How Practicing Creative Thinking Can Propel Us Forward

Yes, you are and can be creative.

My mother always said, “I am not creative. I can’t even draw a stick figure…” and each time, it sounded more and more like she had stated a simple fact about herself. However, what I heard…was fear. Fear that showed up as insecurity, anxiety, or unworthiness. Or, perhaps it was merely a misunderstanding of what creativity is for each of us as individuals. My mom is a nurse, and she always had some kind of innovative remedy for everything. A leg cramp interrupting your sleep at night? Eat a banana and wrap that leg up in a damp towel! (WHAT?!) That’s creativity!

Ugh…fear. We all know it well! It can be really problematic and even complicated to unravel unless you want to face that fear and be open to changing your way of thinking. And how would one do that? Practice!

“Creativity can be learned. It’s just that for some of us, it takes a bit more patience and an extra bit of cleverness about how we choose to think.” – Canva

Creativity is…

Frequently, “creativity” is thought only to be associated with those who have artistic talents, skills, or abilities. This is simply not true. 2020 is proof of that. We were all given no choice but to think creatively on the path we’re currently wandering upon. Creativity propels us forward. But, will this new path become comfortable? Can we adapt to even more disruption? Are we open to thinking differently so that we can change? Do we want to?

Changing the definition of what creativity means to you requires some practice. It isn’t always a whimsical concept and can be approached little by little in a more structured way. Consciously choosing to look at reasonably simple day-to-day situations in different ways will help us arrive at the same conclusion via different routes. The more we do that, our brains become less hardwired as we become more creative.

Be Clever Using This Simple Process

Driving to the grocery store. Many of us do it or have done it. A series of tasks you’d likely know well, right? (Even for the directionally-challenged! *cough-cough, me!*)

Here’s a fundamental way to look at it:

Picture yourself hopping into the driver’s seat to head to your destination. You don’t need to question every single step to do that, right? While this is efficient for everyday functioning, perhaps it’s not conducive to getting out of your head or the innovation of your thought process.

What if you questioned everything?

First, take a look at a series of what-ifs.

  • What if you used the key fob to unlock the door before you arrived at the driver’s side door to open it?
  • What if you put the grocery bags in the trunk the day before?
  • What if you sat in the car for a moment before driving?
  • What if you adjusted the seat differently?
  • What if it was going to rain that day?

Then, take a look at predicted results from asking these questions and propose small tweaks to your process.

By unlocking the car before arriving at the driver’s side door, you were able to open the door to start the car and set your things inside without fumbling for the keys.

  • Putting the grocery bags in the trunk the day before saved you a few minutes to relax before heading out.
  • By sitting in the car a few minutes before driving, you realized you had needed to add wiper fluid to your shopping list. The extra few minutes you had given yourself by putting the grocery bags in the trunk the day prior gave you some spare time to stop at the auto supply store.
  • By adjusting the seat differently, your back wasn’t as sore as it usually is.
  • By determining it would rain that afternoon, you grabbed an umbrella from the hall closet before heading out.

Finally, instead of just saying “what if,” take a look at what you’re doing / trying / exploring. Spending your days being open to new experiences and new ways of approaching things will slowly but surely change your life and the lives of others as you become more creative in the process.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” — Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

To recap, try this process to practice improving your creative thinking:

  1. Question everything. Ask yourself, “What if?”
  2. Predict outcomes to your questions.
  3. Do, try, or explore the alternatives!

Other ideas to try that can boost creative thinking, according to science:

  1. Go for a walk. According to a Stanford study, “walking increased 81% of participants’ creativity…”
  2. Look at something green. According to a study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, “A brief glimpse of green before a creativity task enhances creative performance.”
  3. Don’t clean up your desk. I know this kills me too, but according to this Management Professor following an extensive study, “Being creative is aided by breaking away from tradition, order, and convention and a disorderly environment seem to help people do just that.”
  4. Don’t be afraid to be yourself or get rejected. Easier said than done, but a professor who focuses on creativity found that “The experience of rejection may trigger a psychological process that stimulates, rather than stifles, performance on creative tasks.”
  5. Practice “design thinking.” Clarify, ideate, develop, and then implement your ideas.
  6. Do the thing that makes you relax. For example, my best ideas come in the shower. Psychologists find that if you let your mind wander or drift, your best ideas come to you.

Sometimes just thinking differently about the smallest decision or task is what makes you creative.

Typically there are two situations in which we’d think creatively. One is when we have a problem to solve with no exact way to solve it. The other is when we want to improve something just for the sake of making it better or different. However, sometimes the process of approaching either of those situations, even thinking differently about the smallest decision or task, is the intention or the result.

And sometimes…

Creative thinking just means going back to basics.

  1. Listen more
  2. Be honest
  3. Think outside of the box? Nope. There is no box!

Read 3 Ways to Practice Clever and Creative Thinking

If incorporated into daily life – our circumstances have the potential to change in positive ways dramatically. From making a sandwich or designing a logo to having tough conversations and feeling stuck, we will empower our thoughts and actions with new and distinct qualities.

Essentially, imaginative and creative thinking becomes a powerful practice designed to empower you to approach familiar situations in new ways through questioning everything. And, hopefully, with time, this will just become the natural way in which we approach life both personally and professionally.


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