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4 Simple Rules To Be More Creative

4 Simple Rules To Be More Creative

Suffering from writer’s block? Lacking creativity? Often we have the physical energy to do the task at hand, but there’s something missing that’s difficult to pin down.

So we pose ourselves the question, “How can we stimulate our brains to be more creative?” It’s a question with no simple answer. Unfortunately, you can’t just become Steve Jobs overnight. What you can do is take on advice from people whose very success is dependent on their creative output.

“Inspiration exists but it has to find you at work.” – Picasso

It’s important to combine work and leisure and, most importantly, not to expect creativity to find you if you’re leading an inactive life. In his new book, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang (a researcher at Silicon Valley’s Institute for the Future) explores the value of leisure as being an aid rather than an enemy to creativity.

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He sees Picasso as a great example of someone who adapted their lifestyle to aid their creativity. As Soojung-Kim Pang puts it, “people who have long creative lives, who do really great work for decades, they don’t get inspired and start work. They start work and get inspired. And they do this every day.”

Though overworking leads to burnout, a sure-fire way to be less creative and less productive, it’s still important to be active. Mexico and South Korea have longer working weeks and working calendar years than places like Scandinavia, France, and Germany. They also have lower productivity rates. Soojung-Kim Pang emphasises the importance of leisure as it allows time for reflection and for ideas to hatch. This doesn’t mean lying around though.[1]

Overcome Perfectionism and the Fear of Rejection

Having written more than 500 books throughout his career, Isaac Asimov is one of the most prolific writers out there. He has some great advice. Don’t always strive for perfection. Start your work and then fine-tune it.

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Asimov wrote in detail in his autobiography about his own process and how he stayed so prolific over a long period of time:[2]

“Think of yourself as an artist making a sketch to get the composition clear in his mind, the blocks of color, the balance, and the rest. With that done, you can worry about the fine points.”

Perfectionism can only lead to self-doubt. It’s great to have high standards, but are they so high they’re holding you back? It may be time to adjust them.

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Focus on Quantity More Than Quality

Asimov gives the last section’s advice having suffered from perfectionism himself. He, of course, found a way to deal with the problem.

Being prolific is, in itself, a great way to avoid dwelling on past failures. In other words, work a lot and you will be less of a perfectionist because you’ll be too busy to dwell on the negative criticism. This, in turn, will help you to take more risks and be more creative.

As Asimov puts it, “by the time a particular book is published, the [writer] hasn’t much time to worry about how it will be received or how it will sell. By then he has already sold several others and is working on still others and it is these that concern him. This intensifies the peace and calm of his life.”

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Don’t Seek Praise But Criticism

Modern society is set up in such a way that it’s so easy to surround ourselves with exactly what we want to see and hear. We can adapt our feeds on social media and block people who annoy us on our devices, allowing us to be very selective about who we have time for. This isn’t a bad thing unless you’re also surrounding yourself with ‘yes men.’

This, in psychological terminology, is called confirmation bias.[3] It is the tendency to seek out, and to favor, information that confirms our own beliefs. Everyone does it to a certain extent; we tend to read media from news outlets that mirror our own political beliefs.

When it’s a real problem, though, is when you avoid negative criticism like it’s the plague. As Steve Jobs put it, “stay hungry, stay foolish.” Don’t dwell on negative criticism to the point where you’re too scared to try something new. Instead take it on board. If the criticism was given maliciously, their jealousy and negative criticism means you must be doing something right. If someone gives you useful and constructive criticism, on the other hand, keep that person around.

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Christopher Young

Freelance Blogger, Writer and Journalist

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Last Updated on November 15, 2019

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

Habits are hard to kill, and rightly so. They are a part and parcel of your personality traits and mold your character.

However, habits are not always something over-the-top and quirky enough to get noticed. Think of subtle habits like tapping fingers when you are nervous and humming songs while you drive. These are nothing but ingrained habits that you may not realize easily.

Just take a few minutes and think of something specific that you do all the time. You will notice how it has become a habit for you without any explicit realization. Everything you do on a daily basis starting with your morning routine, lunch preferences to exercise routines are all habits.

Habits mostly form from life experiences and certain observed behaviors, not all of them are healthy. Habitual smoking can be dangerous to your health. Similarly, a habit could also make you lose out on enjoying something to its best – like how some people just cannot stop swaying their bodies when delivering a speech.

Thus, there could be a few habits that you would want to change about yourself. But changing habits is not as easy as it seems, why?

What Makes It Hard To Change A Habit?

