You’ve been waiting for that light bulb moment for so long that you’re worried it’s never going to come. It’s not that your old ideas aren’t good enough, they just aren’t working. And you know that if you’re going to stop your business from stagnating, inspiration has to strike soon.
Don’t worry, it’s not your fault. It’s easy to feel disheartened when the creative juices stop flowing. And nobody wants to be the victim of a creative rut that’s impossible to escape. But fortunately for you, this frustrating mental block is easier to break through than you might expect.
Here are 3 surprising psychological principles you can use to create more ideas than your business will ever need:
1. Stop Looking For New Ideas
Most people think that creativity involves coming up with new and original ideas. After all, it’s impossible to be inventive if you just keep reusing the same old thinking patterns, right? Actually evolutionary psychology disagrees.
According to professor Jakob Hohwy, the human brain is inherently predictive. In other words, we’re exceptionally good at using past experiences to predict the outcomes of events we haven’t encountered before.
We do this through a cognitive bias known as anchoring – a subconscious tendency to focus on the first piece of information we’re exposed to, and use it to influence our subsequent decisions.
Anchoring gives the appearance that we’re excellent at creating new ideas, when in fact we’re just recycling old ones and adapting them to contexts in which they haven’t been used before.
Creativity is therefore not about creating new ideas. It’s about constantly evolving and modifying old ideas to fit new situations. And that’s a good thing because it means you don’t need to stress every time you hit a roadblock.
Instead, relax and focus on the successful ideas you’ve implemented in the past. There’s a strong possibility that they’ll work for you again if you give them a slight tweak.
“To really boost your sense of self-efficacy, think of ways you could modify your usual tasks to suit your personal style.” – Martha Beck
2. Trick Your Brain With Psychological Distancing
Creativity is not a personality trait (despite what you might have heard). Yes, it’s true that some people possess a greater natural propensity for creative thought than others. But creativity is a skill that can be developed like any other.
In fact, psychology researchers from the University of Tel Aviv suggest that creativity has as much to do with the internal workings of our brain, as it does with the context in which the thinking takes place.
And they’ve come up with a clever brain hack. We can enhance our creativity by changing the way we mentally perceive our environment using a phenomenon know as psychological distancing.
Here’s how it works. Psychological distancing involves imagining that an object is further away from you than it actually is. And this forces your brain to represent it abstractly.
You’re now working with a mental representation of the object – rather than a concrete one that influences your perception of it through distinct physical characteristics (sight, sound, touch ect).
Psychologists suggest that humans can easily form unexpected connections between abstract thoughts using a process known as divergent thinking. But that’s not the case for objects we see in front of us because their physical attributes bias our thinking.
However, being forced to think abstractly about these same objects strips away this bias, and makes it easier to draw comparisons between objects that are seemingly unrelated.
So the next time you’re struggling to ignite your creative spark, simply change the way you perceive the things around you. You’ll be surprised at the unusual connections you can make between objects that once appeared to be mundane.
3. Expand Your Mind With Positive Thinking
Let’s be honest, the term “positive thinking” has a bad reputation. It’s overused, it’s ambiguous, and it’s lost its credibility. But while these criticisms are certainly well deserved, science suggests that positive thinking (or more specifically the positive emotions it promotes) can actually physically affect our brain.
Psychology professor Barbara Fredrickson states that humans experience two different types of emotions, negative and positive; each with their own set of catalysts.
Negative emotions like fear, stress and anger occur in response to perceived threats. And in threatening situations we’ve been evolutionarily programmed to focus our thoughts on a single, impulsive course of action; the fight or flight response.
This forces our brains to make immediate, instinctive judgements. That means that we perform specific actions while subconsciously ignoring a whole variety of alternatives. But while this narrow focus is a great survival mechanism, it sucks for creative thinking because it obscures a whole spectrum of potential choices.
On the other hand, professor Fredrickson suggests that positive emotions are catalysts for considered, thoughtful action. That’s because they aren’t associated with imminent danger or the impulsive responses that come with them.
Therefore, if you’re able to consistently evoke positive emotions and suppress the influences of negative ones, you’ll become significantly more perceptive than the less cheerful people around you.
So the next time you’re stuck in a creative slump, remember that sometimes a simple change in attitude is all you need to grasp ideas that might have been in front of you all along.
“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.” – Willie Nelson
4. Ignite Your Creative Engine
The only thing more disheartening than a bad idea is not being able to come up with an idea in the first pace. Sure, it can be scary when the creative sparks stop firing. Especially when the success of your business relies on consistent and original thinking. But everybody has their slow days. Even the most creative minds in the world need a break sometimes.
Using just one of these surprising creativity insights should reignite your creative spirits, get you back on your feet, and give you the confidence you need to drive the innovation that your business so desperately deserves.