Innovating Through Artistry

Finding Your Sweet Spot

In Author: Adam Shames on August 23, 2009 at 9:24 am

“I believe it is essential that each of us find his or her Element, not simply because it will make us more fulfilled but because, as the world evolves, the very future of our communitieis and institutions will depend on it.” ~Ken Robinson

One of the goals of my work is to help you develop your originality, an essential competency of creativity, and bring it out into the world in fulfilling and valuable ways. Ideally, we would all discover our true calling–that which most reflects who we are and what we enjoy offering–and spend more of our life engaged in its pursuit.

I like to think of this as finding your “sweet spot”–which comes down to actual moments or activities during which you are most deeply and creatively engaged. Sir Ken Robinson in his new book calls this your “Element,” “the meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion.” As I’ve described previously, choreographer Twyla Tharp calls this discovering your “Creative DNA,” and researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls this, in the moment, “Flow.” These different perspectives all help inspire and clarify.

I see the sweet spot of engagement depending on three different components, shown below, which I draw in part from Teresa Amabile’s Componential Theory of Creativity. To be in our sweet spot (marked in yellow), we do need some level of knowledge and skills and past experience of a certain subject or activity. We call this “domain” skills and knowledge. But skills are different from our “natural” talents and intelligences and creative capacities–we can build our skills in sewing, for example, by practice, but if our natural hand-eye coordination is weak, then we’re unlikely to find the sweet spot.

Finally is our own motivation. Being intrinsically motivated–driven by deep interest and involvement in the task/activity, by curiosity, enjoyment, self-expression or personal sense of challenge (rather than being extrinsically motivated by money or another person or a deadline)–is perhaps the most important determinant in finding our sweet spot. Research has shown, Amabile confirmed recently to me, that motivation at work that is primarily intrinsic results in higher productivity and increased creativity compared to a motivation that is primarily extrinsic.

So the great challenge in life should be to get to that sweet intersection, where we are internally motivated to use our natural talents and develop the skills and knowledge necessary to make an impact on the world. Go do it.

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