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The Simplest Ways to Come Up With Really Creative Ideas

The Simplest Ways to Come Up With Really Creative Ideas

It’s painful, isn’t it?

You’ve got loads of energy and a heap of passion. Yet you can’t think of a single really creative idea to develop.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer, artist, engineer, mechanic or person of any profession. Thinker’s Block will arrive. It happens to everyone.

When it does, here are some easy ways to check that frustration out of your life and create an endless pool of ideas.

How to “Brain Dump” and set the stage for coming up with really creative ideas

In a freely available online video called the 50-Minute Focus Finder, real estate guru and marketing genius Dean Jackson reveals a great technique: open a journal to a blank page and start to write. Anything. Just let go.

Although Jackson doesn’t mention this in the video, if you can’t think of anything to write on that page, just put down your name. Write your name again and again until you think of something else.

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Trust me. This isn’t crazy. It’s a great way of boring yourself into coming up with something else. I dare you to try and write your name more than 5 times until something better comes out.

You can also doodle or otherwise scratch at the page.The point is to brain dump. Empty yourself. Make space and the really creative ideas will come.

Become an idea generator

In Choose Yourself!, James Altucher gives a brilliant idea that anyone can use. All you have to do is write down 10 ideas every day.

At first, it might be hard to get 10. If so, start with one. The next day, squeeze out two. Before you know it, you’ll have 10 every day. Soon after that, ideas will flood your imagination. You’ll have more than you could ever use.

And the best part is that you can easily record 10 ideas using the audio recorder on your smartphone if you can’t or don’t want to write.

Recording your ideas by audio will also help train you to think creatively out loud. Your brain will start making a connection between talking and idea generation. This comes in handy during business meetings and even in simple conversations with your friends.

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In case you don’t have Altucher’s Choose Yourself! to look at for his examples (you should get it), here are a few of my own to get your started:

  • All men named Tom join together and try to eliminate everyone named Dick and Harry from the face of the planet.
  • Leonard Cohen sings “I Want To Be Sedated” …while being sedated.
  • Google starts selling “canned results” delivered to your door. The algorithm automatically adds your favorite spices.

I have listed several hundreds of ideas like this since reading Choose Yourself! I’ve felt the impact and it’s improved everything I do that requires creativity.

Of course, a lot of these ideas are bizarre. Some of them make no sense. Others could never be used outside of a film or novel. But that doesn’t matter. The point is that exercises like this keep your mind fluid. And being fluid and responsive is a powerful talent to have.

Write down your dreams

Every morning when you wake up, write down at least one sentence about the dreams you had. It could be a narrative fragment or a simple impression.

If you can’t remember a dream, write down a short story. Just start with “Once upon a time” and keep going with whatever comes to mind.

And if nothing comes to mind, you know what to do. That’s right: write your name over and over again until something else emerges.

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If Thinker’s Block happens, it won’t last long. Do this for a couple of days and soon you’ll be recalling more and more dreams. You may even find that you’ll start lucid dreaming. And if that happens, you’ll find interesting and unexpected ways to become even more creative.

Keep a scrapbook

Sounds old fashioned, I know, but tearing images and phrases from magazines for gathering in a scrapbook will boost your creativity. The act itself is creative because you’re using selectivity. And revisiting it later uses your creative faculties of analysis. After that, it’s just a matter of using the collection of images you see together to come up with new creative ideas.

Make use of déjà vu

We’ve all experienced the feeling that we’ve seen or experienced something before. But how many of us actually write the experience down? What makes this so creative is that you can analyze what pieces of reality needed to come together in order for you to have this experience.

For a great example that will deepen your thinking about déjà vu, check out this scene from The Matrix:

You might also consider thinking about the opposite of déjà vu. Jamais vu occurs when you see something you know you’ve seen thousands of times before, but it still feels strange and unfamiliar. Almost like the first time.

Break patterns

It is pattern breaks that make experiences like déjà vu and jamais vu so powerful and the basis for new creativity. The great news is that you don’t have to wait for these experiences to come along. You can invent them.

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For example, try walking backwards for 20 steps or so the next time you cut through the park. Walk in a circle around a telephone pole you normally ignore. Go into a store that has never interested you in the least and look around.

The reason breaking patterns helps with creativity is that the brain secretes norepinephrine any time you are in novel situations. This chemical increases your focus and helps create new memories. You can later draw upon these enhanced memories while writing, drawing or otherwise engaging in creative activities.

Make the conscious decision to become more creative

All the ideas you’ve just discovered are great. But they can be greater. Simply by making the decision to be a person with really creative ideas, you’ll set your imaginative mind in motion.

Write your decision down on paper or record it by audio or video. Really focus on your intention to be more creative.

Next, get started with your first list of 10 ideas following a total Brain Dump. Make the conscious decision to start recalling your dreams. Tomorrow morning is your first chance to take up this easy and simple habit.

You’re going to benefit a great deal and amaze yourself by just how creative you can be. And the best part is that the more creative you become, the more you creative you can become. It’s a powerful feedback loop that just keeps getting better and better the more you practice.

So…what are you waiting for? Every day you’re not using these simple techniques, you’re leaving creative treasure behind. Creativity is a valuable treasure that could be improving the quality of all areas of your life.

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Last Updated on February 11, 2020

Why Work Life Balance Doesn’t Exist (And How to Stay Sane)

Why Work Life Balance Doesn’t Exist (And How to Stay Sane)

If you’ve ever felt like work-life balance isn’t really possible, you may be right.

Actually, I think work-life balance doesn’t exist. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a rising star in the corporate world, work is always going to overflow from your 9 to 5 into your personal life. And if you have ambitions of becoming successful in just about any capacity, you’re going to have to make sacrifices.

