This curated column is authored by Darius Foroux, Founder of Procrastinate Zero
Remember the times when creativity was only for artists? And that creativity was considered a waste of time? Even though that mentality still exists in education, creativity is one of the most valuable skills in today’s complex world.
- Businesses look for creative employees.
- Artists all over the world step up their creative game.
- And entrepreneurs are basically artists in suits.
Creative thinking is a well-respected skill these days. And with enough practice, everyone can think more creatively. But I still meet people all time who say, “I’m not a creative person.” That’s bullshit, and you know it.
Our perception of a creative person is just wrong. What do you associate with the word creativity? A painter, musician, or artist?
But creativity is nothing more than doing old things in a different way. Nothing new about that. However, if you solve problems in a different way, you’re creative. And that’s pretty cool to me.
It’s also very hard work to me. But I always challenge myself to come up with novel ways to do things. It’s not so much about being different. 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 4 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
The biggest mistake I made with creative thinking was a thinking error. 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 next time you’re blaming your manager or client for thinking too small, you should 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 it, 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 can’t remember where I read this story about Arnold Schwarzenegger. I think in his autobiography, Total Recall. But the story goes like this:
Before Arnold 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 Arnold had never ridden a horse. But because he told the producers that he could, he worked his ass off to learn horse-riding before they started filming the movie.
I’m probably butchering this story, but 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 is 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.
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