09 Mar How to Hack your Brain to Explode Creativity
Are you creative? Of course you are.
Our brains are wired to survive and – to survive – you must be creative.
Although you might not define the numerous acts you perform throughout the day as “creative acts,” they are. Putting ingredients together for cooking, stringing words together for speaking, balancing your household budget and planning your day comprise hundreds of creative acts.
However, are these everyday tasks the result of “high-octane” creativity thinking? Who knows?
Creativity can be displayed in countless different ways.
I define creativity as: “The rearrangement of the old to the new.”
Creative thinking is the use of the imagination to “concoct” new things or new ideas. What is considered “new” is unique to an individual or group. While some individuals think in a naturally creative way, many unwittingly throw up barriers to creativity or have never been given the proper tools to enhance their creativity.
In order to explode your creativity, let’s understand how our brains are wired and why creating a supportive relationship between your conscious and subconscious is paramount to creative thinking.
For our purpose, I define the conscious mind as the part of the mind that thinks, reasons, criticizes, visions and plans. The subconscious is the 90% of our mind that does the heavy lifting, runs our bodily functions, and holds our deepest beliefs and subjective maps of reality. The subconscious does not think in the traditional sense but rather, through fear, prompting us to run away from pain and moving us towards love and what makes us feel good. It cannot tell the difference between real experience or an imagined experience. The subconscious is the seat of our intuition and, therefore, creativity.
I view the conscious mind as a very small intelligent, thinking, planning and reasoning Rider sitting atop a very large, stubborn, easily frightened, intuitive, playful and an amazingly strong, stubborn Elephant. You are the Rider and the Elephant!
The Rider cannot control where the Elephant goes. While we can’t control our subconscious Elephant, we can use the Rider to create the circumstances in which it becomes easier to influence the Elephant.
The surprise is that creativity, amazingly, has very little to do with intelligence.
The scientific community generally agrees that the entire creative process– from preparation to incubation to insight to verification – consists of countless activities as well as emotions. So, the creative process takes place in various stages and recruits different brain regions to handle the task. We spend at least half our mental lives using this network to problem-solve and generate ideas.
Interestingly, it appears the generation of ideas is most active when we’re engaged in what researchers call “self-generated cognition”: daydreaming, ruminating, or otherwise letting our minds wander. I call this “childlike play.” Therefore, I would like you to view creativity as a skill which can only be activated fully with play.
Research also indicates that, while everyone may be born to think creatively, those who have had this skill nurtured often display a high degree of originality.
As a child, my mother supported my desire to paint, build model planes, act, dream and write. She encouraged me to play and to work hard to earn the money necessary for my hobbies. On the other hand, one of my nephews was told by his art teacher that he would never be an artist. To this day, that one statement has affected him negativity. This is why it is so very important to nurture creativity in children.
In order to survive and thrive on both a personal and professional level in today’s fast-paced world, you must be pro-active in order to hack your brain for creativity. Here four steps that will help you do that:
- Identify your goal.
Here’s a little secret about your mind: Once you clearly identify your goal, you pull the trigger to launch the creative process. We are goal-setting and goal-achieving creatures.
What do you want to solve? What do you want to create? What is the question you want answered?
- Set a reasonable deadline.
My last blog examined the power of setting a deadline. Locking in a deadline fuels motivation and creativity. Set a reasonable deadline. You do not want to stress the Elephant.
- Study. Learn new and varied information in alignment with your goal.
Your subconscious Elephant needs input to create something unique. Once you have identified you goal, take in as much new information as you can from all the resources at your disposal. The Elephant thrives on input. Inputting new Information is a key ingredient to generating an idea or the answer to your question. The more variety you input, the better the outcome.
- Let go and get out of your way.
Albert Einstein wrote, “One should never impose one’s views on a problem; one should rather study it, and in time a solution will reveal itself.”
I greatly appreciate when my wife makes dinner in the slow-cooker. The various ingredients simmer away for hours until a delectable meal emerges. Slow-cooking is my metaphor for the incubation part of the creative process.
Once you have identified your goal, researched your subject, asked good questions, it is time to get out of the Elephant’s way, turn the volume down on thinking and let the information simmer and the idea emerge in its own time.
I am certain you have experienced the process of letting go. Recall a time you forgot someone’s name or a familiar piece of information. You most likely struggled to remember and failed. What did you do? I suspect you let it go and then, boom! The name appeared as if by magic.
The reality is that “letting go” and taking the pressure off the Elephant allowed the answer to appear. This is a major key to creativity and, the best way to accomplish this is to let go and play. Play gives the subconscious Elephant time to do what it does best. Letting go and playing reduces negative stress and anxiety. Letting go and playing explodes creativity!
All you have to decide is what play means to you. When working on a problem, I sometimes go to a mediocre movie, armed with a pad and pen. My attention drifts and, the majority of the time, I will have two or three ideas before the conclusion of the movie.
For you, play might be golfing, taking a walk, cleaning the garage, cooking or meditating. The bottom line is that time, solitude and reflection gives the Elephant the space it needs to arrive at a creative answer.
Here are two final thoughts to help you live an exceptional life of creativity: Creativity is the imagination having fun, and fun is the gateway to creative thinking.