May brainstorm

2011

Spring! A great time for cleaning out old clothes, old stuff, even old beliefs that no longer serve you. You could even try changing the way you think!

1. How changing your thinking style could make you more creative.
A new study reported on Psyblog says that when people who said they usually think rationally were asked to think intuitively, they came up with more creative ideas than usual. What may be more surprising is that when people who said they usually think intuitively were asked to approach a challenge more rationally, they also came up with more creative ideas than their usual.

It may be that just asking ourselves to think in ways different from our norm helps us avoid coming up with the same old solutions.

ACTION: The next time you face a creative challenge, ask yourself to approach it in a different way from your usual and notice the results.

2. Want to re-boot your life? Here's a drastic question method.
If you think Spring is a good time for some Life Clearing as well as house clearing, there's a simple (but sometimes uncomfortable) method: The One Per Hour Questions.

There are three questions:

  1. What am I doing right now?
  2. Why?
  3. Is there something else I could be doing that would be better? ("Better" according to your standards and values.)

The method is to set a timer that rings once an hour. That's when you ask yourself those 3 questions and jot down the answers. You do that for one full weekday if your weekdays are pretty much alike and one weekend day. If you want to be even more radical, you do it for a full week.

Don't try to make any changes until you're done. Then look over the results. What have you learned about your life? About what's working for you? About what you want to change? What are you going to do about it?

ACTION: If you dare, try the One Per Hour Question method. Even if you don't change anything, it will clarify a lot.

3. Changing the questions changes the answers
Hank Wasiak, "The Wisdom Guy," suggests becoming an "asset-based thinker." That means accepting that not every situation is a good one, but that even the bad ones may have some potential pluses that can be leveraged.

To access this state, it's useful to ask certain questions, including:

Given the situation, what are the possibilities or opportunities? Whether or not you like what's happening, how can you bring something positive or useful out of it? What can you learn or use? How can you prevent or contain the losses? Sometimes we have an all-or-nothing mentality and when things aren't going our way we give up. Instead, consider what action you can take to lessen the negative impact.

Granted, these are difficult to remember if the situation is emotionally devastating. Be aware that you don't have to choose--that is, you can respect and experience the emotions that come up and you can also find some mental space for this constructive approach.

ACTION: If you are facing a challenging situation in your work or private life, try asking these questions.

4. Why your greatest asset also is your greatest danger
You have ideas. Lots of ideas. Too many ideas.

The advantage of having lots of ideas is clear. The danger sometimes is not so clear. There actually are three dangers:

  1. We take on too much and then feel overwhelmed;
  2. We start on a project but when it gets hard we have a new idea that seems better and we drop the first one, resulting in a bunch of half-finished projects;
  3. We finish projects but instead of exploiting them we immediately move on to the next one.

ACTION: One useful strategy is to stop and consider at the start of any project its potential benefits, how long it will take, the resources it will take, and what we'll do with it once it is done. Also consider how many other projects you have already in the works and how taking on this new one will impact on your ability to finish and exploit those. When you are confused or overwhelmed, resist the temptation to try to speed up; instead take a walk, clear your head, make a quick plan and then get back to work.

5. Are you paying attention to both of your selves?
Martha Beck (author of "Finding Your Own North Star") says that we have two selves: the Essential Self and the Social Self. The Essential Self is the more primitive (not in a bad way) part of you that is spontaneous and playful; the Social Self is the part that was trained to be a good boy or girl and still is influenced by what is expected of you by your family, friends, and society.

Both selves are important and deserve our time and attention. If you express only the Essential Self probably you will be in conflict with society to an extreme degree ("I think I'll run out into the road and do a dance, I'm sure that bus will stop…"). If you express only the Social Self, you will feel dissatisfied all the time because you're denying what you really want to do.

The key is to find a balance - to do what's necessary to get along in society but without sacrificing your own values and with enough time and energy to do things that you find enjoyable and worthwhile no matter what others may think.

ACTION: Your intuition will tell you whether or not you have a good balance between the two. If not, which side needs more time? (Hint: for most people, it's the Essential Self). Consider what you could do to satisfy that and start doing it.

6. And a quote to consider:
"Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny." —Lao-Tze

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About The Author

Jurgen Wolff
Jurgen Wolff

Jurgen Wolff is a writer, teacher, and hypnotherapist. His goal is to help individuals liberate their own creativity through specific techniques that can be used at work as well as at home. His recent books include "Focus: the power of targeted thinking," a W. H. Smith best-seller, and "Your Writing Coach".