What habits do the most successful creative entrepreneurs actively cultivate? Here are 10 top habits you should look into – some may surprise you.
They’re comfortable with uncertainty
Uncertainty comes hand in hand with any entrepreneurial pursuit, and the most effective creatives don’t just embrace it – they lean into it. They recognize that although it may not seem so, most things in life are by nature uncertain to some degree: our health, jobs, plans. It’s in the grey, uncomfortable space of not knowing what may come in a month or three months that stretches us. Here, we either grow or succumb to fear.
“Uncertainty can activate the fear center of the brain, thereby disrupting the thinking processes critical to successful innovation,” says Srini Pillay, a Harvard psychologist says. It takes us out of the humdrum of everyday, and catapults us into a modern fight or flight situation where we make decisions and take actions that we wouldn’t have previously.
Understanding setbacks and how to spring forward from them
Also known as “failing up”, successful creatives understand the need to overcome setbacks as quickly as often as possible to level up. Obstacles are inevitable, and synonymous with a creative life. Much like embracing uncertainty, embracing failure is by far the best way you will improve. You’re critically analyzing what went wrong, why, and what alternatives to take for next time. So go out and give your failures (small or large) a big ol’ warm bear hug, and take it out for coffee and really get to know them.
They embrace frustration
“Frustration is not an interruption of your process; frustration is the process,” Gilbert writes in Big Magic, which is in my list of 7 life-changing books every creative entrepreneur must read. Go check it out! Too often, millennials find themselves trapped in the mentality that 100% of their work has to be entertaining in order to be fulfilling. If you’re not having fun doing what you love all the damn time, do you really love it at all?!
Work that doesn’t come with its unique set of shit sandwich simply does not exist, my friend. No matter what path you choose to take, it has its special side dishes of blah.
Here’s the good news: You can sit side by side with boredom. And to become a master at your craft, that’s exactly what you should be doing, consistently.
They observe everything with curiosity
It takes intelligence to play around with an idea that you don’t agree with and leave it be. As a creative, you’re most likely highly opinionated and see the world through unique, different lenses. Because of this, you’ll find work that simply do not sit right with you. An effective creative entrepreneur can separate themselves from the immediate feeling of “Omg I hate this,” instead, ask questions.
What is the original intent? Who created this? What is their background? Is there something in their life that has provoked this idea from them?
Further, a creatively shrewd eye is able to go through its day, noticing the intricacies and nuances of the world around them. The aged grain of a bench table. The dapples of light cast by an oak tree. The restrained grin of a receptionist. Stop and ponder at what is beyond the surface, and take the time to draw connections between seemingly unrelated ideas.
They exercise frequently
A Stanford study revealed that 90% of people were more creative after they exercised. Frequent exercise, be it in the shape of cardio, a light walk, weight training or a sport, is a tried-and-true method of stimulating the mind and aiding deeper creative work. Many world leaders and celebrities have famous workout routines – no matter where she is in the world, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice apparently gets up at 4:30am to work out. Richard Branson runs every morning, which he claims adds four additional hours of productivity to his day.
Finding the type of exercise that fits you isn’t difficult, and don’t be discouraged if one doesn’t stick, or you can’t stick to it. The idea is to keep trying, even if you fall off the wheel. I personally try to weight train at the gym 5 times a week (some weeks I’m better than others) because I find a lot of value in being strong. I’ve cycled through many types of exercise before this routine stuck: yoga, running, sport; but the discipline that comes along with weights has been incredibly helpful for my productivity.
They practice mindfulness and gratitude
Creatives often rely on external sources to validate them for their successes, which is dangerous. By looking to others (peers, publishers, followers) for praise, our crests are sky-high when we’re doing well and rock-bottom when we aren’t. It’s important to cultivate your own internal compass that are composed of your personal values. It will tell you when you’ve reached your success as well as when you haven’t put in 100%.
This is mindfulness. An internal acknowledgement of all that is going on; an awareness of your thoughts, actions and reactions. Being mindful is a huge step in the self-awareness you need to keep growing.
Gratitude is the other piece of the puzzle. It reminds you of what is actually important in life. For me, that’s health, my loved ones, creating beautiful work and connecting with other humans. By continuously reminding yourself of these, you’re letting go of all other fickle matters that do not deserve your worry. The most effective creative entrepreneurs use practices of gratitude to center them in their businesses.
They create consistent work, every single day
In order to be a thought leader or a master in your field, you must be prolific. That means producing work every single day. Even when it’s shitty. Especially if you “don’t feel like it”. This will weed you off procrastination, the killer of work.
Persisting to one type of task every single day will mean you are never inactive. You might have created something bland, but that piece of blandness is infinitely better than nothing at all.
Most people will not have the dedication to do this, because it’s difficult. That means that if you do, you will outwork your peers – that’s a damn guarantee.
They spend a lot of time spent in ‘flow’
The ‘flow’ state is when you’re so deeply immersed in your work, you forget about all else. Eating, drinking, going to the toilet, checking your Facebook – it all goes out the window. You’re in the zone.
This state is where productivity is at its peak and you’re churning out work with record efficiency, so ideally, this is where you want to be. Unfortunately, reality comes with a million distractions, making flow difficult to achieve consistently. Recognize your triggers. What typically sets you up for a successful few hours spent in flow? Is it waking up early? Is it the adrenaline after exercise?
If you have no flow triggers, create some. Habitually force yourself to at least of 30 minutes of absolutely uninterrupted work after an activity, such as making a coffee, meditation, or having a good morning routine for two weeks.
You’ll start to find that you’re spending more time in flow than out of it, and your productivity will skyrocket.
They actively daydream
Many 20-somethings were highly imaginative as children, creating new worlds, going on imaginary adventures with household objects and a master at creative play with their peers. However, most of us lose this seemingly useless ability as we are churned through the cogs of university, jobs and paying taxes. Daydreaming may seem mindless, but a 2012 study suggested it could actually tap into a highly engaged brain state. It can lead to sudden connections and insights because it’s related to our ability to recall information in the face of distractions.
A daydream doesn’t have to be work-related. In fact, the further from it, the better. Unless it forms organically, forget about dreaming up your next side hustle or your next project. Imagine the most colorful, vibrant planet that you’ve just discovered. What life does it contain? How does the geography flow?
They take time to be alone
“In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone,” says American psychologist, Rollo May.
Neuroscientists have figured out that that inwardly focused reflection (that is, being alone) uses a different brain network than outwardly focused attention. When we’re focusing on external stimuli, the ‘executive attention’ network is activated, while the ‘imagination network’ is suppressed.
This is why our best ideas don’t tend to arise when our attention is fully engaged on the outside world. Ideas generally come with focused, immersed deep work, free from distraction. Even if you’re a bubbly extrovert who thrives off the social energy generated by others, it’s important to have solitary days.