I recently watched a TED talk by Professor Adam Grant at the Wharton Business School who is the author of the book Original. He says that it appears that creative and so-called ‘original’ people somehow understand that being quick to start but slow to finish can boost creativity, that you can motivate yourself to try by doubting your ideas and embracing the fear of failing, and that you need a lot of bad ideas in order to get a few good ones. Original people can often look confident, but behind the scenes feel the same fear and doubt as the rest of us do. They just manage it differently. There are two kinds of doubt: self-doubt and doubt about ideas. Self-doubt is paralyzing. But doubt about ideas is energizing – it motivates to experiment and refine. The key to original thinking is not to see failure as a dent in our ability. But rather we need to remind ourselves that first attempts are often not right and we’re just not there yet.
It was very comforting and refreshing for me to learn this concept as I often find that my ideas for new projects always hover in me with plenty of doubts until I act on them. It gave me permission to be okay with procrastinating on my not yet formed ideas to grow and welcome new creative ideas or possibilities. Apparently Martin Luther King stayed up until 2 a.m. before his speech, tweaking and adjusting his script without finalizing it. Just 15 minutes before the speech he welcomed new inspiration in his existing draft and added the first sentence, “I have a dream.”
3 things to try:
1. Listen to the messages you tell yourself when you fail. Instead of seeing failure negatively view it as an opportunity to develop and grow. Tell yourself that you are not there yet, and learn from your mistakes.
2. Ask yourself what kind of doubts you experience – self-doubt or doubt about ideas? Turn your self-doubts around by reframing them as doubts about ideas, and notice the difference it makes to your energy.
3. Build confidence by taking action, especially when the action involves risk and failure. Step outside your comfort zone and if the very idea feels overwhelming, focus on how your actions can benefit others to kickstart your confidence. Start with small challenges that allow you to grow, improve, and gain confidence. If you fail, think about how you can do it better next time and try again.