When you need creative solutions fast, first cultivate positive emotions. Learn more about the important connection between positivity and creativity.
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In the first part of this blog post, I introduced a simple experiment developed by Barbara Fredrickson, world-renowned researcher on positive emotions. In case you missed it, check out “When You Need Creative Solutions Fast – Part 1″ dated October 24, 2013. In a nutshell, the experiment demonstrates the connection between positivity and creativity.
The first part of the experiment induced a neutral emotional state in the participants, who were then asked to make a list of everything they wanted to do with a hypothetical, unencumbered half hour block of time. The second part of the experiment induced a positive emotional state in the participants, who were again asked to make a list of everything they wanted to do with that block of free time.
Skeptical by nature, I wondered how this experiment could possibly demonstrate a connection between positivity and creativity. So I found my own participants and lead them through Barbara Fredrickson’s experiment. Let me share the results with you, below.
When in a positive emotional state, my participants created lists that were up to 7 times longer than when in a neutral state. The lists were more expansive and richer in details, often full of meaningful and inspiring activities. One individual reported that his list was “in color” while he was under the influence of positivity, as opposed to the black and white version he saw when in a neutral state. When asked to describe their experience, my participants chose the following unedited words and phrases:
- Felt the sensations and positive emotions, heard the sounds vividly
- Saw the world in a different way
- Experienced more
- Expansive view
- More enlightened and energized
Overall, being in a positive emotional state increased the sheer volume of possibilities they noticed. It broadened their perspectives. It increased their level of engagement. It visibly ramped up their energy. It even seemed to change their physical posture.
In contrast, when in a neutral emotional state, their lists were significantly shorter. And they chose the following words and phrases to describe their experience:
- Felt no sensations
- Devoid of color
- List was fact-based
- What I thought I had to do, whether I did or not, and not what I wanted to do
- Miniscule details
It makes me wonder about the times when I felt stressed, anxious, or angry. I’m sure you can think of examples from your own life. In those moments, our perspective narrows, and our thinking becomes smaller. Our ability to perform important tasks – envision and plan, listen and consider other views, resolve conflicts and problems – diminishes.
Through this experiment, I saw firsthand how positivity opened up my participants’ thinking and their perspective. They noticed more possibilities that weren’t already on their radar. Each participant made a completely different, more enriching and enlivening decision on how to use that hypothetical block of time.
Can you imagine all of the circumstances under which having a broader perspective and envisioning more, different possibilities would be incredibly useful? I can think of a few off the top of my head:
- Before beginning any creative endeavor.
- Before making an important decision.
- Before making a daily decision.
- Before resolving conflict or a challenge.
- Before having a difficult conversation with a spouse, a child, or an employee.
Or can you imagine what might happen if projects, decisions and challenges within families, businesses, educational and medical institutions, the government and society in general were completed more often under the influence of positivity?
I may sound naïve, but I believe that if one person at a time begins to use positivity in more strategic ways, we can all flourish. Will you give it a try in your own life?
With gratitude for putting happiness first,
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Fredrickson, Barbara (2009). Positivity: Top Notch Research Reveals the 3:1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life. New York: Three Rivers Press.