The Surprising Creativity Killer We All Want More Of

Sometimes pursuing it can be exhausting.

What is it?

Happiness.

There are countless articles at Inc. offering you advice on how to be happier and creative. Because, as we all know, creativity is essential if you want to grow your business and be successful.

But is happiness really all its cracked up to be? For instance, does happiness make you more or less creative?

Some really smart authors on this site sure seem to believe happiness leads to greater creativity-like this one and this one.

Well, sorry friends, science disagrees with you.

An interesting article recently published on Quartz laid out a pretty convincing argument that intense emotions, whether positive or negative, won’t boost your creativity. In the opinion of neuroscientist Amy Arnsten of Yale University School of Medicine:

“To maintain optimal brain function for creativity…mood management is key, not happiness or purposefully-generated-stress. “

In fact, emotional pressure hinders creativity because it causes something called prefrontal cortex dysfunction.

Granted, defining both creativity and happiness in a way we can all agree on is a huge challenge. Your definition of what creativity and happiness is probably quite different from mine!

So if happiness isn’t the cure for creativity, what is?

According to research published on the Public Library of Science, there are 14 “building blocks” that lead to creativity. Those are:

  1. Active involvement and persistence
  2. Dealing with uncertainty
  3. Domain competence
  4. General intellect
  5. Generating results
  6. Independence and freedom
  7. Innovation and emotional involvement
  8. Originality
  9. Progression and development
  10. Social interaction and communication
  11. Spontaneity and subconscious process
  12. Thinking and evaluation
  13. Value
  14. Variety, divergence, and experimentation

Are you surprised to learn that happiness is actually a creativity killer? Not me.

In fact, in my article Yes There Is a Key to Happiness (and It’s Actually Pretty Simple), I came to the following conclusion about happiness:

The real key to happiness is in realizing that attaining any or all of those things we think we really, really want will never actually make us happy. …Enjoy the pursuit to happiness, as it just might be your greatest source of happiness after all.

So remember: Next time you need to be creative, don’t try forcing yourself to be happy or cause yourself stress. Figure out how you can get more zen and let your creativity flow.

About The Author

Larry Kim is the CEO of Mobile Monkey and founder of WordStream. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.


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