For hundreds of years, the question, “Why is humankind creative?” has been asked (Burns, 2003, p. 157). Explanations of all components of what makes us living, breathing humans have been given, though nothing definitively, concretely, or without opening up a whole other debate about what that creativity entails. Aristotle argued that it came forth from the creative insights of the mind and its ability to combine and associate different aspects of human life and experience (Burns, 2003, p. 158). The biopsychosocial perspective takes a nature and nuture approach, noting that our genes, cognition, personality development, and social influences all play into the formation and expression of creativity (Burns, 2003, p. 158). Freud argued that creativity was something driven by a need to escape reality and unsatisfied, instinctive needs and wants (Burns, 2003, p. 158-159). Maslow argued that our creative ability is not only a core aspect of who we are and the potential we have but also in our ability to adapt, change and grow (Burns, 2003, p. 159). However, he noted that although it is something innate within us, present at birth, it begins to erode as we grow, due to our desire to conform to society’s norms and expectations (Burns, 2003, p. 159). Thus, it is near impossible to definitively explain where creativity comes from – whether it is solely through genetics and heredity or as a product of our environment and personality development. What matters is how this creativity is used for the betterment and transformation of ourselves as individuals, society as a whole, and how we relate to and understand our roles and leadership in any position we may have (Burns, 2003, p. 159).
Most recently, research has indicated a link between our openness to new experiences and our beliefs about our own ability to create and transform the world and things around us. Using personality factors from the Big Five Personality Test, Karwowski and Lebuda (2016) performed a meta-analysis on how core aspects of who we are may be influenced by our own beliefs in how creative or novel our ideas and pursuits may be. At first glance, creative beliefs seemed to be related to our openness to experience new things, and extroversion (Karwowski & Lebuda, 2016). However, the ability to be willing to try new things encompasses many aspects of extroversion that are not necessarily a clear depiction of what it means to be introverted or extroverted (Karwowski & Lebuda, 2016). Introversion and extroversion refer to where we get our motivation and energy from – spending reflective time alone or spending meaningful time with those closest to us. It does not mean that quiet introverts despise being in the company of others (although we might think creativity and isolation are correlated looking at artists like Van Gogh). In like manner, it also does not mean that extroverts are wholly without the ability to have reflective time in which to think deep, great, stimulating thoughts and ideas (see artists like Lady Gaga, or anyone else with an engaging stage presence). With this, we can see that how we choose to spend time is not indicative of how creative we are because one person likes to spend time alone or another basks in the glow of warm relationships or stage lights. Rather, I posit that our willingness to experience new and novel situations, places, emotions, and people shapes our creativity and vice versa. From a psychology standpoint, humanity’s greatest desires (regardless of introversion and extroversion) are to know and be known, love and be loved, and to make meaning out of our thoughts, feelings, and experiences. When we can make the connection between “I need relationship/belonging/recognition/affirmation/etc.” to “we all have this innate desire within us to be found meaningful and worthy of connection, love, respect, and affirmation,” we can see humanity for who and what it really is. In the process, this transforms our actions, perspectives, and creative pursuits and endeavors to something that profoundly validates the human experience, our needs for love and belongingness, and brings joy and healing to those around us.
In my personal relationships and leadership, I believe that embracing creativity is an integral part to we are, though it is often lost in the things we pursuit and focus our energies on. Society, at large, does not necessarily encourage being creative in any aspect we choose – music, art, film, writing, etc., other than to pursue and attain recognition, position or power in some way. By the time we reach adulthood, we are stressed and obsessed with the notion that all our efforts and worth lie in these things. Conversely, as children we see the world with fresh, new and shining eyes that view the world in awe and wonder, abounding in ideas, plans, and imagining what is possible in the world. We get bogged down and pigeon-holed into seeing the world in one set way of doing things – a false dichotomous view of right and wrong, good and evil, correct and incorrect. From these books and ideas, I want to embrace creativity more in all that I do by myself and with those around me, and reignite the parts that seek to see the world in awe, wonder, and as a blank slate ready for life, compassion, and authenticity to be cast onto it.
Looking at God as our ultimate example of creativity, we see a call to reweave an appreciation for this, beauty, and meaning-making into every aspect of our life and how we interact and create bonds with those around us (Keller, 2012, p. 173). As we experience and find beauty in some aspect of our world, we feel a deep desire to share and passionately embrace it with those around us (Keller, 2012, p. 178). The beauty we find shifts our narratives from being focused on ourselves to being focused on our community and how we all relate, interact and intertwine (Keller, 2012, p. 178). This further shifts how we seek justice in our world from being a means to an end, to an end in and of itself. We do not seek it because it is the best way to make ourselves look better but rather because it glorifies people and the Creator of these people (Keller, 2012, p. 178). We are called to enrich the world in new, novel, life-giving, and liberating ways that embrace the right to justice each individual has, as well as the beauty within them and the innate potential they have (Keller, 2012, p. 180). The clearest image we have of this beauty and justices lies in Christ’s humility, ministry, and redemptive, poverty-stricken, and unjust death on the Cross (Keller, 2012, p. 182).
Burns, J. M. (2003). Transforming leadership: A new pursuit of happiness (Vol. 213). Grove Press.
Karwowski, M., & Lebuda, I. (2016). The big five, the huge two, and creative self-beliefs: A meta-analysis. Psychology Of Aesthetics, Creativity, And The Arts, 10(2), 214-232. doi:10.1037/aca0000035
Keller, T. (2012). Generous justice: How God’s grace makes us just. Riverhead Books.