Thursday, June 12, 2014

How to nurture your creative potential?

Religion, the arts, and the sciences are three stable pillars of society. In ancient times, communities depended on faith for hope. Nevertheless, the innate drive toward beauty and meaning through the arts inspired a shared sense of betterment. The many forms of artistic expressions permitted men to rise above and beyond primitive existence and inspired progress. Science is the youngest discipline of the three, but its influence has grown immensely. Like religion, science is just a belief system that guides decision-making, for example, believing in evolution or the Higgs boson.

Practicing the arts or sciences requires creativity, a rare gift among the most affluent or the destitute. (The most affluent has no need for it, and the impoverished cannot rise above the basic struggles for food and everyday needs.) In the hierarchical societies of the past, creativity was a rare, celebrated gift of the fortunate. However, creativity is becoming an expected asset in almost any position in our modern world. 

Csikszentmihalyi introduced the expression 'flow' to describe the creative mental state. Originality is in stark contrast to the tiring analytic thinking. The careful abandon of creative endeavor perhaps was best expressed by Picasso: "When I work, I rest, when I rest, I get tired." Contrasting mental involvement explains their difference. The brain frequencies increase with concentration, which makes analytic thinking tiring. However, brain oscillations actually decrease during the creative endeavor; the elimination of unnecessary details expands focus. Creative flow can form natural, novel solutions in an almost childish joy, described so well by Picasso. 

Creativity inspires positive emotions, and inversely, only a positive mindset can be creative. A positive attitude deflects negativity and conflict and leads to creativity, success, and longevity. Creativity cannot be planned for. It occurs unexpectedly, often when people are engaged in an unrelated activity. Creativity is inherent in child play and in the aha moments of inventors, artists, and scientists. Because "necessity is the mother of invention," emotional discomfort or stress often spur creative solutions. A goal-directed effort is a potent learning mechanism; for example, rats learn faster when seeking reward. The goal-seeking also makes a difference in artificial intelligence (Wissner gross). Focused and goal-directed effort facilitates progress by mitigating stress and reducing pain sensitivity. There are many ways to arrive at creativity; being bound by your circumstances is not.

Picture credit: By CERN for the ATLAS and CMS Collaborations 

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