“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” — Henry Miller
We’ve all heard that “travel broadens the mind,” but beneath this cliché is a deep truth; a truth that became even more apparent during my recent journey across Europe. When you travel, things stand out because they’re different. You notice every detail, from street signs to mailboxes to how you shop for groceries. You learn a lot when you travel not because you’re any smarter on foreign soil, but because you pay closer attention. On a trip, you play your own role as Sherlock Holmes, intensely observing the environment around you. You’re continuously trying to figure out a strange and new world. Back home, you go through day-to-day life on cruise control, oblivious to huge swaths of your surroundings.
When we meet creative people with lots of ideas constantly bubbling to the surface, we often come away feeling they’re operating on a different wavelength. And they are, most of the time. They have all their receptors on — and frequently turned up to 101. But the fact is we’re all capable of operating in this mode. To do so, it helps to engage a “beginner’s mind.”
Children provide a perfect illustration. For them, everything is novel so they ask lots of questions and look at the world wide-eyed, soaking it all in. Everywhere they turn, they tend to think, “Isn’t that interesting?” rather than “I already know about that.”
Rediscovering the familiar is a powerful example of how looking at something closely can effect what you see. Try applying a beginner’s mind to something you do or see every day: commuting to work, organizing your workspace, eating lunch, watching TV or putting the kids to bed. Look for new insights from familiar things. Think of it as a treasure hunt.
By adopting the eyes of a traveler and a beginner’s mindset, you’ll notice details you might otherwise have overlooked. You’ll put aside assumptions and become fully immersed in the world around you. In this receptive mode, you’re ready to start actively seeking inspiration. And when it comes to inspiration, quantity matters. The more stimuli that crosses your field of view, the more fresh ideas you’ll generate.
So ask yourself: What can I do to increase the flow of new ideas? When was the last time I took a class or attended a seminar? Read some unusual magazines or blogs? Listened to a new genre of music? Traveled a different route to work? Watched a foreign movie? Played a new game? Introduced myself to a complete stranger?
To keep your thinking fresh, constantly seek out new sources of information and inspiration. This cross-pollination of varied stimuli is a sure-fire method for generating creative solutions.
Adapted from Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley