These are my favourite ways to jump-start the flow of inspiration and ideas whether I have a tricky decision to make, problem to solve, choreography or song to create, or witty enigmatic title for a boring research presentation to come up with…
- Let it GoThat is, thoughts or false beliefs that are holding you back. Grief, emotional baggage, self-doubt, lack of closure, limiting beliefs…all these things severely squelch creativity and inspiration. Repressing or ignoring these thoughts won’t prevent them from subconsciously affecting you. They need to be acknowledged and either put in perspective or let go.
A few months ago I decided to go on a “Medical French” weekend course. This involved getting up at 7am, going to bed after 11pm and spending pretty much every waking minute with people I had never met before…speaking French! (They had this huge Napoleonic hat with a plume of feathers poking out, and if they caught you speaking English, they would put it on your head). Boy was that intense… I was neither particularly fluent in French nor comfortable networking with people. There are few times in my life when I noticed I vastly improved at something overnight, but this was one of them. Even more eye-opening, I realised I had forgotten the huge diversity of people there are in the world (even amongst doctors). Most of us surround ourselves with people who are quite similar to ourselves. Most doctors I knew, like me, were city-dwelling, academic and worked long hours in hospitals. At this course there were doctors who worked with asylum seekers (or had been one themselves) and had the most amazing stories of bravery and resilience. Some stories were incredibly sad and traumatic. A great many of the doctors I met at this course had worked in different parts of the world including third-world countries, war-torn countries, small towns and deserts. I had thought, having started my family, I had missed my chance to do something like that. But there were doctors there who had adult children and were beginning a new phase of life with new adventures in every sense of the word. So, push yourself out of your comfort zone. Jump and find out you can swim. It’s worth it. Meet new people, go somewhere you haven’t been before, try a new food/cuisine, try fencing/rock-climbing/aerial silks/painting/a clowning class/______________etc. You get the idea.
It is possible to think too hard about something. I find the best way to develop an idea is to zoom out and casually “day-dream” about it. Let the idea take form on its own, let your mind wander and follow the train of thought that appears. This technique works best if you have a bit of time. At least a few days to let your thoughts percolate and the idea gradually take form. Many people find it helpful to do their thinking during a quiet walk or commute eg. Mozart used to compose his symphonies in his head while out for a carriage ride…
Win Wenger, author of “The Einstein Factor” amps up this technique even further with what he calls “image streaming”. Ever had the experience when you are almost but not quite asleep and a series of vivid images flash quickly thorough your mind? Image streaming involves training yourself to do this while awake; being open to receiving images from your subconscious mind and training it to give you more and more useful ideas.
4. Sleep. and solve problems at the same time
Sleep deprivation can cause all manner of health issues and symptoms. There are many studies (and we all know from personal experience) that sleep deprivation affects mental performance. So it stands to reason that a restful night sleep is a good idea if you are trying to come up with an inspired idea. But what about solving problems in your sleep? This one takes a bit of practice but is worth a try. As described in Win Wengers book several songwriters (eg. Michael Jackson) have written songs by this method. Next time you have a problem to solve or an idea to come up with, just before you go to sleep, make a conscious plan to solve it in your sleep and ask your subconscious mind to give you the answer. Then, wait for the magic to happen…
Rinse and repeat
The more practice you get at noticing and developing the ideas that appear on the peripheries of your consciousness, the more easily inspired ideas will come to you.