February 1st, 2021
Like many runners, I have a tendency to define myself by my Type A personality traits. With that being said, I’ve come to realize that this ‘Type A’ label is not true to who I really am. I will always have some Type A personality traits ingrained in me; but, I’ve found that tapping into some of my Type B traits has led to greater mindfulness and sense of purpose, and has fostered an environment for growth. In this post, I’ll explain my beliefs around why creativity is important and how tapping into your creative side can help you develop a growth-mindset.
Type A and Type B Personality Theory
I should begin by acknowledging that I am not a psychologist, nor do I have an education in psychology. I don’t intend to use psychological theories in any way other than to bring attention to the fact that our society has a tendency to make generalizations regarding high achievers exhibiting dominant Type A personality traits.
While I don’t have a degree in psychology, I do have plenty of experience working with a sports psychologist. I am also a runner and I am well-aware of the stereotypes that are generalized to the running community (especially towards the longer distance event groups). Similar to body types, society makes the assumption that all runners have the same personality characteristics. While we can find commonalities among individuals that run long distances (like discipline and proactiveness), it is wrong to assume that the factors related to achievement are fixed and binary. Because in reality (and as we are realizing now more than ever), our world is unpredictable and our survival and well-being rests on our ability to adapt.
So, while there are some individuals that express dominant Type A and B personality traits; we are all unique and I think that we all have a bit of both that can be brought forward at different moments in our lives. In other words, we need to stop making assumptions and generalizations, and let go of thinking of our world in such a binary and fixed manner. In the words of Pablo Picasso:
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he (she/they) grow(s) up.Pablo Picasso
Why Creativity is Important
There are many reasons as to why creativity is important. When you think about it, all pursuits in life involve and require creativity. Without creativity, we would all be the same and we would not express the unique attributes that make us who we are.
“The use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.”Google defines ‘creativity’
I would argue that creativity is the leading driver not only in great artistic work, but also in business and athletic pursuits. If you don’t believe me just yet, here are a few examples that may convince you otherwise.
Creativity and Business
Amanda, Cotler | Creative Thinking: The Only Business Strategy You Need
In an article published by Forbes, Amanda Cotler persuasively indicates why creativity is important in business. In fact, she goes as far as to say that creativity is at the heart of business and emphasizing creative strategy is the primary indicator of sustained competitive advantage. Cotler notes that creativity cultivates a positive (“can-do”) attitude and growth-mindset. She also mentions that the willingness to take breaks and avoid perfectionism propels us forward as opposed to holding us back.
Cotler not only describes why creativity is important for success in business; she confirms that we all have the ability to tap into this way of thinking and that being creatively-orientated is not as fixed and binary as we assume.
“Creative thinking is a way of looking at problems from a fresh perspective with non-traditional solutions. If you do not see yourself as a naturally creative thinker, here’s the great news: It’s a muscle you can strengthen with the right tools.”Amanda Cutler, Forbes
Creativity and Sport
Tom Bates | Imagination: The Power of Creativity, TEDxBournemouthUniversity
Tom Bates is an author and coach that works in elite professional sport; applying and linking creativity to peak performance. In this TED Talk, Bates discusses why creativity is important by drawing on insights from professional athletes, an experiment involving the crowd and (most profound of all) his kids.
In relation to creativity and athletic performance, Bates tells the story of Lionel Messi (one of the greatest footballers of all time). He describes how Messi’s secret to success has been his ability to overcome physical barriers, through creativity in his playing style. If you’ve ever watched Messi play, you’d be familiar with his intricate footwork that allows him to beat players much taller and stronger than himself. Bates further explains that Messi cultivated this creative playing style through the environment that he grew up in. An environment that allowed him to freely express himself, not fearing failure or letting his mind dwell on the physical barriers that stood between himself and professional sport.
Bates also draws on an experiment with the crowd to demonstrate the importance of creativity. He encourages the audience to paint a vision in their minds. He says that this vision is something that you create which will drive and motivate you to pursue and achieve it; a concept that is closely associated with both sport and business.
The biggest thing that I took from this TED Talk is when Bates tells a story that involves his kids, to demonstrate why creativity is important and how our creativity often dwindles as we age. He explains that the greatest barrier to creativity is the ego (the fear associated with fully expressing ourselves) and to unlock our potential, we need to couple creativity with the courage to act. When he has his kids paint a picture to tell a story, it is evident that creativity is cultivated when we do not associate our minds with the fear of what others might think of us.
“His mind wasn’t fixed on a certain outcome. It was flexible; it was adaptable; it was able to change.”Tom Bates, TEDxBournemouthUniversity
Creativity, Mindfulness and Purpose
Near the end of 2020, I decided to take a 100-day hiatus from social media. What I experienced during this time was the extent to which my creativity flourished. I was no longer bound by the fixed and binary terms, and surface level content, that social platforms have a tendency to proliferate and I felt free to be my authentic self. I realized how these platforms were diminishing my creativity. I also realized why creativity is important, as it leads to greater mindfulness and sense of purpose.
The concept of mindfulness is linked to creativity through traits like patience, flexibility, and adaptiveness. It’s about letting yourself live in the moment by freeing your mind; and in doing so, discovering a greater sense of purpose. I bring this up because mindfulness and purpose are interconnected with health and well-being; two factors that enhance performance, be it athletically, academically, or otherwise.
This brings me back to my first point: Why are we so quick to think that high achievers require such strict Type A qualities? With mindfulness and purpose at the core of the greatest achievements in history, I think it would be worthwhile to start broadening our fixed assumptions in regards to the pursuit of success. It’s about striking a balance between critical thinking (structure and organization) and creative thinking (freedom and flexibility).
How to Tap into Your Creativity
Now that I’ve established my beliefs around why creativity is important; I’ll explain how to tap into your creativity.
As I mentioned, creativity is associated with improved health and well-being, making it more important than ever (amidst the global pandemic) to harness. Below are some of the ways that I express my creativity; creating an environment for greater mindfulness and sense of purpose.
- Running and Walking: I think that there’s no better way to tap into creativity than to let your mind wonder on a run or a walk.
- Reading: pursuing a life of literacy enhances creativity and well-being. In the words of Kofi Annan, “Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope.”
- Baking/Cooking: while spending time in the kitchen may not be for everyone, I find it one of the best places to express my creativity.
- Writing: as artists express themselves through a blank canvas, the same is true for channeling your thoughts on paper. Everyone has a unique story to tell and a different way of seeing the world.
While my list may not be for everyone, the idea is to find the hobbies/activities that you are truly passionate about and to create an environment in which you are free to fully express yourself.
The simple answer as to why creativity is important is that it allows for the autonomy to be authentic to your true self; the version that you were prior to growing up. Or as Picasso indicates, it’s not a question of whether or not you’re creative, it’s how you remain creative as you grow up.