Why Unleashing Your Inner Child Will Make You Insanely Creative, According to Science
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” — Pablo Picasso
Do you remember when you were a kid, and you thought everything was possible, and that something as simple as a Lego block was a fascinating building block for another world?
Often, that creativity and inspiration gets lost in the world of adulthood. In the world of deadlines and financial constraints, these zaps of creativity get evaporated. In today’s world, creativity seems to be constantly fleeting. Sure, that once-in-a-while genius idea might strike like a bolt of lightning, but who has time for that?
Well, science says that childhood attitudes are onto something more than temper tantrums. New studies are emerging that show that acting like a child can bring massive success — even if you’re not a “creative type.”
According to Dr. Stephanie Carlson, an expert on childhood brain development at the University of Minnesota, kids spend as much as 2/3 of their time in non-reality — in imaginative play. Dr. Carlson found that practice in pretending helps you come up with alternative ways of being — and of seeing an issue — and results in more creativity and better problem-solving.
The Wall Street Journal also found that “When subjects are told to imagine themselves as 7-year-olds, they score significantly higher on tests of divergent thinking, such as trying to invent alternative uses for an old car tire.”
This same creative problem solving is what 60% of CEOs polled by IBM thought was the most important trait for leadership. Whether you’re coming up with a new article, or trying to lead a company, harnessing this creative method for problem-solving is crucial.
So, how exactly do you pretend to be a child and unlock their methods for creativity? Here are some simple, research-backed ways:
Worry less, play more.
How many times have you thought: “I wish I could just be a kid again.” Thinking about our childhood — free of hard deadlines, micromanaging bosses, and unpaid bills — brings nostalgia of a time with less worry.
Follow that wistful line of thinking, and let go of your worries (if only just for a few hours.) Chronic worry can bring about harmful physical and mental effects caused by the release of cortisol, including depression, nausea, and immune system suppression. Instead, pick up a toy or even just a good book and let your brain take a break. There’s a reason why Facebook lets their employees play with Legos during the day — taking a few minutes to play sparks creativity, less anxiety, and renewed focus when you return to the task at hand.
Be wrong more often.
According to creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
One study showed that kids’ natural tendency to daydream and wonder declines sharply around 4th grade, and continues to wane as we age. So what causes this decline in creativity? One big reason is most adults’ fear of being wrong. We are taught, through school and then the workplace, that being wrong leads to negative consequences. We try desperately to avoid being wrong through research, double-checking our work, and staying grounded in facts.
However, creativity inherently requires an ability to be wrong more often than not. Kids forge their own paths, not caring about consequences. If we’re more comfortable with being wrong and take more chances, creativity has room to blossom.
If you’ve ever spend much time around a five year old, this line of questioning problem seems familiar: “Why is the sky blue? Why do we eat breakfast in the morning? Why do birds sing?” Kids are constantly questioning how the world works, and why it works that way.
In response to a 2015 PwC survey question asking what one attribute CEOs will need most to succeed in the turbulent times ahead, Michael Dell, chief executive of Dell, Inc., replied, “I would place my bet on curiosity.”
That’s because curious people are more likely to challenge the status quo, and to explore new paths.
In your personal and professional life, don’t just accept things at face value — start asking, “why?” This type of curiosity will serve you well in today’s ever-changing, rapidly innovating world.