. Of course, you need to be responsible and do what needs to be done. But when you really analyze each branch of these mental forests, you realize that many of those responsibilities don’t help you. They stop you from growing and flourishing. Thus, don’t hesitate to prune whatever’s causing pointless anxiety.

How to start to live a creative life

Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, director of the Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, has some tips on how to live a more creative life. You need to be willing to try new things. Creativity doesn’t stem from high-pressure situations. Routine kills your motivation, dreams, intuition, and innovation.

Sometimes, you have no choice but to take a step back and get some perspective. Being able to get out of the bubble of your daily life can help you find new ways of looking at things.

Throwing yourself into new experiences can mean many things. It leads you to open up your mind, learn, read everything that falls into your hands, meet people, and connect with your reality on a different level.

Living a creative life can help you stop just reacting to the things that happen to you. If something hits you hard, don’t react out of a place of inertia. Do it in an innovative way to better adapt to the situation and become more bold and resilient. That’s the only way to shape a better reality, one that’s in line with your values and desires.

  • Ivcevic, Z., & Hoffmann, J. D. (2019). Emotions and creativity: From process to person and product. In J. C. Kaufman & R. S. Sternberg (Eds.). Cambridge Handbook of Creativity (pp. 273-295). New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Baas, M., De Dreu, C. K. W., & Nijstad, B. A. (2008). A meta-analysis of 25 years of mood-creativity research: Hedonic tone, activation, or regulatory focus? Psychological Bulletin, 134(6), 779–806. DOI:10.1037/a0012815
  • Ivcevic, Z., & Brackett, M. (2015). Predicting creativity: Interactive effects of Openness to Experience and Emotion Regulation Ability. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, 9, 480-487. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0039826