What makes a creative thinker? Is it the art they make? The problems that no one else but them could solve?
Maybe it’s the movies they watch or the books they read, perhaps it’s their favorite songs. Could it be what they study? Their life’s calling?
Maybe it’s the lives they choose to live. Or the clothes they wear. Maybe it’s how they act and how they present themselves.
With that said, do you consider yourself a creative thinker? If you already do, then great; this article is a fun and casual—if not validating—read.
If not, then this article just might convince you.
If you recognize these 13 behaviors, you’re likely a very creative thinker:
1) You’re a “how will I know if I don’t try” kind of person.
Traits involved: Risk-taking, curiosity, and innovation.
You understand the merits of trying. You’re the type to say “Why not?” when presented with something new.
You try things, file the experience for later, and have the ability to apply and adapt it for other situations in the future.
A good example that I can think of is Sohla and Ham’s Mystery Menu series on NYT Cooking. Particularly, their episode on durian as it’s an ingredient they have never tasted—much less cooked with!
This entire series shows their expertise and how they manage to innovate dishes from ingredients that aren’t usually used for that purpose.
It’s also a good example of creative thinking because they never edit out failures, the videos are a testament to trying.
2) You like knowing the “how” of things.
Traits involved: Curiosity, analytical thinking, problem-solving, and innovation.
You like knowing the process behind the product or a service (remember How It’s Made?)
And you also have a “how can I improve this?” mindset. The ability to identify what needs tweaking and how it will help moving forward.
Perhaps you were the type of person who took trinkets apart, and maybe you might have even carried that until now—with bigger objects to boot!
3) You like knowing the “Why” of things.
Traits involved: Curiosity and persistence.
The “what” just doesn’t suffice for you. You have to know the reason for things, which could get frustrating sometimes because answers aren’t always so clear-cut.
And beyond wanting to know the “how”, the motivation is also important for you to know. The rationale. The driving force.
Why was a product made? Who was it for? What problem did it solve? Why only up to this point? Can it be taken further? How?
See how it’s starting to connect?
4) You work smarter, not harder.
Traits involved: Adaptive, wise, analytical thinking, and innovation.
You’re the type to work smarter, not harder.
And this isn’t because of laziness (although let’s be honest, sometimes it is) but it’s due to understanding the task so effectively that you can think of new ways to complete it.
5) In the face of failure, you get excited to try again.
Traits involved: Persistence, motivation, and resilience.
Irish playwright, novelist, and poet Samuel Beckett said it best, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
When you fail, what comes after? Do you brush it off and try elsewhere? Or, like creative thinkers, do you pick apart where you got it wrong and try again?
This isn’t to say that you don’t acknowledge the work you’ve put in or be sad that you got it wrong, it just means that you acknowledge that you’re one step closer to getting it right.
Trying again doesn’t defeat you.
You know how to fail better.
6) You *freely* see a problem in its entirety.
Traits involved: Open-minded, problem-solving, and observant.
You don’t just see the problem at face value. You see the cause, the factors that affect it, and all its moving parts.
You’re the type to see the bigger picture. And yet, you can also zoom in wherever your attention is needed.
This makes you great at problem-solving and organization. In your family or friend group, are you the one who organizes your itinerary during trips?
Do you see the worst-case and best-case scenarios in situations? Maybe you’re the type to infer how one action can ripple. That’s #7.
7) You can see how connected everything is.
Traits involved: Flexible, adaptive, problem-solving, and empathy.
You see the ripples of any action. And while it might not be immediate that you understand it, you can at least see the cause and the consequences of a decision.
And act accordingly.
You make informed decisions because of this, decisions rooted in empathy because you understand cause and effect.
The world is a big puzzle and you find delight in seeing all the moving parts.
8) You see beauty in the most mundane.
Traits involved: Curiosity, empathy, and being observant.
There’s a book I’ve been itching to read called “On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes” by cognitive scientist and professor, Alexandra Horowitz.
The title is succinct and to the point, she took walks around her Manhattan neighborhood with experts such as a geologist, sound engineer, and an artist and experienced the familiar with a fresh perspective.
And isn’t that so fascinating? A rock or a tree by the roadside has its own history.
Your coffee cup’s logo probably took someone a long time to design, there is effort behind it. The crisp shade of green that foliage takes on after it rains.
The artisanal quality of lace on a blouse or a dress. Color theory in makeup.
The physics and athleticism of sports. The evolution of words. And so much more.
What about you? What mundane things do you find beautiful?
9) You have been called “weird” or “eccentric”.
Traits involved: Originality and authenticity.
You’re against the grain, as creative people often are.
You might have been called weird at some point in your life as conformity just doesn’t suit your spirit. You were meant to stand out.
You don’t thoughtlessly buy into trends either. Perhaps you even start them (maybe not on a grand scale, but at least in your circles).
10) You daydream often.
Traits involved: Intuitive and imaginative.
We’re talking about the kind of daydreaming that fuels the imagination and boosts creativity. It helps with problem-solving, too.
I’ll let you in on a little tip that I usually do whenever I get stuck on a problem: I pretend that I’m filming a YouTube video tutorial to explain my process. I don’t skip the “Hey guys, welcome back to my channel!” part either.
The activity leads my brain to possible next steps of the problem. It sounds silly, but it works for me, and I have had friends successfully try it out, too!
Whenever I pretend that I have an audience, my brain gets into problem-solving mode. Try it next time you find yourself stuck.
Who knows? It might just work for you, too.
(Also, this is a little bit of a tangent, but here’s an interesting Reader’s Digest article on what your daydreams could mean. It’s a fascinating read.)
11) You understand other people’s quirks, too.
Traits involved: Empathy and inclusivity.
“Empathy begins with attention. Creativity does too. In both cases, you pay attention to the data you take in.”
You understand that different people like different things, go different ways, and make different decisions. You understand that we’re all unique (and that we’re all connected anyway) and you don’t judge based on this.
Rather you work within these confines, maybe you even treat it as a challenge. And the first thing I thought of as an example is the intersection of psychology and marketing.
12) You feel your emotions deeply.
Traits involved: Intuitive, empathic, emotionally attuned.
When you feel things, you feel it deep. You don’t run away from it either, you don’t think this is a weakness.
You utilize them.
Your problem-solving is rooted in your emotional attachment to a problem and how it affects you and those around you.
Your creativity is fueled by your emotions, too. If you’re an artist, your emotions probably ignite a lot of your artistic creations.
13) You never stop learning.
Traits involved: Curiosity, persistence, motivation, and being a self-starter.
I am biased when I say this but I think this quality is one of the most important aspects of creative thinking. It encompasses a lot of the behaviors listed here already.
It’s the bigger picture and also the lynchpin. There’s a hunger to learn more, to get better, to innovate, and to fix.
I do need to point out that this needs to be paired with empathy because otherwise, it’s just curiosity without cause or application.
To wrap up
Did the list resonate? Was it the confirmation that you were looking for? If not, don’t be discouraged.
While I think that being a creative thinker is innate, I think it’s also a skill. Therefore, it’s something that you can train yourself to get better at.
It will take being intentional, though. You can always pay better attention to your surroundings and the problems at hand.
You can always try to see situations from different perspectives and make informed decisions from your observations.
You can be more empathic, feel your feelings deeper, and accept the things about you that set you apart. And use them to your advantage.
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