Creativity refers to the ability to formulate innovative ideas, knowledge and skills. It helps you to understand your true potentialities.
For the last couple of decades, I’ve devoted myself to helping people discover and use their creative gifts. In my various roles as a teacher, musician, writer, and editor, I’ve become convinced of one truth: we find the most joy, and we help the most people, when we are doing what we are born to do.
However, there are several barriers that prevent most of us from living and creating at our full potential. These barriers result from confusion:
- We are confused about the PROCESS of creativity because we lack a systematic way to develop our creative potential. We bounce between various books, courses, resources, habits, and systems, never truly committing to any of them, and only frustrating ourselves more along the way.
- We are confused about the NATURE of creativity because we misunderstand the creative process. We tend to believe that only highly gifted or talented people are truly creative.
- We are confused about the ACTIONS of creativity because we suffer from information overload. We are consuming too much content, listening to too many voices, and not taking decisive action on what we do know.
- We are confused about the PURPOSE of creativity because we aren’t clear about our own gifts and goals in life.
Over the past few years, I’ve been on a search to understand more about these barriers and how they prevent us from being more creative. The more I studied, the more I began to see that there was a clear process for developing greater creativity. This process revealed itself as I studied the lives of some of the world’s most creative people, and it also rang true as I thought about the ups and downs of my own creative life.
This process (you might also call it a template or pathway) gives you a framework for understanding and developing creativity in your own life. I call it The 5 Cups of Creativity.
The Origin of the “5 Cups” Theory
Over the last few years, I began to look at my own life and wonder why I hadn’t seemed to reach my creative potential. I knew I was capable of so much more than what I was producing. The more I studied the subjects of success and creativity, I began to see patterns emerge in the lives of highly creative people, such as the Pixar team, Steve Jobs, Leonardo da Vinci, Coach John Wooden, Abraham Lincoln, Stephen King, and so many others.
It all seemed to click when I came across this quote from Walt Disney:
Somehow I can’t believe that there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C’s. They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.
– Walt Disney
Disney’s statement seemed to summarize everything I was learning about creativity. I took this as a starting point and made a couple of adjustments you’ll see in a moment.
So how do you, as Walt Disney said, make dreams come true? How do you unlock your creative potential and begin to pursue what you were born to do? This framework of the 5 cups of creativity is a great starting point.
The 5 Cups
Let’s dive into the 5 cups. But before we do, keep in mind that these do not work in a linear fashion. You don’t necessarily work on clarity first, then move on to confidence. Creativity is more nuanced and individualized than that. These “5 cups” are like the parts of a car (engine, wheels, body, etc.) that all must be working for the car to go anywhere.
Ready? Let’s dive it.
Creativity is like a river, and clarity is the right and left river banks. When you have clarity about your gifts, your goals, your purpose, and your audience, it allows your creativity to run faster, deeper, and in the right direction.
When you believe in yourself and your abilities, you can accomplish more than you ever thought possible. A person who lacks confidence will always be timid and fearful, doubting themselves and their direction. Confidence gives you the momentum and courage to tackle obstacles and reach for higher goals.
Almost anyone can create something worthwhile on occasion, but a true professional approaches creativity like a workman. As William Faulker said, “I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately, I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.” Creativity requires consistent, daily effort to accomplish anything worthwhile in the long run.
This is the desire to explore new subjects and find connections between things that don’t seem related. The curious person values learning for its own sake, not just as a means to an end.