Being creative is sometimes seen as a bad thing in a world of gray cubicles and reliable, predictable patterns. We get into routines and ruts and processes designed for maximum efficiency and minimum thought. But creativity is what stimulates innovation, growth, entrepreneurship and the forward progress that keeps society evolving. Being creative means thinking outside the gray fabric box!

We don’t intend for creativity to mean “staring out the window for four hours,” however. Cognitive psychologist Robert J. Sternberg said that creativity can be broadly defined as “…the process of producing something that is both original and worthwhile” (2003). Believe it or not, EVERYONE can be creative! Perhaps you always wanted to open a business, design a new product, improve on an old product, write a novel, or come up with a new, fun, better way to do something…All of these things take creativity. So how can you stimulate your own creativity?About.com has a list of helpful hints, and we condensed them into ten tips here in the hopes that they get you fired up to get creative, pursue your dreams and achieve success!

1. Commit yourself – My old biology teacher used to say, “You gotta wanna.” To be creative, you have to really devote yourself to the concept. Set some goals for yourself and focus on developing your creativity. Spend a little time on it each day, put it into your schedule, and do NOT slack off! Have other people help you stay on track if necessary. Creativity isn’t always easy, but if you stick to it and make time for it, you might surprise yourself.

2. Curiosity and knowledge are your best friends – For some reason, many of us believe that being curious, wanting to learn more about something and gathering knowledge is a waste of time or a luxury that isn’t worth it. On the contrary – being curious and learning all you can will help your creativity soar. Becoming an expert in what you want to pursue will give you a great foundation for coming up with new ways to do things or new solutions to old problems. And curiosity gives you a chance to explore new ideas and discover things you might never have discovered before. Embrace curiosity and knowledge!

3. Be confident – Believing in yourself is key. If you doubt yourself, why would anyone else believe in you? Have faith in your abilities and in your creativity. Look at your progress toward your goal to remind yourself of how great you’re doing. Look for little ways to reward yourself for creativity, but remember that sometimes, the creative process itself is its own reward. Hold your head high; what you’re doing is valuable!

4. Be willing to take risks, and don’t let fear of failure stop you – Some of the best creative minds spent a lot of time failing before they managed to succeed. Being creative brings with it inherent risks, so don’t be afraid to take a few. We learn far more from our failures than from our successes, so take every setback as a learning experience and redouble your efforts toward your goals. As Henry Ford said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”

5. Be positive – Studies show that a positive attitude really does lead to more positive outcomes. Even forcing a smile can lift your mood. Try to get in as positive a place as possible if you want creativity to flow. Get rid of negative thoughts, criticisms and mental blocks that will trip you up and stay focused on the good things. Allow yourself to be as relaxed, happy and peaceful as possible so that the best outcomes can happen.

6. Throw lots of ideas out there and see what sticks – Brainstorming is a great way to let your mind go wild with possibilities. Remember that many problems have more than one solution, so suspend all self-criticism and open your thoughts. In brainstorming, there are no bad ideas or stupid answers; write down everything that comes to mind and sort it all out later. You might be surprised at what you come up with when you’re just letting the creativity flow.

7. Keep a journal, notebook or voice recorder handy – You never know when the great ideas will strike, so always be ready for them. Write down (or record) ideas, inspirations, random thoughts and whatever else catches your fancy. Then you can go back later and check out what you were thinking. You can also use a journal to chart your progress toward your goals and remind yourself of how far you’ve come.

8. Get out and get inspired – Don’t lock yourself up in a plain room waiting for creativity to strike; go out and find it! Go to a museum, read a new book, listen to music, have a lively conversation with someone, or take a class that’s been tempting you. Put yourself in situations that will invite creativity and see what happens. You can even create opportunities for creativity in your everyday life by taking on new work projects, trying new ways to do everyday tasks, etc. You might find yourself thinking in entirely new ways.

9. Put your process on paper – Flow charts, outlines and other visual tools can help you organize your thoughts and see the complete path to success. Draw out the steps you plan to take, and you might be able to find new solutions, get around potential problems and find your way to creativity faster than you thought.

10. Have fun – What’s the point of being creative and coming up with great new ideas if you’re miserable? Take the time to enjoy what you’re doing. Laugh, play and discover creativity you didn’t know you had. Nothing stimulates creativity (and makes you stick to it) quite like good old-fashioned fun.

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