Which is why, instead of striving for the unrealistic goal of “work-life balance,” I use a combination of rituals, tools, and coping mechanisms that allows me to thrive on a day-to-day basis.

Of course, moments still arise when I may feel overloaded with work and a bit out of balance, but with these daily rituals in place, I am able to feel grounded instead of feeling like I’m losing my mind.

Here are five daily practices I use to stay focused and balanced despite a jam-packed work schedule:

1. Pause (Frequently!) to Remember That You Chose This Path

Regardless of which path you take in life, it’s important to remind yourself that you are the one who chose the path you’re on.

For example, one of the joys of being an entrepreneur is that you experience a significant amount of freedom. Unfortunately, in moments of stress, it’s easy to forget that choice goes both ways: you chose to go your own way, and you chose the obstacles that come with that journey.

Remember: tomorrow, you could choose to leave your job, shut down your company, and go move to a farm in the middle of nowhere. The choice is yours.

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Whenever I catch myself thinking, “Why am I doing this?” I simply remember, “Oh, wait. I chose this.” And if I want to, I can choose another option. But at this moment, I own it because I chose it.

That simple mental shift can help me move from feeling out of control to in control. It’s empowering.

2. Use ‘Rocks’ to Prioritize Your Tasks

Sometimes having a to-do list is more overwhelming than it is helpful.

The daily tasks of anyone in a high-stakes, high-responsibility role are never-ending. Literally. No matter how many items you check off your list, each day adds just as many new ones, and even after a full day it can often feel like you haven’t accomplished anything.

So instead, I use “rocks”—a strategy I learned from performance coach Bill Nelson.

Say you have a glass container and a variety of rocks, divided into groups of large, mid-sized, and small rocks, and then some sand. If you put the small rocks in first, you’re not going to be able to fit everything in your container. But if you put the big rocks in first, then the mid-sized, and, finally, the small, they’ll all fit. And at the end, the sand fills the extra space.

The point of this strategy is to designate a handful of your biggest priorities for the week—let’s say five tasks—as the things you absolutely have to get done that week. Write them down somewhere.

Then, even if you accomplish nothing else but those five things, you’re going to feel better, since you completed the important tasks. You’ve made progress!

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Identifying your “rocks” is a better way of tracking progress and ensuring that you focus on the most critical things. You can create rocks on a weekly or even daily basis.

Some days, when I’m feeling the most frenzied, I say to myself, “You know what? Let’s boil it down. If I accomplish nothing else today and I just do these three things, it will be a good day.”

3. The PEW12 Method

Of all the daily practices I follow, Purge Emotional Writing (PEW12), which I learned from Dr. Habib Sadeghi, is my favorite.[1]

Here’s how it works:

Pick a topic, set a timer for 12 minutes, and just write.

You may be dealing with a specific issue you need to vent about, or you may be free-writing as emotions surface. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing or what your handwriting looks like, because you’re never going to re-read it.

At the end, burn the pages.

As the paper burns, you will feel all of those emotions you’ve just poured out either being reduced or dissipating completely. Both the writing process—which is literally unloading all of your unnecessary stuff—and the burning of the pages feel incredibly cathartic.

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And you can do PEW12 as frequently or infrequently as you feel you need it—once, twice, or multiple times a day.  

The reason I find this exercise so helpful is because, sometimes, I get in my head about a difficult issue or troubling interaction with someone, even when I know there is nothing to be done about it.

But as soon as I do my PEW12, I feel a sense of relief. I have more clarity. And I stop circling and circling the issue in my head. It makes things feel resolved. Just try it.

4. Set Sacred Time (Like a 20-Minute Walk or Evening Bath)

Outside of work, you have to try to protect some time for restoration and quiet. I call this sacred time.

For example, every single night I take a bath. This is a chance to literally wash off the day and any of the energy from the people, interactions, or experiences that I don’t want to take to bed with me.

I actually remodeled a bathroom in my house solely for this purpose. The bath ritual—which includes Himalayan bath salts, essential oils, and a five-minute meditation—is the ultimate “me time” and allows me to go to bed feeling peaceful and relaxed.

And while sacred time to end the day is crucial, I like to start the day with these types of practices, too.

In the mornings, I take my dog Bernard for a walk—and I use those 20 minutes to set my intention for the day. I don’t take my phone with me. I don’t think about the endless to-do list. I just enjoy listening to the birds and breathing in the sunshine, while Bernard stops to say hi to the neighbors and their dogs.

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These might seem like ordinary daily activities, but it’s the commitment to doing them day after day that makes all the difference.

5. Forgive Yourself When You Fail to Use the Tools

Sometimes our intention to follow “daily” practices falls flat. When this happens to me, I try not to beat myself up about it. After all, these things are tools to make me feel good. If they just become another chore, what is the point?

At the end of the day, my daily practices don’t belong in my jar of rocks or on my to-do list or in my daily planner. They are there to serve me.

If, for some reason, life happens and I can’t do my practices, I won’t feel as good. It’s possible I won’t sleep as well that night, or I’ll feel a little guilty that I didn’t walk Bernard.

But that’s okay. It’s also a good practice to acknowledge my limits and let go of the need to do everything all the time.

The Bottom Line

For most people, accepting that work-life balance simply isn’t possible is the first step to feeling more grounded and in control of your life.

Don’t waste your energy trying to achieve something that doesn’t exist. Instead, focus on how you’re feeling when things are out of balance and find a way to address those feelings.

You’ll have a toolkit for feeling better when life feels crazy, and, on the off chance things feel calm and happy, your rituals will make you feel absolutely amazing!

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Featured photo credit: Dries De Schepper via unsplash.com

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