It may seem like great ideas come down to strokes of luck or divine intervention, but you have more control over your creativity than you may think. Your divergent thinking abilities, central to innovation & problem solving, are impacted by your mood, intention, environment & more. By addressing the factors within your control, you will be more likely to breed the next big breakthrough.
If you have ever tried to force creativity or genius, you know that it is a frustrating and generally fruitless exercise. Instead, creating an optimal environment for ideas to flow freely, without judgement, is the first step to accessing the type of innovative thoughts that you can work with.
1. Set the scene
While everyone responds to external environments differently, we all have conditions under which we best operate. For some, a bright, clean room might be the best brainstorming setting. For others, a midnight work session with some background music and soft lighting might work better.
In general, lack of distraction is key. A rapidly changing environment with inconsistent or loud noise and sudden flurries of motion can separate you from your mental flow. Think back to your school days. What studying spots worked best for you: the library, parks, study hall. Those preferences will tell you something about your ideal conditions for focusing.
No scene would be complete without the right props: a comfy couch or a clean floor to spread out on; a bottle of water or a cup of coffee; snacks or chewing gum; loose clothes or business attire.
Observe your subconscious habits. What makes you antsy and anxious to stop working? Try to address those urges so that you do not have to cut your thinking sessions short.
2. Move around
Now that you’ve created the perfect environment for thinking don’t be afraid to leave it. Physical movement or just a change in scenery affects your creativity. Therein lies the difference between studying and thinking creatively. You never know where the next idea will come from. If you’re stuck, go for a walk, talk to a friend, make lunch. Keep your mind empty of thoughts or let it softly revisit the project you are working on.
Even if you do not have a lightning bulb moment right then, you might find that your ideas shift once you get back to work. Know what works but don’t be afraid to mix your routine up too. Changing things up may be just what you need to get unstuck.
A Stanford study links walking to creativity, which spikes during and shortly after a stroll. It showed that output increased 60 percent on average for walkers (whether on a treadmill or outdoors). So lace up those sneakers!
3. Listen to your body
This tip can really be slipped into any article or life hack. Listening to your body is essential to taking care of it. Healthy body, healthy mind. You’ll notice that some foods you eat work like fuel and leave you feeling energized. Others will make you want a nap. If you want to be productive, eat accordingly: diverse, colorful brain food.
When you prepare a healthy meal, remember that you are also feeding your brain.
Beyond that, we should be aware of our bodies and minds: if you have difficulty staying focused just after lunch or have trouble finding inspiration first thing in the morning, no stress! As long as you know yourself you can use your most alert states throughout the day to tackle key issues.
Without enough sleep, any mental activity feels like a challenge. No matter how much work you have ahead of you, sleep should be a priority. Lack of sleep impacts your mood and your thinking ability. Creativity feeds on energy.
4. Relax your expectations
Treat your ideas like you treat your friends: if you criticize them every time they stop by they will eventually stop coming.
When brainstorming, try to let your thoughts flow in without judgement. It is tempting to label them as “good ideas” or “bad ideas,” but doing so is counterproductive.
Keep a slight distance from the ideas and watch what bubbles to the surface. Write everything down, no matter how absurd or irrelevant. Remove expectations and welcome what comes.
One way to do so is to challenge yourself to come up with 50 ideas in five minutes. This forces you to let go of that one perfect idea, which can only arrive if you give your imagination room to work. If you start to feel frustrated take a break. Keeping your mind relaxed is paramount to forming new connections and thoughts.
Divergent thinking, our capacity for creativity, plummets after childhood, largely because of the filtering and self-criticism that adults develop. According to the book “Breakpoint and Beyond,” 98 percent of five year olds scored as “genius divergent thinkers compared to only two percent of adults.
Find your inner child to access pure creativity.
Remember to set the scene, pack your sneakers, respect your body and let go. Let the innovating begin!
Any creativity tricks of your own? Share them with us by commenting below!
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Omozua is a Certified Emotional Mastery & Intelligent Leadership Executive Neuro Coach who empowers & prepares clients to take the journey from where they are to where they want to be by bravely accessing their own potential.