By ProBlogger expert Ellen Jackson of Potential Psychology.
I have big plans for 2017, blog-wise and business-wise.
I bet you do too.
My word for this year is ‘bigger.’ I’m going to think bigger, to play bigger. After a year of hard work and incremental improvement it’s time for a quantum leap. It’s time to shake things up; to think differently about what I do.
A new year is a great time to plan, to get organised and to come up with your big ideas. But where do these great ideas come from?
Returning to work after a holiday break I’ve found it difficult to fire up the brain and get the ideas flowing. The heart is willing, the motivation present but the grey matter is luxuriating in holiday mode.
I could keep busy with Netflix and cheese until inspiration hits, but time waits for no woman – no matter how much she’s enjoying Brooklyn Nine-Nine and marinated feta.
So to crank up I’ve uncovered what psychology says about getting ideas to flow. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Original and functional
When we talk about ideas, we’re talking about creativity. Creativity is not the preserve of the arts and artistic. It’s the ability to solve problems, to see things differently and to come up with new concepts and approaches. We are all creative.
At the heart of creativity is originality and functionality. A bright idea is pointless if it’s not practical, and repeating the same old, same old won’t lead to a bigger, better result.
This is good news for the blogger and online entreprenuer. You can put your creativity to work to develop practical results. Fresh blog topics. New digital products. Irrisistable online services.
You might find new and more productive ways to work.
Psychologists recommend six simple strategies for upping your creativity.
- Allow your mind to wander to unleash fruitful ideas. To do this well, without your mind meandering to your next imagined meal, there’s a three step process. Step one, make sure you have thought long and hard about the problem or question already. Step two, disengage from external tasks and let your mind relax. Take a shower, jog or cook. Do something enjoyable that requires little thought or attention. Step three, turn your attention inward to your stream of thoughts. This is called volitional daydreaming and it might just be where your next great idea is hiding. Have a pen and paper handy to jot it down.
- Delay a little. Turns out that putting things off is not all bad. Studies have shown that delaying a task can lead to divergent thinking. That’s the blue-sky thinking we need to arrive at new ideas and material. Stick too close to time and task and you get to your first idea and stick there. Delay and your mind has time to wander and discover alternate possibilities. Don’t put things off too long though. Once you’ve got a few options to choose from, get back on task. The stress of an impending deadline can be enough to shut things down for good.
- Hang out on your own. Solitude is creativity’s friend. Spend every hour in chatter and distraction and your mind is too cluttered to arrive new ideas. Take time out to walk, meditate and observe the world in silence. This allows your brain’s imagination network to engage. You’ll see things you haven’t seen and think things you haven’t thought. Let your mind meander and see where it takes you. Just make sure to leave your phone at home.
- Embrace doubt.Self doubt is a creativity crusher. When we doubt ourselves and allow negative thoughts to take hold our minds close down. The ideas stall. This is a normal response to the uncertainty that comes from creative thought. ‘I can’t do that. That’s a ridiculous idea. There’s no way that would work.’
Put those thoughts aside and you free your mind to fulfil its creative potential. Practice helps. So does mental reframing – thinking differently about the situation. Believe that others think you’ll fail? Prove them wrong! Don’t believe you have good ideas? Remind yourself of every great idea you’ve had in the past. Doubt is normal. Embrace it and you free yourself.
- Give yourself permission to fail. I wear a bangle on my wrist that says, ‘What if I fall? Oh but my darling what if you fly?‘ It’s a reminder that failure is always an option – but so is success. The beauty of embracing failure is that often our greatest achievements come from trying, trying and trying again. When we’re prepared to take risks and try new way of thinking we may fail several times but in each iteration we improve on where we’ve been before.
To embrace the possibility of failure, jump in and get the creative juices flowing, consider your latest idea and ask yourself these questions:
- What happens if I flip this idea around?
- What happens if I apply this idea to an entirely new situation?
- What happens if I take something away from this idea?
- What happens if I pull this apart and put it together differently?
- What happens if I scrap this idea and approach the problem from a completely different angle?
Are you ready to get started? Me too.
Here’s to great ideas!