Whether you’re trying to fix a certain issue, start a business, market 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 like to call this “thinking outside of the box,” which is the wrong way to look at it.
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 only difference is that there are enough other people who believe in the same concepts, 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’ve always been creative, but certain imaginary mental blocks (or boxes) that you’ve picked up along the way are inhibiting you.
There are about 10 common ways we suppress our natural creative abilities.
Read on to find out more…
1. Struggling 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.
As a matter of fact, they are all wrong answers, some are just slightly less wrong. As we better understand a certain issue or question, we come up with better answers, but never the right one.
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 different ways in order to prompt different answers, and embrace answering ambiguous questions in different ways.
Real life is not just 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 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 communication 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. Rules, rules, rules
Creative thinking can be interpreted 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.
Creativity means to confront the status quo.
If you want to take your creativity to the next level, 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 blossom. Don’t allow the editor into the same room with your inner artist.
Spend time asking “what if” as often as possible, and simply allow your imagination to go where it wants to.
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
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 probably heard the expression “work hard and play hard.” All you have to realize is that they’re the same thing to a creative thinker.
6. That’s not my job
In an era of hyper-specialization, it’s those who happily explore completely unrelated areas of life and knowledge who best see that everything is related.
Sure, you’ve got to know the specialized stuff in your field, but if you view yourself as an explorer rather than a highly-specialized cog in the machine, you’ll run circles around the technical master in the success department.
7. Being “serious”
Most of what keeps us civilized boils down to conformity, consistency, shared values, and yes, thinking about things the same way everyone else does.
In order to be creative, you need to abandon the groupthink strategy.
You need to stop taking things so seriously. Life is not that serious. You’re not going to come out of it alive anyway.
Have fun. Enjoy the world that is outside the box you’ve created for yourself.
8. Avoiding ambiguity
We rationally realize that most every situation is ambiguous to some degree. And although dividing complex situations into black and white boxes can lead to disaster, we still do it. It’s an innate characteristic of human psychology to desire certainty, but it’s the creative thinker who rejects the false comfort of clarity when it’s not really appropriate.
Ambiguity is your friend if you’re looking to innovate. The fact that most people are uncomfortable exploring uncertainty gives you an advantage, as long as you can embrace ambiguity rather than run from it.
9. Being wrong is bad
We hate being wrong, and yet mistakes often teach us the most. The best thing we do is learn from our mistakes, but we have to free ourselves to make mistakes in the first place.
Try out your ideas and see what happens, take what you learn, and try something else.
Ask yourself: what’s the worst that can happen if I’m wrong?
10. Telling yourself you’re not creative
Denying your own creativity is like denying you’re a human being. We’re all creative, but only to the extent that we realize that we create our own limits with the way we think.
If you tell yourself you’re not creative, it becomes true. Stop that.
In that sense, awakening your own creativity is similar to the path reported by those who seek spiritual enlightenment. You’re already enlightened, just like you’re already creative, but you have to strip away all of your delusions before you can see it.
Accept that you’re inherently creative, and then start tearing down the other barriers you’ve allowed to be created in your mind.
Creativity has an awful lot to do with freedom. Being free. Free from desires, free from outcome, free from limitations, free from fear, free from judgement.
The more free you become, the more creative you’ll be.