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Education Kills Our Creativity, Here Is How We Can Regain It

Education Kills Our Creativity, Here Is How We Can Regain It

Society stresses the importance of education. Good grades in school propel a kid to a prestigious institution; and getting into a world-renowed college leads to a bright, successful future. And this generation is lucky, we are mostly well-educated.

Ironically, schools mainly stuff information in our brains. Even though we are more educated, somehow our creativity is suppressed.

Yeah right, I’m not in the creative industry, it doesn’t matter.

No, having creativity is key nowadays. Any industry needs innovation, and it’s the most important component for success. When we step into society, problems and roadblocks are everywhere. And soon, we realize we lack creativity to solve them.

Scholars [1] have identified two thinking process: convergent thinking and divergent thinking. Education focuses on convergent thinking — emphasizes on finding definite, absolute answers. But in reality, we actually need divergent thinking more, which is the ability to find more than one way to solve problems, and it is essential to creativity.

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How important is divergent thinking?

In a research conducted by neuroscientist Nancy C. Andreasen[2], she discovered IQ is not the factor to a creative genius, but having divergent thinking is. She writes:

Assuming that creativity is a trait everyone has in varying amounts, those with the highest scores (in the skill of divergent thinking) can be classified as exceptionally creative and selected for further study.

School equips us with knowledge we need, and we have more than enough training in convergent thinking, but to be creative once we leave the education system, divergent thinking is what we need to work on, and here’s how:

Challenge yourself to think of 10 options to solve a problem.

Often when we come across a problem, we only think of 1, or mostly 2-3 options. We then hold on to the possible solutions and deeply analyze the pros and cons. 90% of the time, we reject the option we proposed and get frustrated at ourselves.

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We have all been in this situation: In a meeting, person A suggests a solution and everyone starts to evaluate the option. Then person B proposes another option, the same happens. Afterwards, everyone is banning everyone else’s suggestions, and waiting for the BEST solution to come around.

Can you imagine how unproductive is that?

So I challenge you (or you could challenge yourself too): when you encounter a problem, try to think of AT LEAST 10 OPTIONS. Ignore the feasibility for a minute.

For example, your boss asks you to fix the problem of decreasing views on your company’s website. The usual approach is to make a suggestion and assess the option. But with divergent thinking, we should first come up with many different ideas, like to use Instagram to attract younger viewers, change the layout of the web, fix bugs, develop new features, and more. We then go through the list and weigh the pros and cons.

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But I can’t come up with 10 ideas, what can I do?

British science writer Matt Ridley[3] introduced the concept of “idea sex”, which means combining two ideas to “reproduce” a new idea. It is particularly useful when you run out of ideas. To put it in other words, idea sex is like mixing and matching outfits with a limited amount of clothes.

Still a bit confused? Here is more of Matt Ridley’s TED talk on “idea sex”.

What else should I do if I don’t even have a solid idea?

“Creativity is just connecting things,” Steve Jobs once said. He also thought “most people don’t have enough dots to connect because they haven’t had many diverse experiences.” To be creative or innovative, we need a broad knowledge base.

Ever scrolled through Facebook and paused at an intriguing post, then told youself “nah, I’m not interested” and continued scrolling?

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Sometimes, we are too picky to the knowledge we absorb. Similar to the approach of convergent thinking, we look at something and immediately put it into the “yes” or “no” bin. It doesn’t hurt to expand your knowledge base, you never know when the information you acquired is going to be useful.

Creativity doesn’t equal the number of ideas you generate.

Don’t be mistaken, being creative is not measured by how many ideas you have, it rather requires the ability to turn abstract ideas into practical solutions. Always keep a clear objective in mind when generating ideas, you will later realize it makes divergent thinking easier and smoother, and finally boosts your creativity.

Reference

[1]Harvard Professional Development: Convergent vs. Divergent Thinking
[2]The Atlantic: Secrets of the Creative Brain
[3]The Week: What is ‘idea sex’?

More by this author

Frank Yung

Writer. Storyteller. Foodie.

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Last Updated on October 17, 2018

7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

How is your memory? Is your cognitive function as strong as you’d like it to be?

If not, then you’re definitely going to be interested in the memory improvement tips I’ll be sharing with you in this article.

Despite what you might think – or have been told – improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it. (Don’t worry, as you won’t need to make any significant lifestyle changes.)

So how to improve memory? Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve your memory significantly.

1. Meditate

We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts and figures into our conscious minds.

Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. And research suggests that the more information and distractions, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory.[1]

Fortunately, meditation can help you out.

Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

If you need help in shifting into a meditative state, I recommend trying an app like Headspace – which can assist you to achieve this in a convenient and structured way.

And don’t forget, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

2. Get plenty of sleep

If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then I’m guessing you’re not remembering well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities – including your memory.

How much sleep should you be getting?

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Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation, you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things.

Now, I’ll be honest with you, maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!). But if you care about improving your short-term and long-term ability to remember things, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

Are there ways to hack the sleep cycle?

Yes, there are.

Try these three things:

  • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
  • Don’t eat too late
  • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory…

3. Challenge your brain

When was the last time you challenged your brain?

I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or undersleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and memory games.

To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself, has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-thinking ability and memory.

There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

  • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
  • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
  • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live – while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it, try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

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4. Take more breaks

When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctively remember working all the hours under the sun – and many under the moon too!

At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat and tears.

However, I was wrong.

Taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

Let me explain.

Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it – in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

Namely, extended study sessions are rarely a good thing, as your ability to retain information naturally declines after a certain period of time.

It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

It’s the same with your brain. If you overload it with information, you’ll suffer from mental fatigue.

What’s the answer?

Make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

If you don’t want to be as regimented as that, then take breaks as soon as you find yourself losing the ability to focus on the new material. Your brain will thank you – and your learning aptitude will move up a level.

5. Learn a new skill

I love this quote, as it’s 100% true – but frequently overlooked:

“Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

Let me give you an example of this:

Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day – many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you – rather than letting you work in your own way.

Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like, and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction in to learning a new skill (computer coding). It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career – and the ongoing learning made the call centre job much more bearable.

Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking our new information. And when learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly, becomes a habit too.

6. Start working out

If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory.

Regular exercise increases blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. And a well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

“But I just don’t have the time?,” I hear you say.

Not a problem.

A research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise, offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines.[2] So, if you’re short on time – now you know what to do.

Interested in getting started?

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Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

  • Join a gym
  • Join a sports team
  • Buy a bike
  • Take up hiking
  • Dance to your favorite music

7. Eat healthier foods

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

This applies to your brain too.

The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health too.

Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery and dark chocolate. But anything high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory.

Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain – leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

Want to be mentally healthy? Then eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

  • Turmeric – helps new brain cells grown
  • Broccoli – protects the brain against damage
  • Nuts – improves memory
  • Green tea – enhances brain performance, memory and focus[3]
  • Fish oilfish oil supplements can increase your brain power

Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

Final thoughts

I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be of help to you.

You don’t need to implement them all. I suggest just trying the ones that appeal to you.

But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested. I’m confident you won’t regret it.

Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

Reference

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