Inspiration can be defined as a new and better way of answering a question, or solving a problem. In life, we often get bogged down by busyness and set patterns. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with insightful solutions to a difficult quandary. When you find yourself in need of inspiration and creativity, consider the following seven tips. Depending on your particular situation, utilize any one or combination of these ideas as you see fit:
1. Change Your "I Don't Know" or "I Can't" Thinking to "What If...?"
”To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination.”
Sometimes our own fixed patterns can be a major barrier to inspiration and creativity. Given the problem at hand, if you think close-ended statements such as “I can’t…,” “I don’t know…,” or “I’m stumped…,” you’re more likely going to create a negative self-fulfilling prophecy and remain stuck.
Instead, come up with open-ended statements and questions such as:
"I have what it takes to figure this out."
"I'm open to the possibility that solutions will come up.”
"I will find the inspiration I need to solve this."
“There’s always a way…”
“What better solutions are possible here…?”
These open-ended statements and questions are your creative mantras. When you repeat them to yourself, don’t try to consciously come up with answers. Instead, empty your mind, engage in one or more activities described in tips #2-7 below, and enjoy the process. Allow inspirations and solutions to emerge naturally and spontaneously.
The second tip to finding your inspiration is to think and act outside the box. Give yourself a day (or at least a couple of hours) when almost everything you do is a departure from your normal routine: Take a different route to work, listen to unfamiliar music, try unusual foods, visit an interesting store, problem solve in a new environment, brainstorm with your non-dominant hand (1), or watch a TED talk video on an innovative idea. Break from the mundane and experience your world in brand new ways. As your perspective widens to fresh stimulus, so will your creativity.
3. Listen to Complex Music
The links between music, intelligence and creativity are well established. Listening to Mozart’s sonata, for example, temporarily increases spatial intelligence (2). Find stimulating and enjoyable complex music to listen to, and let it refresh your mind.
Watch this short video clip of a live musical performance during a subway commute. Notice the change on the facial expressions of commuters and musicians alike as the music is played:
4. Get Out of Your Head with Exercise and Movement
Studies have shown that exercise stimulates the brain by creating new neurons in the hippocampus region of the brain (3). Physical activity helps us get out of our heads and stimulate new thought patterns. In communication there’s a saying: “motion dictates emotion.” Motion can dictate inspiration too. Engage in robust physical activity such as brisk walking, running, aerobics, yoga, bicycling, or swimming, and fresh ideas may spring forth like new seeds!
“Whenever I have found myself stuck in the ways I relate to things, I return to nature. It is my principal teacher, and I try to open my whole being to what it has to say.”
— Wynn Bullock
“Look! Look! Look deep into nature and you will understand everything.”
— Albert Einstein
Nature and colors are well known for their rejuvenating powers (4)(5)(6). For example:
A. If you feel confused and are in search of clarity, go to a space where there are colors of green and blue, which have a calming effect.
B. If you’re looking for creative ideas, place yourself in the midst of vibrant colors (like a flower garden), which can stimulate the senses.
C. If you’re not able to visit nature right away, close your eyes and visualize it with all of your senses: See in your minds’ eye all the colors of a season; hear the sounds of birds and creeks; smell the fresh air. Take deep breaths as you let yourself mentally explore this wonderful environment. Better yet, visualize while listening to Mozart or other enjoyable complex music. It’s a nice mental vacation – perhaps just what your mind needs to rejuvenate!
6. Consult Your Board of Advisors
If I ask you to write down the names of six inspirational and creative people whom you admire, which may include personal acquaintances, contemporary newsmakers, historical figures, and even fictional characters (Yoda is my favorite), which individuals would you come up with? This list is your personal board of advisors.
With open-ended questions, use mental imagery and ask each member of your board how she or he would solve your problem. You may be surprised at the quality and creativity of the answers that emerge. Of course, these brainstorms are really coming from YOU – but from a fresh perspective, and often from your more inspired, Higher Self.
“You must unlearn what you have learned.” — Yoda
7. Read or Watch Biographies of Inspiring, Creative People
Can inspiration be contagious? Absolutely! In your search for creative solutions, read or watch biographies of those whose creativity, innovation, and/or entrepreneurship you admire, and let their examples influence you:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
— Steve Jobs
“We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.”