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Developing Your Everyday Creativity

To increase your creative abilities it helps to work on developing specific thought processes until they become habitual. The following are a few of those "ways to think," you can practice in everyday life for the purpose of encouraging greater creativity. For each one you'll find an explanation and an example or two to get you thinking in the right direction.

The key here is to keep working on a given technique or two for at least a few weeks. When you consistently think in a certain way for more than twenty days or so, it becomes a habit on an subconscious level. That's when you begin to see the long term benefits, which should include a more "naturally" creative approach to almost anything you do.

Look for New Combinations

Many of the most creative new ideas come from combining two or more concepts. Long before there were houseboats, for example, there were houses and boats. Someone just had to put the two ideas together to invent a new kind of housing. To develop the habit of looking for new combinations you can start by looking at any household objects and/or processes and consider how they might make something new if put together.

For example, our cats like to be pulled around in a box with a string attached. When I attached an old towel to the bottom of the box this became a way to entertain the cats and clean the tile floor. You don't have to actually build new things to develop the habit of creatively combining concepts. You can just do it mentally as you relax each evening. A window blind and a painting could become a new product in your mind: a blind that displays several different pictures depending on the angle of the slats. What can you imagine if you combine a couch and a swimming pool, or a table and a pair of shoes?

See Problems as Opportunities

To learn to see problems as opportunities is not only a good creativity booster, but also opens up profitable possibilities. Successful entrepreneurs often turn personal problems into new products. Tina Aldatz, for example, had burned her feet and wanted prettier pads in her shoes to protect her heels. The result was her building a multi-million-dollar business selling "foot petals," which are flower-shaped pads for women's shoes.

If you want to work on developing this mind set in everyday life, stop yourself whenever you are complaining or irritated and ask "where is the opportunity here?" Of course, you can imagine quite a few great new products when doing this, but look for at least a couple ideas that you can implement right away. For example, if you are irritated by the lack of good organic vegetables at nearby stores, you might start growing your own and find that you enjoy gardening and the save money too.

Find New Uses for Things

There is always more than one way to use something, and looking for unique new purposes is a great creativity exercise. In fact, classic group brainstorming exercises often revolve around finding as many uses as possible for a common object like a rug or pen (pea-shooter, straw, tracheotomy tube, weapon). You can do the same thing with everyday objects around your home or office. How many new ways can you think of to use a lamp or a chair?

To make the mental habit of finding new creative ways to use things really stick it helps if you can actually apply what you dream up once in a while. In our home blankets and chairs are used to build forts for our cats (yes they are like our children). When we saw nice wooden barstools on sale we bought them to use as end tables next to either side of our bed. They work well and we paid less than half of what we would have for a regular end table.

This mental practice of looking for new ways to use things can be applied to processes and abstract concepts as well. The concept of homeostasis, which describes how a system regulates itself and so tends to maintain a stable, constant condition of properties, has been applied to risk-taking. "Risk homeostasis" was the resulting concept, and it has been used to explain how regulations that make things safer in theory are counteracted because humans then take greater risks in response to the change (you drive a bit wilder if you have better brakes). What else could you use the concept of homeostasis for?

To practice this mind set in daily life, consider the concepts involved in what you are doing or experiencing and look for a new application for them. For example, suppose you get a flu while on vacation, and you realize that you won't have to worry about getting sick from that strain of virus when you return to work, because you've essentially been inoculated. Having had this thought you could then ask, "What is another way to use the concept of inoculation?" Lending a small amount to a friend who rarely pays his debts might inoculate you from requests for larger sums (since he will be embarrassed to ask if he has not repaid the small loan). There are probably other ways to use the concept.

There are many other techniques for creative problem solving and idea-creation, but if you start with one or more the three presented here , and you practice them in everyday life, you'll see an increase in creativity in your thinking within a few weeks.

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