Remember the times when creativity was only for artists?
Even though that mentality still exists in some cases, creativity is one of the most valuable skills in today’s complex world. Businesses look for creative employees, and entrepreneurs are basically artists in suits.
And, with enough practice, everyone can think more creatively.
Creativity is nothing more than doing old things in a different way. If you solve problems in a different way, you’re creative.
I always challenge myself to come up with novel ways to do things. It’s not so much about being different from the rest of the pack—it’s about the challenge to create new connections in your mind. And that’s one of the most satisfying things on earth.
What you’ll find below is a list of four ideas I’ve found to be very helpful for my creative thinking process. I’ve skipped the classic advice such as get enough sleep, go for a run, and listen to classical music. Also, you don’t need to travel the world to improve your creativity.
Let’s get down to it.
1. Set Limitations
Like many others, I believed that creativity thrives on freedom.
In fact, the opposite is true. Rules, constraints, and limitations force you to think creatively. So, the next time you’re blaming your manager or client for thinking too small, you should really thank them.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, said it best:
I think frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out.
Always try to shrink the box. Is the budget 10K? Find a solution for 5K. Don’t have a deadline for your screenplay? Finish it in two weeks.
When you have fewer resources and time, you’re forced to find novel solutions.
2. Get Very Bored
The first strategy works well when you’re in the act of creation. But, when you’re starting on an empty canvas, I’ve found another approach that works effectively.
When you find it difficult to set the first step, write the first sentence, or draw the first line, you might want to consider getting extremely bored.
But watch out, only apply this strategy if you’re driving 130 miles an hour in your life. If you’re already feeling bored with your work, life, or career, don’t overdo it. If nothing novel is happening in your life, you need the opposite—just get up and do something. Doesn’t matter what it is.
But when your mind is racing, stop and do nothing. At those times, you realize how great it is to create new things, connect the dots, and come up with new ideas.
3. Do Something You Can’t
I read this story about Arnold Schwarzenegger in his autobiography, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story and it goes something like this:
Before Schwarzenegger was known as a movie star, he was a successful bodybuilder. During this period, he had a hard time getting a decent role in a movie. So, when he auditioned for Conan the Barbarian, he did everything to get the part.
When they asked him, “Can you ride a horse?” He confidently said, “Yes.”
The truth was that Schwarzenegger had never ridden a horse. But, because he told the producers that he could, he worked his ass off to learn how to horseback ride before they started filming the movie.
It comes down to this: Just say yes, and figure out how you can do it later.
4. Soundboard Your Ideas Off a Critical Person
I have a few pessimistic friends and mentors. Every time I talk to them about a project or idea, their answer starts with, “Hmm…I don’t know about that.”
When people question your ideas, it’s for a reason. Nothing’s perfect, and everything can be done better. Always.
But, you need someone to point you in the right direction. Also, you need someone to do it in the right way. You don’t want to ask someone who doesn’t wish you well for their opinion. Because they get satisfaction from shooting down ideas and people.
Find someone who cares. If you can’t, get a coach or mentor who can serve as your soundboard. It’s worth it to have someone second guess your ideas and not say, “This is the best thing ever!”
When you’re forced to rethink your work, you often come up with even better solutions. And that’s true creativity.
Stop doing things because “This is how it’s always been done.” That’s not a valid reason. That’s laziness.
Instead, find new solutions, do things differently, and do it all the time. Then, before you know it, you’re a creative person.
This article was originally published on Dariusforoux.com. It has been republished here with permission.
Photo of person thinking courtesy of JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images.
Darius Foroux is the author of Massive Life Success: Live a Stress-Free Life and Achieve Your Goals by Dealing with Anxiety, Stress, and Fear and founder of Procrastinate Zero. He writes at DariusForoux.com, where he uses tested methods and frameworks to share ideas for overcoming procrastination, improving productivity, and achieving more. Join his free newsletter.More from this Author