We’ve all heard that we need to tap into our creative right brains.
But how? Martha Beck offers a few fruitful ways to branch out.
by Martha Beck
This morning I sat down to write about how we can all learn to better use the right hemispheres of our brains. For 30 minutes, I tapped restlessly at a laptop. Nothing much happened, idea-wise. Flat beer.
Finally I resorted to a strategy I call the Kitchen Sink. I read bits of eight books: four accounts of brain research, one novel about India, one study of bat behavior, one biography of Theodore Roosevelt, and one memoir of motherhood. Next I drove to my favorite Rollerblading location, listening en route to a stand-up comic, a mystery novel, and an Eckhart Tolle lecture. I yanked on my Rollerblades and skated around, squinting slack-jawed into the middle distance. After a while, a tiny light bulb went on. “Well,” I thought, “I could write about this.”
The Kitchen Sink, you see, is one way to activate your brain’s creative right hemisphere. Every writer I’ve ever met uses some version of it, as do Web designers, cartoonists, TV producers—all “content creators” who regularly face the terrifying thought, “Well, I’ve gotta come up with something.”
If you’re not a content creator, wait a while. The 21st century is to content creators what the Industrial Revolution was to factory workers: In a world where information is superabundant, unique and creative ideas are hot-ticket advantages both personally and professionally. More and more people are finding more and more ways to parent, make money, find friends, and generally live well by relying on creativity. I’ve seen this shift among my life-coaching clients. For instance: Michaela develops financial-planning strategies for stay-at-home moms. Mary runs a long-distance mother’s support group via Skype. Alyssa’s innovative T-shirt designs keep selling, recession or no recession. The demand for creative thinking is both a challenge and an opportunity. It requires us to use more than the logical left-brain skills we learned in school. These days, we all need to get back into our right minds. Continue reading
Clarity of thought, creative breakthroughs and inner peace whilst having a vacation from your overactive mind?
You need to sharpen your pencils.
An all-too-familiar creative roadblock
If you’ve ever had a tight deadline for a project or been trying to finish that latest article that seems to never end, you’ll appreciate the desperation that can start to creep into your thinking.
You’ve been working for what seems like days, thinking and re-thinking, writing and rewriting, trying to unleash that one idea, that one genius brushstroke to finish the piece. But it keeps eluding you and you start to feel… slightly hysterical!
Logically you know there must be a simple solution, but if the answer doesn’t come easy, avoidance tactics creep in and you ask yourself a couple of dangerous questions:
Would checking my email help?
Would Google know the answer?
It can become increasingly difficult to break the cycle of the same idea milling around in your head. What we need is a fast track to creative clarity. Continue reading
By Mark Matousek
You are a genius but probably don’t know it. Each of is born with a specific gift that exists nowhere else in all of creation. In ancient Rome, it was well understood that everyone had his or her own genius, a spirit whose sole purpose is to inspire our lives and guide us to our destiny. But we have forgotten this wisdom.
We’re told that genius is miraculously rare, instead — think Leonardo da Vinci or Stephen Hawking — and based on bizarrely high IQs. But genius, in truth, has more to do with desire, courage, passion and focus than it has with psychological testing. Genius informs the voice of your deepest self — the still small voice within — that guides you forward in mysterious ways having little to do with conscious will and much to do with learning to listen.
What gifts are you here to offer the world? No one else can do it for you. “There is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique,” as Martha Graham knew. “If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it.” Continue reading
If you’re looking for the latest in home exercise equipment, you may want to consider something with four legs and a wagging tail.
Several studies now show that dogs can be powerful motivators to get people moving. Not only are dog owners more likely to take regular walks, but new research shows that dog walkers are more active overall than people who don’t have dogs.
One study even found that older people are more likely to take regular walks if the walking companion is canine rather than human.
“You need to walk, and so does your dog,” said Rebecca A. Johnson, director of the human-animal interaction research center at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine. “It’s good for both ends of the leash.”
Just last week, researchers from Michigan State University reported that among dog owners who took their pets for regular walks, 60 percent met federal criteria for regular moderate or vigorous exercise. Nearly half of dog walkers exercised an average of 30 minutes a day at least five days a week. By comparison, only about a third of those without dogs got that much regular exercise. Continue reading
Sometimes, new research inspires us to re-examine old know-how (think: shoelace-tying).
By Jena Pincott
Sure, you don’t really need to pick up a pen again (one in three of us hasn’t used one in six months for anything but a signature). But know this: Handwriting switches on a cluster of brain cells, the reticular activating system that engages the brain more deeply than typing. A University of Washington study found that when kids wrote, their ideas flowed more freely with pencil-on-paper than with fingers-on-keyboards. (Writers Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling and Annie Proulx can attest—they write entire novels in longhand.) In another study, adult students recognized Mandarin words better, and retained them for longer, if they had written the strokes than if they typed them. Sharp point, sharper memory.
To Tie Your Shoes
Note: I have watched this video and can attest to the fact that tying the stronger knot on my sneaker laces has now saved me countless minutes of having to stop to re-tie my laces…
One tiny twist, literally, makes all the difference when tying shoelaces that don’t come undone. This TED Talks video shows us the little-known right way in three minutes. (Hint: Wrap the lace in the opposite direction than usual.) We may never trip over ourselves again.
To Dish It Out Differently
We were all taught to “sandwich” criticism between big fluffy layers of compliments (you’re doing great—just one thing, but great). This is gentle, but recipients tend to take away the “bread” only, not the “meat,” finds a study at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Praise-heavy feedback was fine for novices: It encouraged them to improve. But it had the opposite effect on “experts,” people with advanced knowledge (in French or environmental awareness, for example). What works to motivate them—which may require some fine-tuning on your part—are negative feedback (albeit matter-of-fact and precise) and constructive suggestions (“what if”). More protein, fewer empty carbs. Continue reading
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