How Can Creative Thinking Be Improved?
We tend to admire creative people.
We think of them as artists, writers, performers or great thinkers like philosophers, mathematicians or even super successful business types.
We often hold them apart from us as if they have been mysteriously touched and elevated by some higher power.
Many of us do not think of ourselves as particularly creative. Our ideas about creativity sometimes limits us. We may feel that we are simply unable to be creative.
Which brings up some questions such as:
- Can creativity be learned or are we born with it?
- Can you learn how to think creatively?
- What does it mean to be creative anyway?
- Will being more creative help you to thrive in difficult times?
Creativity can be defined as a person’s ability to be original, think differently and even come up with a new idea or new ways to look at things.
That definition can include many more of us, right!
Within all of us lies the ability to be creative.
Thinking more creatively will help us to perform at higher levels at work, build better relationships and drive up our enthusiasm and optimism about the future.
Left Brain / Right Brain
Although a supercomputer can store more memory and process more information faster than the human brain, computer scientists have not yet figured out how to replicate the complex and subtle processes that each of our brains can perform.
The brain is a 3 pound, electrically charged miracle of nature that has 2 hemispheres, the Left and the Right.
Even though there is some controversy as to how the brain actually divides its learning and understanding of our world, neuroscience explains that there is a hemispheric division of function in the human brain.
The left hemisphere of the brain is in charge of the right side of the body. It is also responsible for logical and sequential thinking, words and analysis of data. It focuses on details, numbers and goals and controls language.
The right hemisphere of the brain is in charge of the left side of the body. It is responsible for emotions, intuition, and bringing things (ideas) together. It is more visual, processes data randomly and works in the realms of intuition, perception, pictures and images.
Psychologists will often explain the artist, musician or performer as more right brain driven; the right hemisphere being more intuitive is sometimes seen as more creative than the left. That, of course, is not necessarily true.
Most people seem to have a dominant side. They tend to have a natural preference in the way they choose to do things which happens automatically.
We are inclined to fall back on what feels comfortable, our typical approach to something, when circumstances are stressful or when we must learn new things. Our brain goes on autopilot under those circumstances.
It is important for the creative process that we learn how to use both sides of our brain. One side may feel more dominant because we have been favoring its use long enough for more neural connections to have developed. However, we can train our brains to use and integrate more of these left/right characteristics for our benefit.
How Can I Improve My Thinking Skills?
My top 7 tips on how you can enhance your creativity and thinking skills.
Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes.
If you have ever come up with a new approach to paying your bills, doing your job, exercising or even dealing differently with a loved one, you were being creative. Most of us use our creativity, often without paying it too much attention.
What follows are some creative strategies to help you become a more creative thinker.
1) Question, Question, Question! Take nothing for granted…don’t accept or assume that things are simply the way they appear. Start challenging familiar things with new questions so that your mind will look for new answers. This simple exercise can be applied to the most ordinary of circumstances as well as the more important.
2) There is no Right answer! Creative minds seek many options to solve problems. Avoid getting hung up on having the right answer or the only answer to a question or a problem. Instead look for many different solutions.
3) Think Metaphorically! Logic works fine but is often limiting when trying to be creative in problem solving. Metaphors are especially valuable in helping you to think differently about something and to gain new insights into your problem.
When you think metaphorically you are comparing things that are similar and symbolically analyzing them. Some examples of metaphors like, “It’s raining cats and dogs”, “You light up my life”, “The sweet smell of success”, “Time is money”, “Have your cake and eat it”, create images in the mind and can cause you to think about your problem differently. Create several metaphors for any problem that comes to mind.
4) Think visually! Begin creating pictures in your mind that represent problems you are trying to solve. Get those pictures as clear as you can by adding color and texture. Then start making changes to those pictures such that they represent the solutions. Train your brain to create many visual solutions.
5) Give your mind a mini vacation! Listen to music, watch movies, look at art, read novels or just play with your kids. Letting yourself enjoy being playful can stimulate your creativity perhaps more than any other activity.
6) Record your ideas! Write your ideas down on paper, use your smart phone or record them on an audio device. Do this spontaneously or as you think up new ideas. Keep an ongoing list of those ideas and refer to them regularly. Think about anything you are involved in and develop some new ideas about it. You do not have to implement, just think them up and write them down. This process will help you to challenge some of your old ways of thinking about things you typically take for granted.
7) Think impractically! We generally default to our established patterns of assessing a problem or challenge. Don’t look for logical results but instead think in opposites. Let your mind wander into goofy notions of what might happen if things were different. Let your imagination run wild. when you open up to thinking creatively, don’t concern yourself with goals, results or logical conclusions. This is a cartoon like venture into your creative process…have fun!
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About the Author
Dr. Stan Hyman is a licensed psychotherapist and life coach in private practice in Miami, Florida. He works with people wanting to perform more creatively and at higher levels in both their professional and personal lives. This includes individuals, couples and business partners.