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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.

More by this author

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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