In this post, I will answer the question of What Is Thinking Creatively but also investigate why we should practice this and how we can improve our creative thinking skills. In today’s world, automation is taking over at an incredible rate (have you seen the robot waiters in Japan?) but the creativity of the human mind simply cannot be replicated.
What does it mean to be creative?
We often think of ‘creative people’ as artists and writers – they are certainly creative, but creativity is by no means restricted to these groups.
Some definitions I found of creativity are ‘the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness’, ‘the ability to produce or use original and unusual ideas’, ‘Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed’ and ‘the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality’ (my personal favorite!). So we can see how creativity would be essential to keep growing in the world of business, but what value is thinking creatively to the rest of us?
Why practice being creative?
Can you remember as a child, you could create something out of anything? A broom was a horse and you were off galloping around the wild, wild west (your back garden) or a clothes peg very quickly became a doll! (I may be giving away secrets about my age here!) It’s a crucial part of brain development, but what a shame we lose that as we get set in our ways as adults.
As we get older, our brains look for shortcuts. We learn one thing and then use that same piece of information over and over. In many ways that’s fine and makes sense, however, when faced with something that needs a creative solution, we find it really hard as we get stuck on a linear path and have simply got out of the way of thinking creatively.
We forget that we have got an infinite capacity to come up with new ideas and by becoming engaged with creative thinking we can:
- Learn more about ourself, our values and beliefs as you come up with unique ideas
- Let our imagination run wild and get back to that child-like state of anything being possible
- Build confidence in our skills to overcome future challenges
- Make a greater contribution in our home, workplace or community
How can you improve your creative thinking skills?
So, it turns out that creative thinking skills are both genetic and learned so don’t worry if you don’t come from a family of creative geniuses! In fact, you were born creative and can reclaim it. However, as Jim Rohn once said, ‘rarely will a good idea interrupt you’. In other words this faculty is going to need some stimulation!
First of all I would highly recommend checking out The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. It’s both a book and a practice which includes 6 of the most valuable personal development habits. The two most valuable in my opinion for creative thinking are journaling and meditation. Journaling because it takes your thoughts out of your head, puts them on paper and lets you look at them in any number of different ways. Meditation because it stops the chatter in your head and makes a space for new ideas to flow. At the time of writing, there is a free Miracle Morning Fast Start Kit that you can get here.
Other things you may want to add to the above suggestions could include actually writing a short story or blog. (I have to say that since starting this blog my creative thinking has soared – I would highly recommend it.) You might turn out to have a real talent for it.
If you have ever read any of the Harry Potter series, you could not have failed to be blown away by the creative thinking of J.K. Rowling (my claim to fame is that one of her homes is about 2 miles from where I live!). I remember reading ‘Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone’ on a train with my jaw on the floor. I simply could not believe the magic she had dreamed up. What if you have an incredible capacity for writing children’s books but you just never tried?
You could create a crossword puzzle or better still, invent a new puzzle.
Mindmaps are great as well. You start off with a theme and put a number of considerations around that topic and then dive deeper into each aspect in turn. You will be amazed at how many ideas can branch off when working in this way.
The idea list
Chip Franks, who has the best job title in the world of Chief Miracle Worker at The Miracle Morning, says that one of the best practices he includes in his journaling is an idea list. Chip credits the idea as being from his friend James Altucher (who has the most incredible blog, do check him out) but Chip is possibly one of the greatest experts in the execution of it. So it goes like this. You pick a topic and then come up with 10 ideas (Chip does 20 but I think 10 will do for us!). Here is an example of topics to get you started:
- Books I could write that would change the world. (Just to be clear, you don’t actually have to write anything.)
- Movies I would love to make
- Ways I could make my spouse feel loved
- What could I do to improve my life right now?
- Ways I could earn an extra income
- Games I would love to invent
- Businesses that have not been thought of yet
You can pick any topic you like though. Chip says the whole point is to give your brain a workout – just like a muscle you work in the gym, it gets better and better. When you do this daily for 6 months you become an ideas machine – your brain completely shifts. What you do with the information you have uncovered is entirely up to you.
As well as keeping the old gray matter working, thinking creatively could be life-changing, especially if you haven’t engaged in it for a very long time as is often the case unless you have a job that demands it. You could find a new talent or interest, or just a way of adding a bit for color to you life.
Are you a creative thinker? Or are you struggling just to think at all right now? (I’m sure you are not alone!) Do you have strategies to stimulate creative thinking? Either way, I would love to hear about your experience in the coments.