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Not Good At Creativity? You Will Be After Reading This.

Not Good At Creativity? You Will Be After Reading This.

Do you ever look at the work of your friends and colleagues and wish you were as creative as they are?  How about when you’re in the middle of a project and you run out of ideas?  You rack your brain trying to force the next great epiphany but nothing comes.

So you take a break for a while and move on to something else. You might even lose sleep over it. You return to it the next day and find that you’re not closer to any inspiration than you were when you left it. It takes you forever to come up with mediocre ideas while the people around you are producing masterpieces left and right.

The problem isn’t that you’re not creative. The problem is that you’re not tapping into your own resources. It takes intentionally developed mental strength to be creative.

1. Overcome any self-doubt.

Self-doubt is a mental block that wipes out creativity. If you are notorious for having self doubt, try this exercise to open up the flood gates of creativity.

Picture your finished project.  What does it feel like?  Whom has it inspired? Picture it well, smell it, taste it, feel it. Now take a mental picture. This is now your mental model that’s attached to this project. When the doubt creeps in, pull this picture and the feeling attached to it into your conscious mind. Your self-doubt should crumble away.

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“The worst enemy to creativity is self doubt.”  –Sylvia Plath

And by the way, you can write about anything in life if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.

2. Make time.

Set time aside to work on your project. Incorporate a creative environment that brings inspiration, motivation and comfort.

“One very important aspect of motivation is the willingness to stop and to look at things that no one else has bothered to look at. This simple process of focusing on things that are normally taken for granted is a powerful source of creativity.” –Edward de Bono

3. Keep an open mind.

The subconscious mind is always coming up with ideas. They come in phrases, pictures, and sometimes in pieces, like a puzzle. Stay open to little ideas that crop up.  Don’t dismiss them as stupid or ridiculous. Write these epiphanies down and stay open.  It might not be the entire picture, but it could, quite possibly be an important piece of the puzzle. Research, explore and broaden your horizons.

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“Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people” –Leo Burnett

4. Fight fear of failure and rejection.

Don’t ever be afraid of creating junk. The most beautiful masterpieces, in art and in life, begin as what appears as junk.

Your mistakes and rejections can be masterpieces for someone else.  When you make a mistake, or are rejected, learn from that experience to help someone else.  Most of the time, when you make a mistake, or try to help someone else from being turned down, you find new inspiration and ideas.

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” –Scott Adams

5. Build confidence with baby steps.

When a child learns to walk they begin by falling—a lot. They keep practicing, and falling (failing) until finally they can take big steps. One tiny step sets the foundation for a bigger step tomorrow. Start by working in small time increments.

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When you do short bursts, it opens up your subconscious to “marinate” the ideas you’ve already worked on and to combine those with new ones. It’s called the Incubation Process and it’s a powerful technique for creativity and productivity.

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” –Maya Angelou

6. Brainstorm.

Write down everything you can think of that might work or be something you will need at some point.  Look at it from different angles. For example, look at it from the customer’s view when considering value. Look at it from a child’s view when considering simplicity.  Keep writing until your brain is exhausted of ideas.

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try” –Dr. Seuss

7. Incubate.

Brainstorming is the conscious process; incubating is the subconscious process. This is where the majority of creativity comes from. If you really want to boost your creativity, take a break from your project after brainstorming so that your subconscious can bring forth ideas. Literally sleep on it if you have time and see what a huge difference this makes.

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“Creativity is one of the last remaining legal ways of gaining an unfair advantage over the competition.” –Ed Mc Cabe

Mastering the art of creativity simply means combining the mental strength to utilize both your conscious and unconscious mind. Use these tips every single day to increase your mental strength and you will find that the floodgates of creativity will burst open.

Go here for more ways to spur creativity.

Featured photo credit: http://www.morguefile.com/creative/jdurham via morguefile.com

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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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