This month, the importance of random events, the beneficial effects of getting out in nature without any support from electronic devices, some ways to escape a creative block and why working in a coffee shop can help you be more creative.
1: Will your success be random?
I've written quite a bit about goal setting, but there's another factor that plays a huge role in many successes: luck. According to business strategist Frans Johansson, author of The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World, randomness is the biggest factor.
If you look closely at most successes, key developments often do hinge on a chance meeting, an overheard conversation, being in the right place at the right time. Hindsight tends to clean up all the coincidences so that the figures at the heart of the success can claim full credit (often they don't do this intentionally, it's just that we like to think in terms of cause and effect, and to think of ourselves as the main cause).
Does this mean there's no point in planning or setting goals?
Not really, because if you put yourself in a position where there is an increased chance of meeting more people, if you are ready to jump on an opportunity that comes up suddenly and may not be what you intended, and if you listen to your intuition, you are place yourself more directly in the path of the kinds of random events that can bring sudden success.
At the same time it means that trying to use anybody else's success as an exact model will fail because it required a certain set of conditions, some of which you will not be able to replicate.
ACTION: What could you do to encounter a greater number of people and a greater number of ideas? When you encounter an opportunity, take time to consider it even if it's not in synch with your current plan.
2: The no-tech way to be more creative
A study showed that people who went on a four-day hiking trip to a national park and left behind their phones and other electronic gizmos were 50% more creative afterward than a similar group who didn't take such a trip. Of course there are other variables that might account for this (interacting with new people, perhaps sleeping better, reduced stress, etc.) but the results are in tune with other studies that suggest exposure to nature has beneficial effects.
ACTION: It may not be practical for you to devote four days, but what about going to a park for half a day on the weekend, without any electronic devices? Give it a try and notice how you feel at the end of the time. Consider expanding your no-electronics rule for the rest of the day.
3: Three DIFFERENT ways to get out of a creative block
We've heard all the usual advice for overcoming a creative block (take a break, work in a different location, take a walk or a swim), but here, from an article by Mike Brown on Brainzooming.com, are three not-so-familiar strategies:
Commit to throwing away what you create in the next 60 minutes. That takes off some of the pressure of trying to come up with something good.
Host a creative happy hour. Make it relaxed and fun, and ask the group for some ideas regarding your project.
Go back to something you created that worked. Consider whether a variation of it might solve your current problem. If nothing else, it will remind you that you are creative and boost your confidence.
ACTION: Keep these ideas handy for the next time you need a little push to get yourself past a creative block (actually, these work even when you're not blocked).
4: Why working in a coffee shop can help you be more creative
Researcher Ravi Mehta and his team tested how people's levels of creativity varied depending on the level of background noise. Most people might assume that a relatively quiet environment (50 decibels) would yield the best results, but actually the moderate level (70 decibels) was better, while high levels (85 decibels) were counter-productive.
ACTION: If you feel your thinking is getting a bit stale, relocate to a coffee shop or other public place with moderate levels of background noise (drinking a coffee probably won't hurt, either).
5: How one second a day can change your life
On February 20, 2011, Cesar Kuriyama had a kind of crazy idea: he would videotape a moment from each day of his life, pick one second from the day's footage, and put them all together into a montage that would be a record of his year: what he did and where he was.
The experiment had an unanticipated effect: it make him want to do something different every day so that the footage wouldn't be boring. He told Fast Company, "It's been an incalculably positive influence on my life."
ACTION: I've come up with some other ways you can do something similar.
Take one photo each day and at the end of the year string them together into a fast-moving slide show.
Draw one thing each day that relates to something you did that day.
Or, the idea I like best, at the end of each day write one or two sentences about the most interesting thing you did that day, or the most interesting thought you had, or the most interesting thing you heard or read.
This could become a great source of ideas as well. I suggest you get a nice notebook or datebook or even a calendar to use for this purpose. If you like the idea, why not get started today or tomorrow, no need to wait for January 1st!
6: And a quote to consider:
"Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are." – Malcolm Forbes
To which I would add that the best present you can give anyone is yourself: your time, your attention, your appreciation. Don't let the year end without telling the people that matter to you that you value them.