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3 Strategies to Generate Creative Energy

3 Strategies to Generate Creative Energy

    At the end of the week — or even the end of a Monday — you are depleted. You’ve given your all, physically and emotionally. You can’t imagine thinking about one more creative solution or doing one more chore. How will you do it all again tomorrow?

    When you do work you love and engage in a purposeful life, it’s hard to recognize when it’s time to stop. While there is a big difference in the tired you feel after working a soul sucking job and doing work that makes your heart sing, you are tired either way.

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    Instead of waiting until something’s gotta give, recharge on a regular basis. By carving out this time, you will be more creative, productive and happy and less grumpy, blocked and miserable to be around.

    Recharging and refocusing allows you to generate creative energy.

    Your Creative Energy Strategies

    Take a Nap

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    The longer you’re awake, the more difficult it is for your brain to store new information, whether it’s names and faces, the details of a conversation, or your grocery list. An afternoon nap seems to refresh this short-term memory and open your mind for new information, researchers found. This makes sense to me. I am much sharper in the morning and tend to get a little fuzzy towards the end of the day when it comes to processing new material.

    In the study, the researchers asked 39 college students to learn a series of new names and faces at noon and match the faces and names a few minutes later. They then performed the same test at 6 p.m. the same day. A group of students who took a 90-minute afternoon nap at 2 p.m. performed better than non-napping students, who had a serious decline in their memory test scores.

    “Why? The part of your brain where short-term information and memories are stored is a bit like your email inbox, says the study’s lead author, Matthew P. Walker, the head of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. “You can only receive so many emails before your inbox starts to bounce,” he says. “When you sleep, essentially what you may be doing is clearing out that inbox to another folder, so you have a refreshed capacity to receive new emails.”

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    Move every day

    The best way to stimulate creative ideas is to move. Take a walk, go to a yoga class, or jump in a pool every day. Taking 10-60 minutes to disengage from your work and get your heart rate up will actually save you time. You’ll spend less time procrastinating and more time creating. Have a small notebook and pencil nearby while you are exercising, and get ready for the ideas to flow.

    Give

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    You are so wrapped up in your work and your life that when you step away and focus on someone else, you will naturally relax and take yourself less seriously. All the little things that cause stress and anxiety will become less important when you give and help someone else. Give your time, talent and treasure to benefit a worthy organization or individual. They benefit from your gift and your creativity will soar.

    Don’t wait until you crash and burn. Instead, intentionally add these healthy habits into your daily life. By simply directing your energy to napping, moving and giving, you will benefit in more ways than one. Not only will you experience more creativity, but better health as well.

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    Courtney Carver

    Courtney Carver is a speaker, author, productivity expert and founder of Be More with Less.

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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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