Whether you’re trying to solve a tough problem, start a business, get attention for that business or write an interesting article, creative thinking is crucial. The process boils down to changing your perspective and seeing things differently than you currently do.
People (myself included) like to call this “thinking outside of the box,” which is the wrong way to look at it, as I found out.
Just like Neo needed to understand that “there is no spoon” in the film The Matrix, you need to realize “there is no box” to step outside of. You create your own imaginary boxes simply by living life and accepting certain things as “real” when they are just as illusory as the beliefs of a paranoid delusional. The difference is, enough people agree that certain man-made concepts are “real,” so you’re viewed as “normal.” This is good for society overall, but it’s that sort of unquestioning consensus that inhibits your natural creative abilities.
So, rather than looking for ways to inspire creativity, you should just realize
the truth. You’re already capable of creative thinking at all times, but you have to strip away the imaginary mental blocks (or boxes) that you’ve picked up along the way to wherever you are today.
I like to keep this list of 10 common ways we suppress our natural creative abilities nearby when I get stuck.
It helps me realize that the barriers to a good idea are truly all in my head.
I will start off with 5 of them and publish the other 5 later on.
1. Trying to Find the “Right” Answer
One of the worst aspects of formal education is the focus on the correct answer to a particular question or problem. While this approach helps us function in society, it hurts creative thinking because real-life issues are ambiguous. There’s often more than one “correct” answer, and the second one you come up with might be better than the first.
Many of the following mental blocks can be turned around to reveal ways to find more than one answer to any given problem. Try reframing the issue in several different ways in order to prompt different answers, and embrace answering inherently ambiguous questions in several different ways.
2. Logical Thinking
Not only is real life ambiguous, it’s often illogical to the point of madness. While critical thinking skills based on logic are one of our main strengths in evaluating the feasibility of a creative idea, it’s often the enemy of truly innovative thoughts in the first place.
One of the best ways to escape the constraints of your own logical mind is to think metaphorically. One of the reasons why metaphors work so well in communications is that we accept them as true without thinking about it. When you realize that “truth” is often symbolic, you’ll often find that you are actually free to come up with alternatives.
3. Following Rules
One way to view creative thinking is to look at it as a destructive force. You’re tearing away the often arbitrary rules that others have set for you, and asking either “why” or “why not” whenever confronted with the way “everyone” does things.
This is easier said than done, since people will often defend the rules they follow even in the face of evidence that the rule doesn’t work. People love to celebrate rebels like Richard Branson, but few seem brave enough to emulate him. Quit worshipping rule breakers and start breaking some rules.
4. Being Practical
Like logic, practicality is hugely important when it comes to execution, but often stifles innovative ideas before they can properly blossom. Don’t allow the editor into the same room with your inner artist.
Try not to evaluate the actual feasibility of an approach until you’ve allowed it to exist on its own for a bit. Spend time asking “what if” as often as possible, and simply allow your imagination to go where it wants. You might just find yourself discovering a crazy idea that’s so insanely practical that no one’s thought of it before.
5. Play is Not Work
Allowing your mind to be at play is perhaps the most effective way to stimulate creative thinking, and yet many people disassociate play from work. These days, the people who can come up with great ideas and solutions are the most economically rewarded, while worker bees are often employed for the benefit of the creative thinkers.You’ve heard the expression “work hard and play hard.” All you have to realize is that they’re the same thing to a creative thinker.