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Improve Your Creative Imagination

Having a creative mind is more than just having an active imagination. Actively imagining things, and seeing and hearing things in one's mind, is an important ability, but it doesn't have to involve much creativity, does it? Normal daydreaming, for example, is a process of imagination, and it can consist of an elaborate fantasy world, but one full of all the things that many people think about.

A more creative imagination, then, has to include the ability not just to imagine things, but to imagine original things. It means seeing things that others don't see, and coming up with new ideas. How, then, do you cultivate this?

Start by exercising your basic imagination. This can be as simple as thinking in pictures more, or listening to music in your mind. Start playing little "movies" in your mind, until you can watch them on command. It's a simple process, but for those of us that can't easily do it naturally, it can take a lot of practice. Fortunately, it is not an unpleasant activity.

The second step to developing a more creative imagination is to get more creative in your thinking and imagining. Pay attention to your creativity, because our subconscious minds give us more of what we pay attention to. If you ignore creative aspects of your life, you're telling your subconscious they're unimportant. On the other hand, if you notice when you're creative, your subconscious mind will start feeding you more creative ideas.

Having different surroundings can also encourage your creativity. Want more creativity in your love life? Try hiking up a mountain with your partner. Are you a writer? Try sitting on a roof to write. Looking for creative new ideas for your business? Bring a notebook to the park and sit by the duck pond. A change of environment can get your thinking out of it's ruts.

You can also play games that exercise your creative imagination. One such game uses a technique called "concept combination." Played alone or with other players, you combine random concepts or things in new ways, to see who has the best idea. A thermometer and a billboard, for example, could generate an idea for a sign that checks the weather and adjusts the message accordingly ("Come in out of the heat for a cold beverage," or "Come in out of the rain and warm up with our gourmet coffee.").

A creative inspiration certainly can strike at any time, but such inspiration strikes more often when there is work instead of waiting. So if you want to come up with creative inventions, start mentally redesigning everything you see. Imagine a better bicycle, a faster mail service, or a better chair. Continue this for three weeks, and it will become a habit.

Of course, truly creative imagination goes beyond solving specific problems or inventing things. Truly creative minds are always coming up with the questions too, not just the solutions. To cultivate this kind of creativity, focus on three things:

1. Change Perspectives

A child might think working just to not work (to retire) is silly. Thinking from that child's perspective might give you ideas for how to make money doing things you enjoy. Seeing the world as a bear sees it might give a painter imaginative new ideas. Seeing things from a customer's perspective is a sure way to find creative improvements for a business. Try to see everything from several perspectives.

2. Challenge Assumptions

Imagine if restaurants didn't have employees. Customers pay a machine as they enter, feed themselves at a buffet, and everything is as automated as possible, so one owner-operator could run a large restaurant alone. Challenge all your assumptions for practice. Do you really have to pay rent? Do swimming pools need water? Can exercise be a bad thing?

3. Let Ideas Run Wild

Maybe a flying bed seems silly, but then it could lead to the concept of a helium mattress. You get off it in the morning, and it floats up and out of the way, to the ceiling. Perfect for small apartments. Try hard not to stifle your creativity. Just relax, and let ideas come in any form. You can always discard them later.

To make these techniques a habitual part of your thinking, you have to use them regularly. Since it takes several weeks to develop a habit, remind yourself to use them each day. For example, list a few of your favorite problem solving techniques on a card and carry it with you. Look it over throughout the day and apply them to anything. Soon, you'll have a more creative mind and imagination.

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Creative Imagination