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How To Get Your Inborn Creativity Back

How To Get Your Inborn Creativity Back

Many people want to be more creative. But most of them also doubt if creativity is a gifted talent that cannot be learned. To find the truth, scientists did some experiments which results were astonishing and at the same time encouraging.

Creativity is indeed an inborn talent, and everyone has it

In 1968, George Land tested 1,600 children’s performance in a creativity test that was originally designed for NASA to recruit innovative scientists. The children were tested at different ages.

Test results

5 year olds who passed the test: 98%
10 year olds who passed the test: 30%
15 year olds who passed the test: 12%

Interestingly, there’s an obvious down trend: the older we are, the less creative we become.

Creativity is not a random gift that only belongs to the lucky minority; we all are gifted with creativity when we were born.

What happens, though, is that during our course of life, we start to “unlearn” our creativity.

Education is the murderer of creativity

Once we enter schools, our brains are stuffed with numbers and vocabulary. All these do not encourage creativity but conformity. Under the current education system, children learn to fulfil teachers’ expectations, pass the exams, and suppress their creative ideas.

Remember, the education system is so because it was designed 200 years ago in the Industrial Revolution to train people to be obedient. It may work well for factory workers, but not for us living in this dynamic world.

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So then, the question is: how get our inborn creativity back?

Creativity, as defined by Richard N. Foster, a lecturer in Yale, is “the ability to find associations between different fields of knowledge, especially ones that appear radically different at first” [1].

Years ago, phone, camera and computer are just three completely unrelated gadgets. But Steve Jobs thought they could be related and decided to combine them into a single device.

Creativity is really about making unexpected linkages.

And to train ourselves to make such linkages, there are exercises we can do on a daily basis.

The Two-word exercise 

In an experiment, neuroscientist Paul Howard Jones asked the subjects to create a story by combing relevant ideas, such as “brush”, “teeth”, and “shine”, and then create another story by combining irrelevant ideas, such as “cow”, “zip”, and “star”. Surprisingly, the stories created with irrelevant words are far more creative than the relevant ones [2].

To apply the study result of Jones’s experiment, we suggest you to start with two words first, instead of three.

Demonstration

Two words given:

  • Man      
  • Cat

First you can think about their relationship, and then think about the environment. Where are they? Are they in the same place or not?

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When you are creating the scenario, try to add more details. This would further boost your creativity.

Our example is:

“After his wife passed away, the cat became his only companion. Every night, when he feeds the cat, he would recall the time he spent with his lovely wife.”

You may find it hard at first. But don’t worry! You can begin with the following guiding questions:

  • What do they look like?
  • What is their interaction?
  • Any emotions triggered?
  • When they first meet each other, what do they say to each other?
  • In what places do they meet?
  • What is the smell, the sound, the temperature of the place?

Once you can create a scenario, you can challenge yourself to create more, let’s say four. We suggest five more examples as follows.

Remember don’t be afraid that your story is too crazy. Just catch whatever jumps up at your head.

When you finish, you can scroll down.

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Possible ideas:

  1. A high-school student has been bullied by his classmates. Every day when he sees the lonely cat around the corner when walking back home, he feels that he can understand her feelings very well.
  2. On one hot day, at lunch time a construction worker sat on the roof of the house he was working on. The person who hired him was a tycoon. The pet cat in this family looked snobby. She ate lavishly and even had her own big room. The construction worker looked at the cat, and wondered why even a cat led a better life than him.
  3. The cat had been spoiled so much by his master since she was brought from the pet store. However, one night an attractive woman came. And the cat felt that she could no longer get his master’s attention anymore.
  4. It rained heavily, and the stream was flooding heavily. A cat carelessly fell into the stream. A man while rushing back to collect the laundry saw the cat. He stopped, and hesitated whether he should jump into the stream to save the cat or not.

Now, since you have already successfully created four scenarios, you should aim higher!

We suggest you create ten scenarios out of two irrelevant ideas every day.

You may take 15 minutes every day, sit in a quiet room, and contemplate over the two ideas.

The time limit here is important, as you can only boost your creativity effectively, if you force yourself under time pressure.

If you need help in generating irrelevant words, you may go to the following word generator: Random Word Generator.

Reference

[1] Yale Insight: What Is Creativity?
[2] The Huffington Post: 25 Ways To Be More Creative: Inc.

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Chris Cheung

Editorial Intern, Lifehack

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Last Updated on October 22, 2019

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

4. Get up and Move

We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

The Bottom Line

It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

More Resources About Boosting Focus and Productivity

Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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