Turning Off The Autopilot: Six Ways to Bring Creativity to Daily Life

  • Someday Lesson: Creativity isn’t about producing world-shaking pieces of art. It’s simply changing the way you look at the world.

Phillie Casablanca on flickr.comWhen we think of creativity we think of art: painting, acting, singing, writing, crafts, and such. If we’re being generous we might call science research or computer programming creative. And of course, management gurus talk about creative problem solving without anyone really quite sure what they mean.

But what about daily life? Where’s the creativity in getting up, getting the kids to school, going to work, trying to fit in some exercise, fighting the battle of the bulge, tuning out in front of the TV and falling into bed exhausted before starting it all over the next day?

According to Wikipedia, creativity is:

Creativity is a mental and social process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations of the creative mind between existing ideas or concepts. Creativity is fueled by the process of either conscious or unconscious insight. An alternative conception of creativeness (based on its etymology) is that it is simply the act of making something new.

When we get stuck in routine and living on autopilot, nothing’s new. It’s all the same day after day after soul-sucking day. Turning off the autopilot isn’t easy, however. Habits and routines (especially unconscious ones) are hard to break. Fortunately conscious creativity will help and here are six ways to turn off the autopilot and to help you live more fully.

  1. Don’t always do things the same way
  2. Make yourself accountable for every minute
  3. Do things you wouldn’t normally do
  4. Live in someone else’s shoes
  5. Explore a new environment
  6. Learn to do absolutely nothing

Break Patterns

Take a different route to work. Make a sandwich with two slices of ham around a piece of bread. Eat dinner in reverse (dessert to maincourse to salad). When you start to break patterns in your life you force your brain out of its ruts and open yourself up to new ideas and new ways of thinking.

Be aware of why you do things in a certain way. If you answer “because I’ve always done it this way” then the next time you do it break the pattern and try doing it a new way.

Be Hyper-Scheduled

People think creativity and new ideas come from chaos, but think of people like da Vinci and Michelangelo – they weren’t chaotic artists. They were tradesmen who worked hard and worked to a schedule. Haydn and Bach had to come up with new pieces of art on a regular basis or risk getting fired by their patrons.

Become a taskmaster and schedule yourself and clear out the distractions that keep you from making creative leaps in whatever you do.

Be Spontaneous

Most of us have schedules – and we like our schedules and routines. Break out of routine periodically and do something that embarrasses you slightly like karaoke or a nudist beach or even holding hands with your spouse as you walk through the mall.

And if someone suggests something that you wouldn’t normally do, say “yes” right away not giving yourself a chance to think about it.

Trade Roles

How many movies are their along the lines of Freaky Friday or books like the Prince and the Pauper? By putting yourself in someone else’s shoes you’ll break yourself out of regular patterns of behaviour and thought opening yourself up to new experiences.

Of course you might not be able to do this work-wise, but at home, trade around what you do with family members. Kids become the parents for a day and the husband becomes the wife. Have fun with it!

Change locations

House swap with friends for a week and break even more patterns. Go big and do a house swap vacation or even a work exchange in some other part of the world. Or go small and rearrange your office, putting the desk in some spot in the room that you least expect it to be.

And in meetings or classes, don’t sit in the same seat. Make a conscious effort to sit in a different spot every time you enter the room.

Stare at the Wall

Most times we’re a go-go-go culture and when we do turn off we do so in front of the computer or TV. I’m not talking about meditation where you focus on your breathing and try to clear your mind. Staring at the wall is simply sitting on the couch or bed with nothing in your hands and nothing distracting your vision.

It will likely feel uncomfortable, but by pushing past the discomfort your mind will start filling with ideas, often coming up with solutions to problems that have been plaguing you and have been avoiding resolution.

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8 thoughts on “Turning Off The Autopilot: Six Ways to Bring Creativity to Daily Life

  1. What wonderful tips – I am always thinking that I have to “push” myself to be more creative – never really thought about how I could actually just shift my perspective, environment, etc. and see what sprouts. But I have to say, I occasionally find myself staring at the wall – it actually works wonders! Now I know I’m not the only one 🙂
    .-= Laura Cococcia | The Journal of Cultural Conversation´s last blog ..Keep It Positive =-.

  2. Alex Fayle says:

    I’ve always been a bit of a shaker-up of things, but I’d especially do it in university classes, purposefully sitting in different seats. It gave me, literally and figuratively, a different perspective. And I loved the looks on people’s faces when they saw me sitting in “their” seat, but of course they couldn’t say anything, so uncomfortably would find another seat.

  3. Vicki says:

    Alex, this is a wonderful list and I have posted a small note to myself with this great list on the refrigerator so my whole family can learn.

    In the last 15 years I have matured quite a bit and the most important thing I have learned is the creative asset of doing nothing! (Not that I always remember!)

    Relaxing my brain and resting from thinking have helped the ideas and solutions to problems find their way into my consciousness. Even when I can’t think of an appropriate word or a fact that I know is in my brain somewhere I have been able to think of both by giving myself some space. Every time this happens to me it’s like a miracle.

    thanks! 🙂
    .-= Vicki´s last blog ..Red Room author Lawrence Wright on panel discussing Afghanistan. =-.

  4. Alex Fayle says:

    @Vicki
    Glad you liked the post so much you printed it out and stuck it on your fridge – that’s about the highest compliment I could get for a post!

  5. […] Turning Off the AutoPilot at Someday Syndrome […]

  6. […] Syndrome: “Turning Off the Autopilot: Six Ways to Bring Creativity to Daily Life” by Alex Fayle — this one hit home for me. I’ve been on autopilot ever since the move, […]

  7. Sheena says:

    Thank you for this. I absolutely love finding my inner creatively and learning ways to bring more of it out in my everyday life. I’ve been taking a Creative Process class that teaches some of the above techniques, along with many many others.

    One thing we have been challenged to do recently is to daily strive to be surprised, and to surprise. Maintain a daily journal and reflect on something in your day that was unique, out of the ordinary, unlikely, etc. And, try to surprise someone else. Maybe it’s a phone call to someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time, a suggestion you normally wouldn’t make, a thought that is out of line with what fits your normal process, etc.
    .-= Sheena´s last blog ..Understanding of self =-.

  8. Alex Fayle says:

    @Sheena
    I like the strive to be surprised idea. I’ll definitely implement that one! Thanks.

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