How to increase your creativity by cultivating creative self-efficacy

Do you think of yourself as someone who is not creative? Creative work can be challenging, and many people lack confidence in their own ability. Psychologists have reported that being unsure, anxious or defeatist about your creative potential can become a self-fulfilling prophecy that hinders your performance.

Creative self-efficacy is the internal belief that you have the ability to complete creative tasks effectively. If you can learn to leave behind the fixed mindset of “I am not a creative person”, you will be able to make more room for personal growth, exploration, and innovation.

Believing in your creative potential

The concept of self-efficacy was first coined by Dr Albert Bandura. Bandura closely studied the relationship between performance and belief in oneself. He noted that those who had a strong sense of efficacy, or belief in oneself, approached challenging tasks with the determination to succeed.

People with high self-efficacy tend to set goals, to become deeply engrossed in the task, and to continue their efforts despite difficulties or setbacks. Rather than feeling threatened by a challenge, they approach it with the confidence that they are in control and will eventually master the task.

Conversely, Bandura noticed that those who tend to back away from difficult tasks do so because of self-doubt and a fear of failure. With little determination to succeed, they are more likely to dwell on their perceived weaknesses. For people with low self-efficacy, obstacles can quickly lead to abandoning the task, compounding an internalised belief that they are incapable of succeeding.

Creative self-efficacy is a specific form of self-efficacy that was first investigated by Dr Pamela Tierney and Dr Steven Farmer. The researchers described creative self-efficacy as “the belief one has the ability to produce creative outcomes”. The greater the belief in your own creativity, the more successful you will be in pursuing your creative goals.

Tierney and Farmer also reported that creativity can be impacted by your confidence in managing the overall demands of your career. If you feel that you are capable of succeeding at work, then you are also more likely to demonstrate good creative performance within your role.

The most interesting part is that although job self-efficacy is a predictor of confidence in your personal creative ability, creative self-efficacy is the greater predictor of your creative performance. 

This is corroborated by the results of Dr Gay Lemons, who found that creative success is most greatly influenced by belief in one’s own ability, rather than by actual creative competence. As you can see, creative self-efficacy is a psychological attribute that greatly influences creative performance, with the potential to further what we can achieve.

How to cultivate creative self-efficacy

Learning how to believe in your own creative ability is as important, if not more so, than developing your creative skills. While it is important to practice and explore new creative skills, cultivating creative self-efficacy can have a great influence on your creativity. Here are some practical ways to cultivate your creative self-efficacy.

1. Develop a creative network. By building a strong professional network of people who are driven to produce excellent creative work, you can start imitating part of their creative self-efficacy to increase your own. Remember that creativity is not restricted to the arts. Everyday professional dilemmas can be solved creatively, whether they relate to project management, delivery of information, or organisation of a complex budget. Watch how your peers apply creative thinking to manage everyday tasks, and start emulating some of these patterns.

2. Get creative support. Identify people whose creative efforts are often successful, and ask whether you can work under their guidance. This could be a quick brainstorming session, a creative review, or just sharing some helpful resources. Support should go both ways: consider whether there is scope to offer your co-workers some of your time to help with their creative growth.

3. Cultivate creative autonomy. The professional freedom to expand on your basic duties and responsibilities can increase your creative self-efficacy. As a bonus, perceived autonomy also has a positive impact on our mood. Creative autonomy involves fostering a growth mindset and self-directed ways of working. If you are a manager, take a step back and try to avoid excessively supervising your team. Instead, make your team feel empowered to succeed via their own methods.

Remember that your creativity is more closely linked to creative self-efficacy than to your actual creative competence. Beyond its immediate benefits, cultivating creative self-efficacy can help you feel more motivated, productive, and can be an opportunity to build a strong professional network.

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