Excerpted from Fearless Creativity, by Beth Mende Conny
Neurons are the building blocks of our nervous system. We have 100 billion of them and their job is to transmit information. New information, new pathways. New pathways, increased ability to learn, adapt and remember. Scientists once believed this building process occurred only in infancy. They now know it occurs at all stages of life. The most important stage? From my perspective: now.
Now is the time to grow our brains, to feed them a healthy diet of new ideas and experiences so we can build mental muscle, gain confidence and learn to fear less.
But too often we feed our minds empty calories: hackneyed loops from childhood; mind-numbing YouTube videos; unengaging social engagements; habitual actions that lock us into an ever-shrinking world. It doesn’t take much to expand our minds and create new pathways, however.
Here are suggestions:
Schedule time to daydream
Daydreams enable our minds to wander, discover new lands and make surprising connections. From them come the ah-ha’s that inspire and shape our lives. When used purposefully, they create the state of mind in which creativity thrives.
Schedule a 10-minute time-out before lunch or dinner. Go for a walk around the block. Rethink mundane tasks to get your creative juices flowing.
For example, I hate washing dishes. Yet sometimes the repetitive nature of soaping, scrubbing and rinsing puts me in a dreamy state. That’s why I’ve gotten so many great ideas at the kitchen sink. Many others have come while commuting, grocery shopping and shoveling snow.
Consider me old-fashioned, but I still believe books grow the mind. They grant me access to worlds beyond the circle of my everyday life. I particularly like nonfiction books on topics I know nothing about. Fiction, of course, can work the same magic.
Ask someone which book they read most recently, and read it. Go to a bookstore and choose the first book you see with a yellow cover. Skim your library’s biography shelves until you find a book that has the first two letters of your first name. For me, BEth, that might be BEnjamin Franklin.
Learn from strangers
Most likely you interact with strangers over the course of your week, even if it is just to make eye contact. Why not try to engage them in conversation?
Aim for one great conversation a week, which adds up to 52 great conversations a year. Be proactive. Get them to share their backstories, ask questions about their worldview, look for the similarities between you and them. Let people surprise you, and you’ll begin to challenge your misconceptions and limitations.
Excerpted from Fearless Creativity, an indispensable companion to the creative life. In it, you’ll find ideas and exercises to reclaim your time—and your dreams.
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