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How to Think Creatively: Part 1

How to Think Creatively

Being able to think creatively in your personal life and career is a strength many utilize and many think they just don’t have it what it takes. How do the creative types make it look so easy when it’s such a struggle for others? All of us have the potential to think creatively, we just need to learn and know how to strengthen our creative side.

Let’s first define what “creativity” is. A lot of people think it has to do with being artistic or pushing boundaries. Surely, creativity is involved in doing those things, but let’s broaden it up.  I like Robert E. Franken’s definition of creativity as, “The tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others.”

Essentially, creativity is not doing an activity, like painting, it’s thinking of a way to make that painting unpredictable. We run into difficulties in our life where we feel stuck on something, whether it is financially, relationships, spiritually, physically, mentally, artistically, etc. How do we end up trying to solve these problems and uncreative blocks? We try to think of solutions and if we put enough thought into it, they may be novel solutions. Those novel solutions emerge when we go through the creative process. It is during that time we are developing our skill of creativity. However, many choose to avoid their problems, are lazy thinkers, or give up too early. We have to take on an active effort to develop our creative thinking skills.

We have to expand our minds to be open to new ideas, alternatives, and possibilities. You can do this by doing creative thinking exercises. I’ll guide you through the exercises and give even more ideas if you stick with me through this “How to Think Creatively” series.

Exercise #1

This exercise is not a new one, but it’s a good one that many people find helpful. I have been told by my clients in counseling that this exercise helped them think about their situation in a whole different light.

Imagine the most wonderful, brilliant, or respected person you know or don’t know. They’re full of wisdom, strength, intelligence, and logic. If you’re having difficulty thinking of someone, some examples are Albert Einstein, a President you admire, a grandparent, a parent, friend, a CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

Now think of something in your life that you feel stuck on. I want you to read through this exercise first and then re-imagine it. Grab a notebook or piece of paper and a writing utensil before you start.

Close your eyes. Relax your shoulders, neck, arms, hands, legs. I want you to take a deep breath through your nose and slowly let it out through your mouth. Do it once more. Now imagine you’re at the beach. There’s only you. You feel the warmth of the sun on your face and a warm breeze gliding across your cheeks and arms. There’s a scent of fresh air mixed with other favorite scents. You decide to sit down on the soft white sand and listen to the waves. Someone comes up to you, touches your shoulder, and sits down next to you. You realize that it is the most brilliant person you know. They say hello to you and comment: “You are pondering life. What is it that you are thinking about?”

You are more relaxed now. You ask the person your question about your problem. Now, notice that they are not judging you and instantly understand. They think about your question for a moment and tell you their answers. What advice, ideas, solutions, or possibilities do they give? The person may give multiple answers and talk for a very long time or they may give you one answer. When the person is finished, tell them thank you, and open your eyes. Write down everything that person told you.

If you did this exercise in the morning or afternoon, the problem will be in the forefront of your mind, and you’ll come up with other ideas throughout the day. If you did this exercise at night, you may dream about other ideas or while you’re trying to fall asleep. Keep a notebook with you so you can write down all of your new ideas.

So why did I have you do this exercise and why would it work? Well, when you separate yourself from the problem, like you’re on the outside looking in, it helps you to expand your thinking about it. Why do people ask others for advice? They might have a different view. When you frame your question to someone you respect, you’ll imagine their voice, thoughts, beliefs, ideas, and philosophy on life and come up with new ideas.

This exercise expands the boundaries you give yourself and allows for more complex thinking, rather than surface thinking. You’re digging much deeper into thought and allowing yourself time to think of new ideas and solutions. What hurts the creative process is being stagnant with surface thoughts and surrounding yourself with the same stimuli, information, and people. You’ll come up with more ideas, gain insight and information, and a whole new world when you surround yourself with people you want to be like, actively search out information, change your environment, and make an effort to gain new experiences.

Next week, I’ll post How to Think Creatively: Part 2.

I’d love to know if you have ever utilized this sort of exercise. Kind of like, “What would [insert name here] do and say about this?”

Have a great week, home philosophers!