Being creative involves opening yourself up to the world around you, taking in new information, and looking at everyday things from a different perspective. As an ongoing strategy, you’ll want to expose yourself to new experiences.
Here are some fun and easy activities you can do throughout your normal day, such as when you have a break at work, when you’re driving, or when you’re at home enjoying your free time. You can do many of these activities alone, or you can invite other participants to join in. Ultimately, the objectives of these activities are to broaden what you’re exposed to in your day-to-day life, to look at things from a different perspective, and to practice thinking creatively.
These exercises are described in no particular order, so choose whichever ones you feel the most comfortable with and start incorporating them into your life. The new things you experience will help to inspire your creativity and assist you in generating new and better ideas. After you finish reading this article, there’s no better time than the present to get started. Choose any of the following exercises and give it a try!
Read Different Newspapers and Magazines:
If you’re an avid reader of your local newspaper, spend a few days reading a newspaper with a different focus, such as USA Today or The Wall Street Journal. Then go to the newsstand and purchase three or four magazines you don’t typically read, and read them from cover to cover. The magazines can focus on any topic, serious or not. Do this exercise once per month.
To take this exercise to a higher level and make it more effective, read magazines you’d never otherwise consider reading, either because they’re not targeted to you or because you know nothing about the topic. Depending on your interests, you might pick up fashion, crafting, travel, health, computer, sports, or physical fitness magazines. As you read them, try to put yourself in the shoes of the target audience for the magazine and see things from their perspective.
Also, as you read the magazine, see if you can adopt and apply ideas and other people’s solutions you read about to your own situation. For example, if an issue of Businessweek profiles a company that solved a particular problem in its industry, see if you can apply that same logic to your business.
Watch a Different Type of TV Show at Least Once per Week:
Some people are fans of one-hour dramas, movies, game shows, news magazine shows, or soap operas. At least once per week, pick a few shows you wouldn’t typically be interested in and watch them in their entirety.
Even if it’s purely for entertainment purposes, once per week, watch some other type of program, such as a sitcom or a game show, instead of your usual choice. Juggle your television watching habits. Again, the idea is to expand your horizons and be exposed to new ways of thinking, other perspectives, and different ideas.
Go Somewhere Different on Vacation:
Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or a two-week trip, select a destination you’ve never been to and make the most out of your time by exploring, meeting new people, trying new activities, and learning about new places. Your destination might be on the other side of the state, across the country, or around the world. Many people return to the same place repeatedly for each of their vacations. This offers a sense of familiarity and comfort, yet doesn’t expose you to new experiences.
You may be surprised to discover that for the same price as your annual trip to Florida, you could travel to Europe by taking advantage of discounted travel packages and airfares offered online.
Research various vacation destinations that will allow you to experience a new culture or way of life.
Take an Alternate Route to and From Work Each Day:
If there’s more than one route you can take to and from work, utilize them. Try to put as much variation into your everyday activities as possible. As you explore a new route to work, look at what’s around you—take in the different surroundings.
Eat at Different Restaurants for Lunch Everyday:
Instead of returning to the same convenient restaurant to grab your lunch each and every day, and instead of ordering the same meal, try new restaurants and new foods on a regular basis. Just the act of altering your diet slightly by trying new foods could provide plenty of inspiration in terms of your creative thinking abilities.
If you tend to eat foods that aren’t too healthy, try improving your diet. This too will keep you in a happier and healthier state of mind. For example, if you’re able to lose a few pounds and you ultimately begin to feel better about yourself (in terms of your physical appearance), your overall confidence level will vastly improve. This additional confidence and pride in yourself will impact your ability to generate more creative ideas and to think more clearly. It’ll also improve your self-esteem and help to alleviate the inherent fear many people have when asked to brainstorm in a group situation.
Take Adult Education and Enrichment Classes:
If you live in or near a city, chances are there’s an adult education program or community college in your area. Sign up for classes at night or during the weekends. The classes you take could improve your professional skill set, but you could also participate in classes on subjects such as creative writing, painting, drawing, flower arranging, gardening, or crafts. You’ll probably find many potential classes designed to teach you new skills or hobbies. Best of all, adult education programs are usually extremely inexpensive and require a minimal time commitment. Stay focused on your goal of expanding your experiences and learning new things, whether what you learn directly relates to your career or not.
