January brainstorm


To get your new year off to a good start, I have tried to find some good meaty ideas – including how to make this the year you actually stick to your resolutions.

To get your new year off to a good start, I have tried to find some good meaty ideas – including how to make this the year you actually stick to your resolutions.

1: The medical benefits of creativity
Researchers at George Washington University recently measured the effects of participating in music, dance, and crafts on people over 65. The measurable benefits: better overall health, fewer doctor's visits, fewer falls, less use of medications. They also suffered less from depression and had higher overall morale.

I doubt that the benefits are restricted to older people. Are you making time to enjoy some social activities that are not goal-driven? Do you have a way to express your creativity and be spontaneous unrelated to work? I know how tempting it is to say that's for later...but it may make our "later" much healthier and happier if we do some of that now.

ACTION: If it's been a while since you've done something purely for fun, in a social, non-competitive atmosphere maybe it's time!

2: The three parts of creativity (and why some creative people are good only at one)
Psychologist, educator and researcher Robert J. Sternberg outlined his theories of creativity recently at La Salle University. His theory of Successful Intelligence is that there are three types of intelligence:

  • Creative intelligence – coming up with ideas
  • Analytical intelligence – deciding which ideas are good
  • Practical intelligence – turning the ideas into reality

Actually, all three require creativity. So many important scientific breakthroughs for instance, are the result of unexpected outcomes - but it's only if the people observing the outcomes are creative enough see new possibilities in what looks like failure that the breakthroughs can happen.

Creativity is also required in the third phase. James Dyson, for instance, is a great example of the creative engineer, someone with huge practical knowledge but also the creativity to think in new ways.

However, I've noticed that a lot of people who are very creative in the first situation - coming up with new ideas - seem to turn off that creativity when it comes to implementation. I know that's somewhat true for me--do you think it might apply, at least to some extent, to you as well?

ACTION: What I'm finding useful is to treat each major task as though someone has come to me and asked me to be a creative consultant and to brainstorm ideas for ways to do it better - not only in terms of the outcome but also in terms of making the process more enjoyable and getting it done faster. If this notion resonates with you at all, give that a try.

3: How to make this the year you stick to your resolutions
Lots of people have already given up on their New Year's resolutions, but I have the answer. It's simple. Unfortunately, simple and easy are not the same thing. However, if you apply three key ideas that come from the scientific study of effective change, you have a very good chance of succeeding.

One of the first places I encountered these ideas was in Bill O'Hanlon's book, "Do One Thing Different." He considers himself the world's laziest successful person because he's learned to let reality guide him to success.

This is a great, if sometimes difficult thing to do at first. Let's say somebody cuts you off in traffic. How much energy will you expend on rage or resentment? How many minutes or hours later will you still be seething? Does that serve you? Does it punish him?

The following three points are a PhD in dealing with what is, and turning it to your advantage: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

One way to solve a problem is not to analyze why the problem arose, but to change what you are doing to respond to it. (The exception is when figuring out why it arose can help you prevent it from happening again.)

The secret of getting better results is a two-step process: One, pay attention to repetitive patterns you are caught up in or that others are caught up in with you, and change anything you can about those patterns. Two, notice what you are doing when things are going better, and do more of that.

Recognize this? It's evolution. Darwin's idea wasn't survival of the fittest, it was survival of the most flexible in responding to changing conditions. And if there ever was a time when conditions were changing, it's now! This is not to say that we should accept things as they are, just that we should choose our battles wisely.

ACTION: Do this interesting experiment: for one day notice and jot down everything that upsets you or annoys you in any way. At the end of the day, count how many of those you can control or influence and the how many just reflect the reality of a world that isn't likely to declare you emperor anytime soon.

If there are a lot of the latter, it may be time to look into meditation or relaxation techniques so you can change your response so you have energy to change the things you can.

4: How to find the quirk that works (more important than ever in today's economy)
It's accepted that to be successful with any kind of venture in today's marketplace, it helps to have what often is called a USP - a unique selling proposition or hook or story. How do you find the quirk that works? One method is to write a simple statement describing your product. Something like this:

"I sell an ebook that helps people to be more persuasive in their presentations."

You can look at every component of that statement and generate a few alternatives for it. For instance, "I". Who else could sell this ebook for you? Could you hook up with a mail order company? A software company?

"sell" – instead, could you give it away as part of a bigger, more profitable package, maybe consulting? Or could you actually pay people to use it - maybe a test group that you videotape before and after to document the fantastic results they get with your book. You could put those up on YouTube and that could become the hook.

"an ebook" – what other formats might be more profitable? DVDs? Mp3s? Lectures? Tutoring?

See how it works? You'd do that for "people" and "persuasive" and "presentations" as well. By the time you are done you will have a dozen or more variables and that's when the fun really starts! You play with mixing and matching those and often that leads you to a fantastic quirk and sometimes even to a totally new product or service.

ACTION: Does your product or service have a quirk that works to attract customers? If not, try this exercise. Even if your answer is yes, are you sure that today's quirk will still work tomorrow? Might be good to generate alternatives sooner rather than later.

5: And a quote to consider:
"The man who moved a mountain was the one who began carrying away small stones." [Chinese Proverb]

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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".