Seven Creative Thinking Blocks and How to Break Through Them

creativity blocks

Each of us has the power to be creative. It’s part of our natural make-up as human beings, made in the image of God. The trouble is that, too often, we block our natural creativity, thus making errors in thinking and give ourselves more problems than we should. Here are 7 ways to open up your natural creativity and keep the channels unblocked.

1. Don’t Make Assumptions

You know what happens when you assume, right? I’m not trying to be crude, but here’s how the saying goes: you make an “ass” of “u” and “me” (quote often attributed to Jerry Belson, but he gave the credit to his typewriter repair teacher – anybody remember typewriters?) .

Assumptions are examples of lazy thinking. We simply don’t wait to get all the information we need to come to the right conclusions.

Consider this story of a customer at the bank who returns after cashing a check and turning to leave, saying: “Excuse me, but I think you made a mistake.” The teller responds, “I’m sorry but there’s nothing I can do. You should have counted it. Once you walk away, we are no longer responsible.” To which the customer replies: “Well, okay. Thanks for the extra $20.”

You see what could have happened if that teller hadn’t jumped to such a hasty conclusion?

Tip: When you feel yourself wanting to draw conclusions, make sure you wait until you have all the necessary information.

2. See Things From Other Points Of View

A truly open mind is willing to accept that not only do other people have equally valid points of view, but these other points of view may actually be MORE valid.

A story is told that the modernist painter Pablo Picasso was once traveling on a train across Spain when he got into conversation with a rich businessman who was dismissive of modern art. As evidence that modern art didn’t properly represent reality, he took a photo of his wife out from his wallet and said, “This is how my wife should look, not in some silly stylized representation.” Picasso took the photo, studied it for a few moments, and asked, “This is your wife?” The businessman proudly nodded. “She’s very small,” Picasso observed wryly.

Tip: Don’t try to have a monopoly on how things are. Things aren’t always what they seem. Be ready to consider other points of view.

wild mood swings

3. Avoid Yo-Yo Thinking

Some people tend to have a tendency to swing from a highly positive mood one minute to a highly negative one the next, all because of what they see in front of them. It’s like a yo-yo: up one minute, down the next. I’m not talking about Bipolar Disorder here. That’s a different thing altogether that needs to be dealt with under the guidance of a professional counselor or psychiatrist. I’m talking about just your average, everyday mood swings and tendencies to overreact that some people have.

It’s far more healthy (and less nerve wracking) to stay neutral and not let emotions get the better of you. Take a deep breath, count to 10, whatever you need to do to give yourself some time to refocus on the situation and perhaps see things differently.

Tip: Remember that things are rarely as good – or as bad – as you think they are.

4. Get Rid Of Lazy Thinking Habits

Habit can be a major stumbling block to clear thinking, and it’s another example of succumbing to laziness.

Try this experiment. Write down the Scottish surnames Macdonald, Macpherson, and Macdougall and ask someone to pronounce them. Now follow these with the word Machinery and see what happens. Most people are likely to mispronounce it. This is because we tend to think in habitual ways and don’t like what doesn’t fit.

Tip: Don’t think that just because things happened in a certain way once before they will happen like that again. The world is constantly evolving and changing, and we should be too.

5. Don’t Think Like An Old Person; Think Like A Child

Research shows that the number of synapses, or connections, in the brain is greater in a child of two than in an average adult. The reason for this is that a child of two has no limiting worldview like adults do.

Think of a sculptor who starts off with a large block of clay, more than he needs, and then gradually removes the clay as he molds his sculpture. What would happen if he used the excess clay to make

If we use our brains like little children (even Jesus noted how important it was for adults to change their minds to think more like children in Matthew 18:3), accepting everything without judgment, we can actually halt and reverse the brain aging process.

Tip: Don’t worry about the threat of cognitive decline with age. With the right stimulus and passion for learning, you can actually improve your brain’s powers, no matter how old you are.

blind men and the elephant

6. look at The Big Picture, but pay attention to the details

You may know the poem by John Godfrey Saxe called “The Blind Men and the Elephant.” It tells the story of how six blind men of Indostan go to see an elephant and each try to work out what it is from touching it. One blind man touches the tusk, another the trunk, another the tail, and so on. Of course, not being able to see the whole elephant, they come to wildly different conclusions about what the elephant is.

This kind of goes along with #1 above. You have to wait and get all the information before you can make an educated assessment of any situation. Put you want to really pay attention to that information to make sure you’re getting the clearest picture possible. Remember, “God is in the details,” but the devil is too. If you don’t get all the details, or if you don’t put them all in the right places within the bigger picture, you can really mess things up.

Tip: Try to keep the big picture in front of you while looking at details. It will help to put everything in its proper place and context.

7. Think For Yourself

One of my favorite songs ever is the Beatles’ “Think for Yourself.” It’s not a very nice song. It’s like the narrator is telling some former (or soon-to-be former) lover, “Hey, you better start thinking for yourself, because I’m not going to be around to help you.” But I always liked it because of the title and the idea behind it – think for yourself; don’t get your answers about who you are and what should do from other people. Figure it out for yourself. That’s the essence of creativity.

Taking time out to form your own thoughts is still frowned upon within many organizations that prize activity over creativity, like most traditional schools where we send our children to be educated (read: indoctrinated). People who work in creativity-constrained organizations are likely to think the way they are supposed to think, or as others think, or as has always been the way to think.

It’s like the blinded following Hans Christian Anderson describes in his story “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Everyone in the land refuses to see that the emperor is naked and has been duped into believing he is wearing a splendid costume for his coronation. Only a young boy who has not been party to the cultural brainwashing can see the truth and cries out: “Look, everyone, the Emperor is wearing no clothes!”

Don’t be the crowd; be that kid (remember #5?).

Tip: Don’t let others tell you how to think. When others ask your opinion, tell it to them straight.

If you keep these 7 things in mind as you go through your day-to-day routine, you’ll soon find something amazing happening. You’ll be able to come up with fresh, innovative, creative solutions to all your problems – and maybe some other people’s too!