The Calculated Creative

How to Develop Creative Habits

To develop creativity over time requires planting seeds of inspiration. Then, patiently nurturing those seeds through consistent habits.

Creativity is often seen as an elusive, magical quality that some people have and some people don't. But the truth is that creativity is very much a skill that can be developed, nurtured, and strengthened over time. While some people may be more naturally creative than others, anyone can boost their creative capacity by intentionally forming habits that spark ingenious thinking.

Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to be a "tortured artist" racking your brain for bursts of inspiration. By consistently engaging in certain behaviors, you can train your mind to come up with innovative ideas and solutions on a regular basis. It's simply a matter of rerouting those neural pathways through repetition.

Shake Up Your Routine

One of the biggest impediments to creativity is getting stuck in a rut. When you follow the same patterns day in and day out, you tend to fall back on conventional thinking. Your brain becomes so accustomed to your daily rhythms that it resists firing in new directions. Disrupting your normal routines acts as a reset button for your brain, opening you up to fresh ways of seeing things.

  • Change up your commute - Take a different route, walk instead of drive, listen to a podcast instead of music. Varying your commute shakes out the cobwebs and gets you seeing your environment with new eyes, sparking creative insights.
  • See new sights - Visit a cafe, museum, or city neighborhood you've never been to before. Expose yourself to different inspirations like art, music, culture. Surrounding yourself with unfamiliar creative works gets your own creative juices bubbling with new possibilities.
  • Break habits - If you always brainstorm ideas in the morning over coffee, try doing it after dinner instead. If you always use a notebook, switch to recording voice memos on your phone. Shaking up your routines pulls you out of habitual thought patterns.

Varying your daily rhythms may feel uncomfortable at first as it pushes you outside your comfort zone. But making an effort to disrupt routines prevents you from getting locked into set ways of thinking. With consistency over time, what once felt unfamiliar eventually becomes second nature.

Engage Your Senses

Creative breakthroughs often happen when we engage multiple senses at once. The interplay between our senses sparks neural connections that evoke whole new ideas. Too often we get stuck in our heads, thinking in abstract concepts. By awakening our senses, we stoke our creative fires.

  • Listen to music while you brainstorm ideas or work on a creative project. Upbeat instrumental music that creates a positive mood works best. Avoid anything with lyrics, which can be distracting. Music has a profound effect on brain activity in ways science is only beginning to understand - channel this power!
  • Take a walk outdoors and observe your surroundings mindfully. Nature offers an infinite array of sensory inspirations to tap into. Study the colors, textures, sounds, and smells around you. Use all five senses as fuel for creative insights. Take a notebook to jot down ideas as they bubble up.
  • Doodle while thinking through challenges or problems. Engage your tactile sense not just visual. Doodling provides a playground for making uninhibited associations between disparate concepts that spur whimsical ideas. Lab studies confirm doodling boosts recall and information retention too. Grab some colored pens and have fun!

Purposefully putting yourself in multisensory environments trains your creativity over time. Surfing between the senses starts forging those pathways to ingenious thinking. Make it a consistent practice.

Assume a Beginner's Mindset

As we gain knowledge and experience over the years in any domain, we tend to lock into particular ways of seeing and thinking about the world. We develop certain expertise that narrows our perspective. Recapturing a beginner's mindset opens us back up to radical unconventional possibilities we might have previously discounted.

  • Learn something totally new outside your competency - Study a foreign language, learn to code, take apart an engine to see how it works. Placing yourself in novice mode again, unsure of even basic things, forces you to return to unfiltered questioning and experimenting.
  • Question assumptions - Take things you've accepted as undisputed truth and ask "What if I'm wrong about this?" "Under what conditions might that not hold true?" Questioning long-held assumptions shakes loose stubborn fixed perspectives we didn't realize were there.
  • Approach problems playfully- Bring an experimental, loose, even silly attitude to your work rather than rigidity. Give yourself permission to try crazy useless solutions for the pure novelty. Playfulness lowers inhibitions about being "right" and opens you up to ridiculous possibilities.

The Takeaway

To develop breakthrough creativity over time requires planting seeds of inspiration through varied activities.

Then patiently nurturing those seeds through consistent habits.

The tangible creative results won't emerge overnight.

But inch by inch, embracing unfamiliarity expands your reality and bears creative fruit.

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