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12 Simple Things You Can Do Today To Boost Your Creativity

12 Simple Things You Can Do Today To Boost Your Creativity

“All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning. Great works are often born on a street corner or in a restaurant’s revolving door.”

– Albert Camus

Whether you want to boost creativity for art, business or personal purposes, these techniques will help give your creativity and your project a kickstart. Choose one, two, or try them all! The magic of creativity is that there is no set process or rule book — it’s about experimenting, adopting a lateral thinking mindset and making an effort to start, no matter how ridiculous or bad you think your ideas are.

1. Combine opposites

Regardless of your reasons for wanting to boost your creativity, combining seemingly random concepts, ideas, words, and things together often produces something entirely original. If you haven’t got long to think up ideas and you have to be original and innovative, combining opposites might work for you. Many artists throughout history have used this technique as a method for creating original pieces. Mona Hatoum is one example.

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2. Realize that creativity is a process

Contrary to what many people believe, the whole lightbulb eureka moment often occurs as a result of a long process rather than being something totally out of the blue. If you want to boost your creativity, you can’t expect to be instantly filled with creative ideas. Write your ideas down, play, explore, and more importantly, recognize that creativity is a process that can be continuously developed and expanded.

3. Look at others in your field

I don’t believe in copying someone else’s hard work at all; however, it’s really important to be aware of other artists, designers, or businesses that you like. Ask yourself: What are they doing well? What do I like about it? What can I use as a starting point to develop my own projects? Become an expert in your field and make yourself aware of what others are doing — only then will you be able to spot gaps and different ways of doing things.

4. Don’t get a brainstorm group

Ever read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking? Susan Cain goes into great detail, backed with evidence that suggests that creative brainstorming groups actually hinder creativity, resulting in individuals in the group becoming less creative.

5. Use mind maps

Start with your central theme in the middle; create four sub-themes from the central point and start to expand each sub-theme further using singular words to illustrate your points. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s a good way of laying all your thoughts out in some sort of a visual structure you can look at clearly. You’ll also be able to see which areas need developing, changing or removing.

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6. Keep a notebook handy

Whether it’s your iPad, notebook or scraps of paper, this one goes without saying. You must write down or draw your thoughts, ideas and concepts, no matter how ridiculous or stupid they might sound. You might find that when you revisit ideas, they’ll trigger new ones you’ll then be able to expand upon.

7. Restrict yourself

Sometimes creativity can be stunted when you’ve got too much to play around with. Try limiting yourself; for example, providing yourself with a theme. Sometimes when people are trying to be more creative they can skim over the surface of lots of different ideas and concepts rather than really choosing to hone in on one.

8. Create obstructions

If you’ve got a spare hour or so, watch The Five Obstructions — it’s a documentary about several filmmakers who give each other obstructions to help boost creativity. You could employ the same technique whether you are an artist or not. The concept is about getting out of your comfort zone and doing things you usually do in different ways by giving yourself obstructions. This forces you not to work in a tried and tested manner. If you’re working in a group, you could write down rules or obstructions on bits of paper then take it in turns to pull ideas out of the hat.

9. Feel free

Exercise and get the endorphins flowing; smile at the little things; laugh more… Contrary to popular belief, being creative isn’t about being depressed and miserable. When you’re happy, you’ll feel freer and more responsive to the world around you, which in return will help to boost your creativity.

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10. Let your logical mind rest for a bit

Creativity is hard to pin down; there is no ‘one size fits all’ creativity-boosting rule book. So, when you find yourself cutting ideas off or telling others why something couldn’t possibly work, bite your tongue, because great creative ideas often have a ridiculous, totally illogical beginning. It’s how you respond to the idea that counts.

11. See the world through the eyes of a creative person

“Art is everywhere, except it has to pass through a creative mind.”

— Louise Nevelson

Spend the day capturing the world through a camera, paint spontaneously, dance, write down your observations. Take inspiration from a creative person you admire and imitate what they do for a day to get an idea of how they see the world. Sometimes just a slight shift in outlook can give your creativity a massive boost.

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12. Start now

Be a doer and certainly don’t stop yourself before you’ve even started. This one is probably the most important. Do something small each day to help you boost your creativity, even if this means simply writing down your thoughts and ideas. It’ll really help you in the long run. Creativity, after all, is a journey that can take many interesting twists and turns — you have to start it to really reap the results.

Finally, if anyone else has any creativity-boosting ideas, please share them below. I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’re after further reading, check out lateral thinking author, Edward de Bono.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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