To want to change a particular habit means to change something very fundamental about your behavior.[1] Hence, it’s necessary to understand how habits actually form and why they are so difficult to actually get out of.

The Biology

Habits form in a place what we call the subconscious mind in our brain.[2]

Our brains have two modes of operation. The first one is an automatic pilot kind of system that is fast and works on reflexes often. It is what we call the subconscious part. This is the part that is associated with everything that comes naturally to you.

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The second mode is the conscious mode where every action and decision is well thought out and follows a controlled way of thinking.

A fine example to distinguish both would be to consider yourself learning to drive or play an instrument. For the first time you try learning, you think before every movement you make. But once you have got the hang of it, you might drive without applying much thought into it.

Both systems work together in our brains at all times. When a habit is formed, it moves from the conscious part to the subconscious making it difficult to control.

So, the key idea in deconstructing a habit is to go from the subconscious to the conscious.

Another thing you have to understand about habits is that they can be conscious or hidden.

Conscious habits are those that require active input from your side. For instance, if you stop setting your alarm in the morning, you will stop waking up at the same time.

Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that we do without realizing. These make up the majority of our habits and we wouldn’t even know them until someone pointed them out. So the first difficulty in breaking these habits is to actually identify them. As they are internalized, they need a lot of attention to detail for self-identification. That’s not all.

Habits can be physical, social, and mental, energy-based and even be particular to productivity. Understanding them is necessary to know why they are difficult to break and what can be done about them.

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The Psychology

Habits get engraved into our memories depending on the way we think, feel and act over a particular period of time. The procedural part of memory deals with habit formation and studies have observed that various types of conditioning of behavior could affect your habit formations.

Classical conditioning or pavlovian conditioning is when you start associating a memory with reality.[3] A dog that associates ringing bell to food will start salivating. The same external stimuli such as the sound of church bells can make a person want to pray.

Operant conditioning is when experience and the feelings associated with it form a habit.[4] By encouraging or discouraging an act, individuals could either make it a habit or stop doing it.

Observational learning is another way habits could take form. A child may start walking the same way their parent does.

What Can You Do To Change a Habit?

Sure, habits are hard to control but it is not impossible. With a few tips and hard-driven dedication, you can surely get over your nasty habits.

Here are some ways that make use of psychological findings to help you:

1. Identify Your Habits

As mentioned earlier, habits can be quite subtle and hidden from your view. You have to bring your subconscious habits to an aware state of mind. You could do it by self-observation or by asking your friends or family to point out the habit for your sake.

2. Find out the Impact of Your Habit

Every habit produces an effect – either physical or mental. Find out what exactly it is doing to you. Does it help you relieve stress or does it give you some pain relief?

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It could be anything simple. Sometimes biting your nails could be calming your nerves. Understanding the effect of a habit is necessary to control it.

3. Apply Logic

You don’t need to be force-fed with wisdom and advice to know what an unhealthy habit could do to you.

Late-night binge-watching just before an important presentation is not going to help you. Take a moment and apply your own wisdom and logic to control your seemingly nastily habits.

4. Choose an Alternative

As I said, every habit induces some feeling. So, it could be quite difficult to get over it unless you find something else that can replace it. It can be a simple non-harming new habit that you can cultivate to get over a bad habit.

Say you have the habit of banging your head hard when you are angry. That’s going to be bad for you. Instead, the next time you are angry, just take a deep breath and count to 10. Or maybe start imagining yourself on a luxury yacht. Just think of something that will work for you.

5. Remove Triggers

Get rid of items and situations that can trigger your bad habit.

Stay away from smoke breaks if you are trying to quit it. Remove all those candy bars from the fridge if you want to control your sweet cravings.

6. Visualize Change

Our brains can be trained to forget a habit if we start visualizing the change. Serious visualization is retained and helps as a motivator in breaking the habit loop.

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For instance, to replace your habit of waking up late, visualize yourself waking up early and enjoying the early morning jog every day. By continuing this, you would naturally feel better to wake up early and do your new hobby.

7. Avoid Negative Talks and Thinking

Just as how our brain is trained to accept a change in habit, continuous negative talk and thinking could hamper your efforts put into breaking a habit.

Believe you can get out of it and assert yourself the same.

Final Thoughts

Changing habits isn’t easy, so do not expect an overnight change!

Habits took a long time to form. It could take a while to completely break out of it. You will have to accept that sometimes you may falter in your efforts. Don’t let negativity seep in when it seems hard. Keep going at it slowly and steadily.

More About Changing Habits

Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com

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