We’ve all been there. The big meeting is coming up, your team needs to come up with something fresh, something innovative, something that will disrupt the status quo in the best possible way—and your tank is empty. No matter what field you’re in, you need creativity and inspiration to make things happen. But when the ideas just won’t come, what do you do?
A good place to start is to understand where inspiration and creativity come from. The smart people who study this stuff say it’s basic science. According to behavioral scientist Jon Levy, author of The 2AM Principle: Discover the Science of Adventure, the first step is to change up your definition of creativity. Most people think creativity is something you do or don’t have. How many of you have said, “I’m just not a creative person”? But the truth is that creativity is all about bringing together unrelated ideas—in other words, connecting the dots.
One of the best ways to get your dot-connecting apparatus working again is to have a wide variety of experiences. Even unpleasant experiences count. A good way to start is to do something on your lunch hour that you’ve never done before. Bonus points if it’s a little bit uncomfortable. “Doing something that’s outside of your usual skill set but still seems attainable wakes up those brain chemicals,” says Levy. So here are a few lunch-hour ideas:
- Take a class in a new language.
- Try a cuisine you’ve never eaten.
- Buy a dozen flowers and hand them out one at a time to strangers.
- Climb the stairs to the top of your office building.
- Invite a coworker you’ve never had a conversation with to lunch.
- Read out loud to a group of seniors or kindergartners.
- Sing with a street musician.
It isn’t what you choose, but rather using the unexpected to fire up your mental circuitry. When you keep doing things that are comfortable and familiar, your brain doesn’t react. But our brains are wired to deal with things that are new and different, which makes our bodies release all kinds of terrific hormones that juice up our brains. That’s one of the reasons we keep switching up the challenges in our Spartan races—it keeps you fresh and inspired to conquer something new.
So get out there and have an adventure. Your creativity will thank you.
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