By Samuel Sanders
Wake up. Eat breakfast. Get ready for work. Check email. Respond to requests. Do the job you were assigned. Finish. Eat. Relax. Repeat.
These are the steps that many of us follow every day. As we repeat these steps, it’s easy for days to feel like they are blending into weeks, and even into months. These “grey” days can make it easy to fall into patterns and routines that don’t challenge your mind and can leave the creative part of your brain unfulfilled.
It is essential to continue to be creative and challenge your brain regularly. It will help you improve your skills both at work and at home, keep you engaged, reduce stress, and even help you live longer!
But how do we be creative in an environment that rewards us doing the same thing over and over again? Here are some tips to hack your brain to become more creative:
Engage in Continual Learning
It is imperative to continue to learn every single day. Continual learning will arm you with more information and opportunities in order to identify ideas, connect concepts, and get a better understanding of the world around you. One misconception around creativity is that it often just appears out of thin air. On occasion, this is possible, and sometimes the lightbulb does feel like it comes out of nowhere. However, most creativity builds off of experiences, ideas, and lessons you have learned. The more you learn, the more baseline you give yourself to come up with creative ideas.
Embrace the Power of Change (no matter how uncomfortable it can be)
Change is a powerful tool for inspiring creativity. Think about the last time you drove somewhere familiar. You may have gotten there without even thinking about the drive. However, when you go somewhere new, you are very focused on the roads, directions, and making sure that you are going the correct way. Now, imagine that change in something other than driving, like your daily habits or practices at work. Routines and habits are comfortable and easy. Change is uncomfortable. However, challenging yourself and putting yourself in a new situation will wire your brain to be hyper-aware. Change can allow you to be more likely to identify inefficiencies, see an activity or problem from a different perspective, and take in new information. All of which will help get your creative juices flowing.
One trick to light that creative spark is to try and do something new every single day. The night before (or the morning of), decide something new to try that day. It can be anything, from working from a newly discovered location to trying a new recipe. You can pick anything that will help to break the habits you have. You will be surprised at how impactful small changes can be.
Travel is a great way to inspire ideas. You’ll see and meet new people, observing how these people (and places) conduct life and in turn, learn more about the world around you. These experiences will help build the groundwork for creative ideas.
I categorize travel into four categories: local, regional, national and international. Each has its pros and cons, however, I want to highlight one in particular: local. Even if you ride your bike over to explore a neighborhood you haven’t seen before, or go to a new park, local travel is broader than you think, as long as the area is new and different to you. Whether your budget is the price of a bus ride, a tank of gas, or even thousands of dollars, the idea is to put yourself in a new environment, one where you will experience the positive effects of creativity.
When was the last time you were bored? Think about it… Every time we feel bored, we immediately pick up our phones, respond to texts, check social media, turn on the TV, or scroll through the Internet. When was the last time you were bored and had nothing to do? When you are bored, your brain will begin to tackle problems or subjects in your head. Your mind will start to wander to faraway places—your imagination sparks. In fact, a lot of creativity can happen when you are bored. If you let yourself sit and be bored more often, you might be surprised at the ideas you come up with.
Hacking your brain to become more creative can feel challenging, but even just one of the four tips can help foster creativity. It may take time, but just like anything else, once you make it a habit to try and participate in creative thinking more often, it becomes more natural.
As Maya Angelou, famous civil rights activist and poet, said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
Samuel Sanders is an award-winning entrepreneur who has seen innovation, creativity, problem-solving, and ideation in action at many different levels: a Fortune 500 company, an Inc. 5000 fastest-growing company, as well as incubators. He also co-founded the company Wundershirt, which at its peak, sold athletic training clothing to Olympic athletes preparing for the 2016 Olympics. Currently, he runs Heard, LLC, a software application that helps governments and large companies get targeted and reviewed feedback from their citizens/employees to improve decision making. His award-winning and highly-praised new book, Your Next Big Idea, is available for pre-order atwww.yournextbigideabook.com and Amazon.