One of the very best ways to learn new things is to ask questions. Whenever you’re talking with someone in your personal or professional life, even a salesperson you encounter at the store, ask questions. Broaden your knowledge about whatever it is you’re talking about with the other person. If you’re not sure what to ask, stick with the basics—who, what, where, when, why, and how—then go from there. If you don’t get the answers you need from the questions you’re asking, rephrase the questions or broaden their scope.
Look at Everyday Things From a Different Perspective:
No matter what activity you’re experiencing, try to look at that experience from a different perspective. For example, what is the person next to you thinking and feeling? What’s going through that individual’s mind while he or she is experiencing the same thing you are? If you’re looking at a piece of artwork or a photograph, think about what was going through the artist or photographer’s mind when it was created.
If you’re in a debate or argument with someone, take a moment to think about their side and consider the points they’re making based on something besides your own usual way of thinking.
When you watch the news on television, consider watching a different station periodically in order to obtain a different perspective on current events. There are many things you can do throughout your day in terms of thinking about everyday activities and events slightly differently.
Listen to Music and Daydream:
Pick some songs that you like or have never heard, then find someplace where you can relax, listen to your music and do nothing but daydream for 15, 30, 45, or 60 minutes without interruptions. Try to do this daily, or at least once or twice per week.
When you daydream, allow your mind to wonder aimlessly. This doesn’t have to be a brainstorming session in which you’re trying to generate specific ideas. Instead, reflect on your day, your life, a specific event, a person, or some creative project you plan to work on. Allow the music to drive your thoughts.
As you continue to engage in this activity, mix up your music selection regularly. Combine your favorites with different genres of music. Choose music that conveys different moods. Slow, instrumental ballads will put you in one frame of mind, while the latest pop or country song will put you in a totally different mind set when you daydream.
Find a Creative Outlet for Yourself:
Outside of your work, find something you really enjoy that will allow you to express your creativity and give that creativity a voice. Some ideas might include: creative writing, drawing, painting, pottery, gardening, home improvement, playing a musical instrument, sewing, knitting, or photography. Once you find something you enjoy and that allows you to express yourself (even if you choose not to share what you create with others), make time in your weekly schedule to engage in the activity.
Play the “What If” Game With Things You Encounter:
Throughout your day, challenge your mind by playing the “what if” game. The rules are simple. Take an ordinary object, activity, or anything else and then ask yourself, “What if…?” For example, if you’re looking at a dog, think about what would happen if the dog had a longer nose (“What if the dog had a 12-inch long snout?”), had five legs (“What if the dog had five legs?”), were able to speak English (“What if the dog could speak English? What would it be saying?”). What would the ramifications be of your “what if” scenario? How would things be different? Improved upon?
Here are a few more “what if” questions to get you started. Remember, you can and should
apply this to almost anything. Think about the ramifications and results of each “what if”
- What if I wore just a Speedo or bikini to work?
- What if I had to walk to work instead of drive?
- What if raindrops tasted like coffee?
- What if everyone in the world got along peacefully?
- What if there was no more disease?
- What if cars were fueled by water instead of gasoline?
- What if I graduated from college with a degree in marketing instead of accounting?
- What if I learned how to speak Spanish as well as English?
- What if I joined a dating service and met my soul mate?
- What if I quit smoking and began working out several times per week?
- What if the sky was green and grass was blue?
- What if I married my high school sweetheart instead of my current spouse?
- What if I was a multimillionaire?
- What if I was dirt poor and homeless?
- What if I colored my hair purple?
Change the surroundings:
Sometimes, what we all need is some inspiration resulting from a change of scenery. If you live in the city, take a day trip out into the country and explore. Enjoy nature—the trees, fresh air, lakes, hiking trails, and wildlife. If you live in the country, take a day-trip into the city, then spend the day exploring, shopping, dealing with crowds, and going to the theater, opera, or ballet. Taking a day trip just once per month can give you a whole new perspective and change your mood as well as your mindset.
Source: Brain Storm: Tap Into Your Creativity to Generate Awesome Ideas and Remarkable Results by Jason R. Rich