Authentic Happiness: Creativity

This is a pret­ty good newslet­ter, and I thought y’all might be espe­cial­ly inter­est­ed in this par­tic­u­lar issue.

“Get­ting To Know Creativity”
Vol­ume 2, Num­ber 12

This is an E‑newsletter sent to those who reg­is­ter at or This E‑newsletter is intend­ed to share prac­ti­cal strate­gies for inte­grat­ing the prin­ci­ples of Authen­tic Hap­pi­ness into your own life and into the lives of others. 

Get­ting To Know Creativity
By Ben Dean, Ph.D.

Series Intro­duc­tion

This newslet­ter marks the begin­ning of what will be a whirl­wind tour of 24 char­ac­ter strengths—strengths such as wis­dom, hon­esty, spir­i­tu­al­i­ty, kind­ness, grat­i­tude, curios­i­ty, and creativity.

If you have not already done so, you can receive feed­back about your high­est strengths by tak­ing the Strengths Sur­vey at Accord­ing to Dr. Mar­tin Selig­man, we can become last­ing­ly hap­pi­er by using our sig­na­ture strengths more often and in new ways. Ear­ly sup­port for this the­o­ry comes from a ran­dom-assign­ment study in which research par­tic­i­pants were asked to use their sig­na­ture strengths more often and in dif­fer­ent ways. These par­tic­i­pants were hap­pi­er six months lat­er; indi­vid­u­als who received a “con­trol” exer­cise stayed the same. 

The recent­ly pub­lished hand­book by Peter­son and Selig­man (2004), Char­ac­ter Strengths and Virtues: A Hand­book and Clas­si­fi­ca­tion, sum­ma­rizes all there is to know about each of the 24 strengths. So ide­al­ly, you and your clients can read the rel­e­vant chap­ters in the Hand­book and use the knowl­edge con­tained with­in to inform your strengths work. Although we encour­age you to use the strengths hand­book, we rec­og­nize that the scope of this 700+ page book can be some­what daunt­ing to be busy pro­fes­sion­als and clients. If this is the case, then you are in luck. What we will be doing over the next 24 newslet­ters is offer­ing you the Read­ers Digest ver­sion of the Hand­book. Each issue will be devot­ed to a dif­fer­ent strength, and my focus will be on appli­ca­tion. In each newslet­ter, we will present infor­ma­tion that will make it eas­i­er for you and your clients to (1) own your strengths, (2) devel­op them fur­ther, and (3) use them in new ways.

To start things off, allow me to intro­duce this strength, Creativity. 

A cre­ative per­son is some­one who comes up with ideas that are (1) orig­i­nal and (2) useful. 

Like all strengths, cre­ativ­i­ty exists on a con­tin­u­um. Some find it help­ful to dis­tin­guish between “lit­tle c” cre­ativ­i­ty and “Big C” Cre­ativ­i­ty. Big C Cre­ativ­i­ty is reserved for once in a life­time, cre­ative acts. (Think Ein­stein, DaVin­ci, or Edi­son.) In con­trast, lit­tle c cre­ativ­i­ty refers to day-to-day creativity.

Points To Consider

· Peo­ple are much less cre­ative when they are under time pres­sure, when they are being scru­ti­nized and judged by oth­ers, and when exter­nal cir­cum­stances lim­it the range of options available.

· Hard work is often a pre­req­ui­site for cre­ativ­i­ty, par­tic­u­lar­ly Big C Cre­ativ­i­ty. Big C artists, inven­tors, sci­en­tists, and writ­ers spend years mas­ter­ing their respec­tive domains before mak­ing a val­ued cre­ative contribution. 

· In order for an idea or prod­uct to be con­sid­ered cre­ative, it typ­i­cal­ly has to be com­plete. Who knows how many poten­tial­ly Big C Cre­ative man­u­scripts or paint­ings remain for­ev­er unfinished?

Sit­u­a­tions To Approach And Avoid When Exer­cis­ing Your Creativity

· Peo­ple are much less cre­ative when they are under time pres­sure, when they are being scru­ti­nized and judged by oth­ers, and when exter­nal cir­cum­stances lim­it the range of options available. 

· In con­trast, cre­ativ­i­ty is encour­aged by envi­ron­ments that are sup­port­ive, rein­forc­ing, open, and casual. 

· Dr. Bar­bara Fred­erik­son, author of the “Broad­en and Build” the­o­ry of pos­i­tive emo­tion, sug­gests that pos­i­tive emo­tions are evo­lu­tion­ar­i­ly adap­tive because they trig­ger a broad­en­ing of our men­tal state. Cre­ativ­i­ty is much more like­ly to occur when we are open to new ideas and new experiences.

· Sup­port­ing this “broad­en and build” the­o­ry, researchers found that par­tic­i­pants in a hap­py mood out­per­formed par­tic­i­pants in a neg­a­tive or neu­tral mood on a task requir­ing a cre­ative solu­tion (Isen, Daub­man, & Now­ic­ki, 1987). 

Take-Home Mes­sage

· When you or your clients want to exer­cise your cre­ativ­i­ty, try doing some­thing first that you know will put you in a hap­py, relaxed mood. Avoid crit­i­cism (and this includes self-crit­i­cism!) and time-pres­sured sit­u­a­tions when pos­si­ble. Final­ly, rec­og­nize that cre­ativ­i­ty often requires work, work, and more work. (Stay tuned for a future E‑newsletter about the char­ac­ter strength of perseverance!)

Just Do It

· Final­ly, it is inter­est­ing to note that peo­ple are more like­ly to be cre­ative when they are (drum­roll please) told to be cre­ative! So if you want to exer­cise your cre­ativ­i­ty, then just do it!

I hope you enjoyed this first in a series of E‑newsletters about char­ac­ter strengths. See you in two weeks!


Mar­tin E. P. Selig­man, Ph.D. is the Fox Lead­er­ship Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chol­o­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia, the founder of the field of Pos­i­tive Psy­chol­o­gy, a Past Pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion (1998), and the author of 20 books includ­ing his most recent best-sell­er, Authen­tic Hap­pi­ness: Using the New Pos­i­tive Psy­chol­o­gy to Real­ize Your Poten­tial for Last­ing Ful­fill­ment. With Chris Peter­son, he is co-author of the new­ly-released Char­ac­ter Strengths and Virtues: A Clas­si­fi­ca­tion and Hand­book. He is also the co-founder of Authen­tic Hap­pi­ness Coach­ing LLC.

Ben Dean, Ph.D., co-founder of Authen­tic Hap­pi­ness Coach­ing LLC, is a psy­chol­o­gist and coach, and the CEO of Men­tor­Coach, a vir­tu­al uni­ver­si­ty that exclu­sive­ly trains men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als to become part-time or full-time coach­es. For Men­tor­Coach’s home on the web and to sub­scribe to Ben’s free E‑newsletter, the Men­tor­Coach” eNewslet­ter, vis­it

© 2004 Authen­tic Hap­pi­ness Coach­ing. All rights reserved.

Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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