March 02, 2010

How to be Creative – 21 Ways to Stimulate Original Thoughts

“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” – Pablo Picasso


Are you creative? Although some people may be more inherently gifted in this area than others, we can all learn to be more creative.


Creativity is a major element in high performance. Athletes who demonstrate poise under pressure—like an Olympic gold medalist—have used their imagination to see the victory before it happens.


In fact, most Olympians and pro athletes who’ve had incredible success under pressure have dreamed about it since they were kids. They’ve imagined getting the game-winning hit in their mind so many times, it was like revisiting an old memory when the actual situation came up.


It’s not just athletes. Extraordinary people in all walks of life sharpen their imaginations every day. They connect seemingly unrelated thoughts to create original ideas. Their mind makes a mundane situation interesting; they see things the rest of us overlook.


One of the most critical aspects of high performance—the ability to be fully engaged—comes from creatively finding ways to stay in the moment. We all have a mind that wants to continually revisit the past and jump to the future. It takes creativity to stay present and not get distracted by wayward circumstances.


Here’s 21 ideas to enhance your creativity:

  1. Be foolish. Triumphs of achievement are not logical. Who would have thought man could fly, or that we could land on the moon? David does not beat Goliath with logical thinking, but by believing in the unseen. Do something you would not normally do.
  2. Ask good questions. Questions are more important than answers, because questions stoke creativity, whereas “the right answer” ends it.
  3. Read about and listen to books on CD of those who have achieved greatly and lived fully. Pay particular attention to how they think, and how they perceive everyday situations. They have a different perspective on how they see the world.
  4. Get to the alpha state more often. We spend most of our waking hours being busy. Our mind overanalyzes and gets filled with clutter. Clarity is the foundation for creativity. To clear your mind (and get to the alpha state), get the blood flowing with repetitive exercise like running, roller blading, swimming, etc.
  5. Reduce time spent on attention-deficit activities such as television, video games, and the Internet.
  6. Increase your time spent on attention-building (alpha state) activities such as yoga and meditation, chess and crossword puzzles, as well as other exercises that include balance and rhythm.
  7. Exercise every day, and work your way towards intense exercise at least three times a week.
  8. Take a nap after lunch. Each time before you sleep, nap time or night time, consider a problem you would like to solve and tell yourself, “My subconscious knows exactly the best decision to make in this instance.” Each time you sleep you allow your subconscious to dream about the solution.
  9. Eat whole foods. Consider having the Murphy Power Shake every day—recipe to come.
  10. Be curious, not judgmental. With judgment, curiosity goes out the window. Curiosity asks questions, judgment gives answers—even though it doesn’t have all the information.
  11. Keep a journal. The act of writing down your thoughts helps clear your mind.
  12. Write your morning pages. This technique, popularized by The Artist’s Way author Julia Cameron, is to write 3 pages of whatever thoughts come to mind, without stopping. You can read about it here.
  13. Have creative anchors. An anchor is something that elicits a response (like Pavlov’s dogs). Before I write, I play a certain song and visualize myself getting out of a limo and being escorted by a US Marine to a beautiful office with vaulted ceilings.
  14. Travel abroad. You will be forced to think different thoughts because everything is new.
  15. Brush your teeth with your opposite hand. (I’ve done this so often, I switched to writing with my opposite hand – I’m pretty decent now either hand.)
  16. Drive another way home. (Consider taking the most beautiful route home – not hard when you live in Vancouver).
  17. Study a foreign language—learning a new language actually creates new neural pathways in your brain. (Check out Norman Doidge’s book).
  18. Get in tune with beauty. Beauty is always available, but not always obvious. Practice seeing beauty first, before the ugliness.
  19. Take every seventh day off. Don’t do anything you’re supposed to do. We need to recharge in order to think better thoughts.
  20. Play! Play board games. Play in the mud, the snow, the rain. Having fun is a critical element in creativity.
  21. Listen to uplifting music – and dance to it.

You may also consider reading A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger Von Oech and Creativity by MihalyCsikszentmihalyi.


How do you enhance your creativity?