Without taking your pen off the paper, draw 4 lines through the 9 dots below!
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[Answer at the end]
If you want an example of creativity in action, take a look at your kids. Have you ever overheard children talking to their friends in a tree or dolls house? Kids are creative masterminds. They see few boundaries, feel at one with themselves and have a reduced set of social inhibitions. They have experienced far less conditioning from society in terms of how to think, defining what is good, bad or desirable (try to keep it that way as long as you can!).
Here are some pointers if you feel that your creative muscles are slacking!
We are naturally designed to be creative
Creativity, is part of being human not a privileged state that is unattainable by most of us. We can all use our imagination, our unique perspective and the events that only we have experienced in order to look at the world from our point of view. We are all different, which means that we all can see things differently to everyone else. Embracing that belief can make us more likely to pursue the ideas and opportunities that are thrown our way whatever time of night or day. Working hard is not the answer and in many cases will block creative solutions as we try to force a result. Being creative should be fun and easy. In fact, the state of flow that psychologists describe, when our minds are free and there are no blockages is the most efficient and creative state we can be in.
In a similar way to the daily ebb and flow of our appetite or energy levels, so too are there times our creative juices flow more or less. Personally, a block of wood is more creative than I am in the hours after waking up. It is therefore pointless trying to come up with a new idea or article at that time of the day. I would much rather use the time, to answer emails or quality check new jobs that are being featured. If it is too late in the day, this is equally difficult, which means that on the whole early evenings are the best time of day for me to solve problems. Travelling, seems a good time to think, as is talking to other positive and energetic people. Monitoring yourself, you will soon see at what points you tend to light up and try to capitalise on those moments.
Give yourself time
Listen to some music, take a walk or have a bath. Try to define the hard questions beforehand so that you can arrive at the solution as you unwind. Sleeping on ideas is also a great way to answer them, as our brains subconsciously work to find answers. Rushing or forcing an answer is nearly always worse than taking time and letting ideas flow that are more wholesome. Luckily most mobile phones have a notes section, which makes it easy to store ideas as they come up. If you prefer the old fashioned approach just carry a pen and notepad around with you. Remember, it only takes one really good idea to make a huge difference.
Do something different
If you are stuck in a rut then try something different. This applies to all aspects of problem solving. Fixating on the same narrow area will likely only mean you repeat your behaviour. If you have tried something twice and it hasn’t worked move on. Just doing something can help too. Try out a new class, go to a lecture or seminar, listen to a youtube video…I am always amazed at the sorts of activity that catalyse new ideas. One of the best ways to generate new ideas is to meet up with new people. Talking about their thoughts and experiences, you nearly always come away learning something new.
Don’t take yourself too seriously, take some time to enjoy yourself and try some new activities and I am sure you will be flexing your creative muscles.