Are you having trouble thinking creatively? You’re not alone. Lots of people struggle with coming up with good ideas, or helping those ideas come to fruition. Most of the time, the path to being creative is there for all of us, but it’s frequently blocked by more “traditional” modes of thinking.

There’s a great article by Brian Clark at Copyblogger that addresses ten of the mental blocks that most often seem to stifle creativity. Here’s the list of blocks, along with some tips to demolish the blocks and get back to being creative…

1. Looking for a single right answer – We’re all used to figuring out what the “correct” answer is, but in life, there are often many correct answers of varying degrees. The first solution you arrive at may not end up being the best one overall. Try to change your perspective on the problem a bit and look at it from different angles to get different answers that you might not have thought of before, and be open to all answers you DO come up with.

2. Being logical – Think about it: real life is illogical. There’s ambiguousness around us at all times, so being strictly logical, while helpful in some ways, is contrary to creative thinking. Instead, try to think in metaphors. With a metaphor, you’re using symbols for the various parts of the problem, which can help you realize that the “truth” is symbolic, as well. That can lead to new alternatives you haven’t considered.

3. Sticking to the rules – We are surrounded by rules. They give us order and structure, but they also keep us constrained. Reach your creativity by asking “why” and “why not” when told that something is done a certain way, or “that’s how everyone does it.” This is tough for most people to do, since we’re trained from youth to obey rules, but the rebels in life are often the ones who are the most creative and successful. Be like them.

4. Being practical – This one is similar to the logic one above. Worrying about practicality will keep your creative side from shining through. Don’t stop to consider how feasible something is while you’re coming up with ideas… Just let the ideas flow. Ask “what if” a lot, and ignore any inner voice that says “that doesn’t make sense!” You’d be surprised what you can come up with when imagination has free rein.

5. Working too much without play – Most of us think of play as counterproductive; we’re told that we should focus on work, stay on track, and save play for later. But when you’re trying to be creative, play can be among the most effective things you can do to jump start the process. Think about it: The people who come up with the creative ideas are the ones who rise to the top, while the people who sit at their desks and “stay on track” are often the ones who end up supporting those other people’s creative endeavors. Working hard and playing hard can be the same thing, if you give it a try.

6. Saying “That’s not my job” – We’ve all heard this before: someone at work is asked to do something that’s outside their usual tasks, and the knee-jerk response is, “That’s not my job!” Those people are thinking narrowly and pigeonholing themselves into tiny, specialized spaces. Creative people are the ones who actually seek to try new things, take on new tasks and see that everything is connected. Creative people don’t just want to stay in their own tiny world and ignore the big picture; they want to BE part of the big picture. Try to see yourself as an explorer. You’ll need to be somewhat specialized to do whatever job you do, but the more you can explore other things, the more creative you’ll be.

7. Being too serious – Most of us take life pretty seriously. We conform, we share values, we follow the herd. That’s fine, but once in a while, it’s important to step outside that mentality. Outside of the constructs that help us work together as a society, there’s room to be, for lack of a better word, a “fool.” Kings of the past consulted their court jesters when they needed help with a problem, and the reason for that is that fools could say or do just about anything without worrying about being punished for it. Fools could speak the truth and comment on situations as an outside observer, not as one of many citizens conforming to the norms. Let yourself think like a fool and see situations for what they really are underneath, and you’ll have a new, helpful perspective.

8. Avoiding ambiguity – We all know that much of life is ambiguous, but we usually can’t help separating things into black and white. We like the certainty, the knowledge that everything is categorized correctly. But to be creative, we must embrace ambiguity. Don’t let uncertainty make you uncomfortable. Explore it and consider the many alternatives to clarity that are available to you.

9. Feeling that “wrong” is “bad” – No one likes to be wrong. We work hard throughout our lives to AVOID being wrong. But real innovators learn the most from screwing up. Being wrong is not the problem! If we can learn from our mistakes, we can go a lot further than those who don’t make any at all. The hard part is allowing ourselves to make mistakes in the first place. Open yourself up to the possibilities, take a leap, give something a try. What’s the worst that could happen? Then take what you learn and use it to try again. A mistake is often one of the best teachers a creative person can have.

10. Saying that you’re not creative – EVERYONE is creative. Even the most straightlaced, boring people have the capacity for great creativity. The only thing holding us back is the mental blocks we put in place. Seek creativity like others seek enlightenment: tear away the blocks, remove your delusions and recognize that you are already creative. It’s part of our nature as human beings.

The next creative idea could be tomorrow’s popular thought, so what are you waiting for? Now that you’ve tackled the mental blocks to creativity, put it to use! Good luck.

Advertisements