Thinking Outside The Box (2015)
Chapter 2: Kicking the Box Open and Sparking your Creativity
Many people get excited about the idea of thinking outside of the box and kick it to the curb immediately only to discover that after years of conventional thinking, it’s a bit more difficult than they had imagined. And that makes sense. After years of thinking one way, it’s not easy to allow your mind to be “liberated” and allow it to run wild.
Before you attempt to jump into creative thinking, you may want to “exercise your brain.” Don’t worry, these aren’t as tough as you may believe. It’s hard to start thinking in a manner you’re not accustomed to.
To be truthful, that’s not your fault. So don’t beat yourself up if the creative thoughts don’t flow immediately. Your brain has been used to thinking in a certain manner and it will take some time for it to rewire itself and adjust to another thought process. It’ll be slow going at first, but as you continue to do it, your brain catches on and works faster at it. Guaranteed.
Your brain is no different from any other muscle in your body. If you don’t use, then it slowly gets weaker. That’s the bad news. The good news, though, is that it’s easy enough to strengthen this muscle just as you would any other one in your body: through regular exercise.
At first, when your “creative thinking muscles” are initially called into action after perhaps years of unused, you may turn around and find yourself wandering aimlessly through your house, wondering where and how to begin this valuable thought process.
Many fiction writers find that every morning upon arising they need to get their “creative juices” flowing by writing three to five pages of . . . well, nothing. Their goal is to write anything that pops into their minds. Hopefully, some of this covers what their subconscious minds have unearthed while they slept. But if they can’t recall what they dreamed of or any words that came mind then basically, they’re instructed to write anything. It may be something as simple as “I need my morning coffee.”
Once they clear their minds and got their neurons moving in full speed, they inched themselves out of their box and into their projects, whatever those may be. Believe it or not, it works more often than not.
Best Way to Active Your Creative Thoughts
If you’re not by nature a writer, you obviously you won’t need to do this (although it still may be a wonderful creative exercise for you as well). But if you’re not interested in writing, here are few alternatives that may help channel your creativity more efficiently.
Alphabetize your Words
Okay, they don’t have to be your words but once you discover this exercise, you may very well become addicted to it. It forces you to look at words in a different light, which can only help you begin to look at not only words differently, but the entire world around you from a new perspective.
Begin by picking a word, any word will do. It may be one you’ve just noticed on a billboard while you’re driving or something you discover on a magazine cover. Now instead of looking at it with your physical eyes, look at it with your mind. What you’re about to do is rearrange the letters so that they’re placed in your mind in alphabetical order and not as the word is spelled.
If the word is “number,” then you’d rearrange the letters like this: b-e-m-n-r-u. This makes your mind use all the information, but just rearrange them. Don’t just settle for doing it once a day, though. Remind yourself to do it throughout the day. Consider doing this up to five times a day.
When you first start off, you may want to choose short words. This activity is a bit harder than you may think. As you conquer words that are three to five letters long, then you’ll graduate to ever longer words. There’s no need to push yourself, you’ll discover that if you just allow this to happen, you’ll have more fun. And part of thinking creatively certainly involves fun.
Another note for you to think about. No one need to know what you’re doing if you don’t want to tell them.
Adding a series of one-digit numbers as quickly as you can
This is another exercise that on the surface doesn’t seem to have any connection to creative thinking or thinking outside of the box, but after you do this for a while, you’ll discover how your synapses move more quickly. That’s a sure sign, you’ll be thinking creatively without even having to think about it.
Take a series of one-digit numbers, from zero to nine. Place these numbers in any order you care to. Now, without using a calculator, start adding up the numbers -- as quickly as you can. The beauty of this exercise is that it forces you to constantly change the information you’re juggling in your mind. As you’re adding this total, your mind needs to focus solely on the current grand total -- and then as you become faster at this -- another grand total quickly. Talk about making your brain agile.
Basically what you’re doing is inputting some essential information into your mind and then deleting it -- replacing it with another “grand total” as you add more numbers -- and so it continues. The perfect time to do this? When you’re standing in the grocery line. You can easily add up the numbers to one of the dollar of five dollar bills you have in your pocket or just as easily take the numbers from your purchases and use those numbers -- in no particular order.
Before you realize it you’re performing this action faster and faster. But the true goal of this exercise is to limber up your creative thinking.
