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Are you as creative as you want to be?

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Are you as creative as you want to be?

Try these powerful ways to boost your innovation further

Bird

Some people doubt whether creativity can be learned, let alone taught. They assume it is some kind of genetic gift; you either have it or you don’t, and you can do little or nothing to change that fact.

Yet nearly all creative people have some things in common, and that at least suggests that encouraging those same traits and actions in yourself could help you make the most of whatever creativity you have naturally.

The “genetic” view of creativity may explain part of each person’s ability to innovate, but any gift has to be nurtured and released to make it useful. I think that a “naturally gifted” person who takes his or her creativity for granted, and does little to keep it sharp, may well be less innovative in practice than someone with less natural aptitude but more determination to develop.

With that in mind, I offer these observations on ways to extend and polish your own innovative powers, whatever they might be. By using such approaches diligently, you can indeed become more creative than you are today — and maybe more creative than you even imagine.

Keep topping up your tank

You can’t drive a car forever on a single tank of gas — not even a hybrid. You may eat a vast meal today, but if you don’t eat again ever, you’ll starve to death.

Creative people know that fresh ideas do not arise in a vacuum. Creativity needs raw material: it needs continual exposure to more knowledge and other peoples’ thinking to allow it to appear. First come knowledge and ideas as raw material; then you will also need the understanding and skill to take your creative impulse and express it for others.

Without sufficient input, creativity soon withers. That is why writers are usually voracious readers and musicians listen to a great deal of music beyond their own. They need input. And since there is no knowing in advance which particular fact, experience, or idea will be the one to set off a creative chain-reaction, they get all that they can.

An aspiring writer who doesn’t read is doomed to mediocrity from the start. A hopeful thinker of new thoughts will produce only banal repetitions, unless he or she constantly seeks out what others have thought before.

Seek out as many new experiences as you can

Not all the input creativity demands can come from book-learning and the classroom. New sources of experience and new stimuli are important to trigger ideas — especially when those experiences come in circumstances unfamiliar to us.

Whether it’s visiting other countries and cultures, trying new foods and ways of living, or just spending time with people outside your normal social circle, such jolts to your comfortable, well-known mental pathways can set you off in totally new and unexpected directions.

The more you cling to your comfort-zones, the less likely you are to be able to see beyond them, let alone stimulate your mind to produce new ideas.

Keep challenging yourself

Creative people are constantly putting themselves into situations that challenge them in some significant way: intellectually, practically, or in terms of understanding. They take risks that less creative people shy away from. They put themselves directly in the path of looming obstacles and go to the dangerous edge of that chosen field, where one slip may mean a bad fall.

As a result, creative people make enormous numbers of mistakes — and do so willingly. Perhaps 90% or more of their ideas turn out to be completely impractical — even wholly mistaken. It doesn’t matter to them much, if at all.

Like the prospector panning for gold, they know they have to sift through a whole heap of dirt to find that gleaming nugget of pure wonder. And they won’t be able to do that without going into inhospitable places and taking big risks — nor without pushing themselves close to the edge of what they can handle.

Ignore automatic criticism — especially your own

It’s a truism that a good many creative geniuses have endured long periods when the rest of the world judged them to be fools, wasting their time with crazy notions. Some spent their whole lives being despised, only to be recognized as amazing years after a pauper’s death. Some received their due praise only in old age. But they all kept going.

Creative people focus on the ideas, not the evaluation. They preserve their thoughts first and only later submit them to some kind of evaluation. They know too that what may seem at first to be useless may be an essential step towards final triumph.

And if they persist in the face of derision from other people, they are even more determined when it comes to ignoring their own, inner critic.

Many peoples’ creativity is stifled at birth by self-judgmental impulses. Indeed, that’s likely the greatest reason why the majority of people fail to use the creativity they have: any new idea is squashed instantly by negative thoughts in their own minds. They never risk being rated a fool by others because they dismiss themselves as foolish first.

How to make the best of whatever creativity you have

Try using these observations to improve your own ability to exercise whatever creativity is in you:

  • Gain all the learning you can in your chosen field. There is no such thing as too much input, so long as you don’t take it as gospel truth and convince yourself you can never have a new idea.
  • Keep seeking out fresh experiences. Don’t be content with what works today. When the creative person finds that something isn’t broken, he or she promptly breaks it to make a better one.
  • Keep challenging yourself. Never be content. When you can do something well, move on and try things you know you can’t to.
  • Make lots of mistakes cheerfully and never be embarrassed because you got it wrong. At least you now know what won’t work, so you can move on.
  • Don’t let yourself and your ideas be squashed by criticism, internal or external. If what you are working on is truly new, others won’t understand it — and most people scorn whatever they don’t understand. Your inner critic is usually the voice of convention, so the more it squeals in protest, the more creative you have just been!

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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