There’s a common misconception that there are creative people and non-creative people out there. But in reality, thinking creatively is not just for the artists and writers of the world, nor is it just something you need to do when you’re looking for a new idea. We’re all born with the ability to think creatively, but like any muscle or brain activity, creativity has to be exercised.
Here are five great ways to boost your creative habit and jumpstart your brain’s creative ability.
Read, Watch and View Everything
One of the major keys to thinking creatively is to consume content outside of your comfort zone. Reading the trades every day along with articles and headlines about your field is good, but confining yourself to the areas you know well doesn’t help you think outside the box. Read a fashion blog or a book about engineering. Watch a video of a carpenter building a chair out of a tree stump or check out the renaissance art wing of a nearby museum. You’re not guaranteed to have a great idea right away, but broadening your horizons can help you jumpstart the process.
When you’re at work, the pressure is on to produce, and that can mean the pressure you put on yourself as much as the pressure from any third party. Since childhood, we’re taught to focus and keep to the task at hand, but allowing your mind to wander has its benefits. Next time you’re stuck while working on a problem or big project, let yourself daydream. Studies have found those who allowed themselves to daydream came up with more creative solutions to presented problems. Just make sure not to spend your whole day lost in the clouds. The key to this method is to get right back to work after letting the problem incubate for a while.
Brainstorm With a Partner
Brainstorming is what most of us turn to when we need an idea or creative solution. Bump it up a notch by getting someone else in the room to bounce ideas off of. Both of you agree to put your judgments aside and have a brainstorming session with no bad ideas. Set a time for your session, state the problem you’re working on and just go. Write down every idea you have, regardless of how outlandish or feasible it may be. At the end of your time, you’ll likely have a long list of ideas. Chances are at least a couple of them are pretty good.
Change Your Habits
If you want to think outside the scope of your usual thoughts, do things that are outside the scope of your usual activities. Go for a midday run outside instead of your usual evening gym session. Walk a different way to the office or try changing up your diet. By changing your physical state or diet, your brain is having a different chemical response, whether it’s reacting to the influx of oxygen from your workout or the essential fatty acids in your grilled salmon dinner.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
The most creative people rarely take things at face value. One of the simplest ways to open up your mind to new information and new ideas is to keep asking questions. Take a look at something that has already happened and ask about everything. Just because a project is finished doesn’t mean you have to stop wondering about it, and in fact, counterfactual thinking — asking open-ended questions to determine why things happened they way they did and what might have been if something had been different — can actually boost creative thinking.
Thinking creatively is something you can and should do to make your everyday life more productive. Give these a shot, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself coming up with new and brilliant ideas without even trying.
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