Running for creativity.
Now this suggestion may be the most confusing of all. It is for many individuals. On the surface, it really is difficult to see how the creative process is connected to exercising. But running is wonderful because it stimulates your whole body, producing the chemical called serotonin. It’s been called the “chemical form” of happiness. Its long been known by scientists and medical doctors to be responsible for that “runner’s high” so many individuals talk about.
Once you hit that “runner’s high” your mind is capable of seeing things from a different perspective. You’re much more likely to see the whole picture of the issue. Researchers now agree that the combination of what many call “the runner’s point of view” and the increased blood flow pumping throughout your body actually improves your concentration. This is especially helpful, because your mind is churning out solutions and ideas that only you can perceive.
Carry a notebook
This may be simple, but power habits you can develop to encourage yourself to think outside the box. Carry a notebook. All the time. No exceptions. Have you ever come up with an idea and say to yourself, “Awesome. I’m sure I’ll remember this.” By the time you get home or to someplace to write this idea down, it’s slipped your mind, with no guarantee to return.
It may be that none of the ideas one day are extremely useful. But that “not-so-useful” idea may lead you to another wonderfully useful thought that may be the one to change your life.
Eat dark chocolate and walnuts
You have to wonder how this suggestion can possibly affect your ability to think outside of the box. But, even if it doesn’t, it’s a tremendous method of rewarding yourself. If you don’t like walnuts, don’t worry about it. You can eat Brazil nuts or almonds and get the same creative effect.
Why would dark chocolate and nuts increase your creativity? You can thank the rich and abundant supply of antioxidants found in this combination of sweets. These wonderful substances enable your blood to flow to the brain more swiftly which in turn improves your concentration.
Additionally, the nuts are a great source of vitamin E which prevents poor memory and increases your concentration levels. By the way, eating this combination of food also increases your happiness.
Adopt the Beginner’s Mind
You may believe you’re ready to tackle the world with your out of the box thinking. But there’s still one more exercise you’ll want to think about while you’re using these activities. It’s called adopting the beginner’s mind. At least that’s what the Buddhists call it.
Some people refer to as a looking at life through the eyes of a child. You can call it whatever you desire. The idea is to empty your mind of everything you believe you know about your world and how everything around you operates and look at your surroundings as if you’ve never seen any of it before.
Remember when you were a child, anything and everything was possible? Think back, too, to when your children were younger, they too saw the world with eyes of wonder. Absolutely nothing is impossible. And that’s exactly how you should be looking at your world in order to think outside of the box.
Don’t feel constrained by what worked in the past or what gave you grief. Try it again. It just may work this time. And even if it doesn’t, it may be the idea that leads you to the one that will actually change your life.
This is more difficult than you may believe and it may be one of those exercises you need to repeat not only daily but several times a week. Eventually, you’ll come to every issue with a “beginner’s mind,” realizing you really don’t know anything about the issue. Finding a creative answer is so much easier this way.
Here is an exercise in what it feels like to look at things around you with a beginner’s mind. Gather the following items: a coffee mug, pen and paper. Yes, that’s all you’ll need. To have a real good time doing this you may want to invite a few friends to join you.
Place the cup on the table. Give yourself -- and your friends -- a specific amount of time. It’s best to set a timer, then no one has to stop to watch the clock as the minutes tick by. You know that a coffee cup’s purpose is to drink out of.
But what else could it be used for? You’ve seen people use them as pen and pencil holders among other things. List as many of these uses as possible. The goal is not to limit your thinking. If your first thought is a house for a mouse write it down. The sky’s the limit.
Walk Away from the Problem
Seems counter-intuitive now doesn’t it? But it works, nearly every time. Walking away -- either literally or figuratively -- and clearing your mind for a few minutes seems to clear the mind enough to allow your subconscious mind crank some idea out.
Try it and you’ll see. This trick works probably for the same reason that you get your best ideas in the shower. You’re allowing your mind to clear and busy with an activity that is done by rote memory.
Anything that makes your mind relax and “digest” the problem, as it were, helps you to think creatively.
You’re almost ready to apply creative thinking in your daily life. There’s only a few more steps you should know about before you can expect great success from your “out-of-the-box” thought processes.
In the next chapter, you’ll discover how a thought process called “lateral thinking” can work hand in hand with creative thinking to help you take that grand leap out of the box.