Look around and pick an object, any object you spot. Regardless of the object you have chosen, I’m quite sure your brain immediately categorized it, gave it a name and a proper definition. Now, let us try something different. With that same object in sight, try to imagine what else it could be if not that particular item. It can be anything. Just let your mind run free – close your eyes if it is useful.
If you are having a hard time doing this exercise, let me tell you a short story. My 2-year old son and I were playing one of these days, when he starts looking around. I asked him if he was looking for something in particular, but he just ignored me and kept turning his head around. Suddenly, he stands up and walks toward his potty (we are in the potty-training phase right now!), takes the middle part out - the green part that detaches from the base – and put it on his head. I ask him, ‘What is it that you have there? Are you putting your potty on your head?’. He turns to me with an inquisitive look and replies, ‘It is a hat mommy!’, as if it couldn’t have been more obvious. We both burst out laughing and I am instructed to wear the hat as well.
Where do I want to go with this story? Children have their unique way of interpreting the world. Even when their brains already recognize objects and what purpose they serve, this does not prevent them to think outside the box. To allow objects to be whatever serves them most within the playing realm, letting their imagination run wild. This magical ability – or should we say, creativity – that children have gets lost when we grow-up, at least for the most of us.
You were once a child though. You have this capability, this power of being creative. How can you get in touch with that creative side of yours more often? How can creativity be part of your daily life?
Below are 5 strategies to help you boost your creativity toward more challenging personal and professional opportunities.
1. Look for inspiration: Creativity comes from thinking outside the box. If you have a 9-5 job packed with meetings, memo drafts and presentations to be prepared, it may be that being creative is not on top of your priority list. That does not mean though that creativity cannot be found elsewhere. Turn around and look for places, people, activities that inspire you. Find what works best for you, what may spark your inspiration. It might be a simple walk in nature, reading a novel or a fiction book, visiting a museum if you are into arts, listening to your favorite tunes, talking to friends, or collaborating within your network.
2. Do something you love: We all have something we enjoy doing. And it does not have to be related to your work, even if you love what you do for a living. Think about something that brings you joy, maybe a hobby. An activity that makes you lose track of time and relaxes you. Perhaps you like playing an instrument, or doing puzzles. Maybe you enjoy crafting or any kind of manual arts. While engaging in an activity that pleases you, your stress levels decrease and you get to be in touch with your creative side.
3. Brainstorm new ideas and write them down: You may tell yourself that you are not a creative person and all you have are crappy ideas. What we often forget is that from thoughts come ideas and from there new ideas are generated. Go ahead, sit down and open your notebook or journal. For the next 10 minutes, write down all ideas that come to mind. They can be related to your personal life, perhaps something new you would like to try for yourself or with your partner. Or within your professional sphere, such as developing a new product or service for your business or finding new ways to approach a business strategy to clients. Do not worry if your first ideas are not brilliant or inspiring. Just keep writing until you have a handful of ideas on paper. Your next step is to take a closer look at each one of those ideas, identify which ones could be winners and start refining them by adding more details. Also, remember to have a notebook around or hit the record button on your phone to note down ideas whenever they pop-up.
4. Challenge yourself: Creativity is not a trait you are born with or without. It is like a muscle that needs to be practiced and challenged. After developing your first creative skills, you do not just stop there. Can you imagine if a tree would stop growing just after its first branches were out? Or if a tree stopped blooming right after its first season? Much as a tree, you must keep stretching yourself. Find opportunities to stretch your creative skills, in order to advance your abilities. Avoid using the same solution to solve an issue or a similar approach to explore your creativity. When developing your creative skills further, be creative in the way you do it.
5. Make time for creativity: Epiphanies happen, though not all the time. The same with creativity. Chances are that brilliant ideas can definitely arise, though probably not so often as needed or desired. Instead of waiting for these great ideas to come to you, make sure you schedule ‘creative time’ in your calendar. Block a specific time to sit and work on a special project, which can be directly related to your job if it requires you to be creative, or to a personal hobby or side hustle. Going for a walk may be a great way to get you in the flow, while you enjoy your surroundings and let your imagination run free.
It may be that some of the strategies above are not your cup of tea. And that is completely fine! Go ahead and try them out, see what resonates with you. During this creative process, you may well find other approaches or activities that suit you better. Notice not only what methods work for you, but also if there is a particular time of the day or being around someone that sparks your creativity. Remember to keep practicing, exploring and stretching your creative vein.