10 Common Behaviors of Highly Creative People

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Two old friends. A rainy afternoon. Vanilla lattes at Starbucks. Divergent conversations about life, the world, and the best tiramisu in town. An inquiry about my forthcoming book on creativity: “What are some of the characteristics of creative people?”

According to an article in the Scientific American blog, “…creative work blends together different elements and influences in the most novel, or unusual, way, and these wide-ranging states, traits, and behaviors frequently conflict with each other within the mind of the creative person.” In essence, creative people have discovered that their creativity is a blend of diverse interests, influences, and behaviors—a combination routinely and systematically practiced every day.

Creative behaviors

Interestingly, we all have one or more of those characteristics. We utilize several of them as children, and we become aware of others as we enter the workforce. The ultimate truth of creativity is that all these behaviors are available for those eager to improve or increase their “Creativity Quotient.” Let’s take a look.

1. Creative people search for possibilities rather than absolutes.

Creative people are uncomfortable with the status quo. For them, a creative life is one of options, opportunities, and alternatives. They do not always accept what others do; rather, they seek multiple responses and views. In fact, the most powerful question they routinely ask is the one beginning with the words “What if…?”


2. Creative people are dreamers… daydreamers.

Daydreaming, from a creativity standpoint, is a good thing. It’s not something we should prevent as we engage in intellectual tasks. Having one’s “head in the clouds” is an opportunity to let our creative powers develop and flourish. This is mental play at its finest—a potent exercise in which innovative thinking is supported and celebrated.

3. Creative people spend considerable time outdoors.

Nature has the ability to evoke a creative way of thinking by making us more curious and able to embrace new ideas and by stimulating us to become more flexible thinkers. “Nature is the great visible engine of creativity, against which all other creative efforts are measured,” said Terrance McKenna in a talk in the early ’90s. “Nature’s creativity is obviously the wellspring of human creativity.”

4. Creative people are open to learning new things.

Their formal education is just a starting point, a foundation for additional educational opportunities. Creative people embrace a continuous learning process in a wide variety of fields—often areas having little to do with their occupational specialty. A teacher who takes a cooking class. An architect who goes on an archeological tour of Greece. A dentist who reads books about the history of China. An author who learns how to tap dance.

5. Creative people meditate and practice mindfulness.

Research reported in the Harvard Business Review demonstrated that just 10 minutes of meditation a day can increase our creative powers. The simple act of “taking time off” is sufficient to calm the mind and offer opportunities to create and innovate. The key is to make meditation and mindfulness a regular part of our daily activities—a commitment to find a quiet place and let our thoughts flow.

6. Creative people are independent.

They can make their own decisions and follow through on them. They don’t always need advice and counsel from others; they can think (and act) for themselves. They are comfortable taking on new challenges without the pressure of approval from others. Although they will work with others, they frequently consider their best work to be solo work.

7. Creative people are open-minded.

Open-minded individuals always embrace new ideas and new ways of doing things. They are often able to see the big picture because they furiously pursue all the unique ways of examining the details of that experience. They examine a variety of possibilities rather than simply looking for a single right answer. They like to try new things just because. For them, every new situation is a learning situation, not necessarily a means to an end.

Creativity Essential Reads

8. Creative people are passionate.

They follow their dreams—traveling through new experiences simply because they offer new possibilities. They don’t always follow the beaten path but rather the road less traveled, the sights not seen. They find joy in their pursuits and are happy to share them with others. They are, in so many ways, optimistic explorers of the unknown.

9. Creative people are risk-takers.

They take chances. They examine the unknown—not necessarily because it will lead to something successful but rather because it’s new. They’re happy to move out of their comfort zone and play with new ideas. Most importantly, they are not afraid of failure because they see failure as a learning opportunity. Or, to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “People succeed when they realize that their failures are the preparation for their victories.”

10. Creative people practice creativity every day.

For them, creativity is not an occasional activity but rather a lifelong commitment. According to my forthcoming book (see References), when we make creativity a regular habit, we are “training” our minds to address all sorts of mental challenges. It’s similar to running a world-class marathon. You have to run several days (actually, several years) in advance of the big event in order to be competitive. Without that day-to-day training, you jeopardize your chances of finishing. The same holds true for creativity.


One thing about the list above—there is absolutely no mention of intelligence or IQ. As shared in previous columns, high intelligence is not a prerequisite for creativity. Being very smart and being very creative may, actually, be two mutually different concepts. What is more important—especially for those who wish to enhance their creativity—is to constantly pursue, refresh, and take advantage of the attributes above. Every day!

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