How To Get Unstuck and Start Thinking Creatively Again

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By Mona Patel

This article was originally published on December 9, 2014 at The original article can be found here.

Everyone has their thing. The thing that ignites passion, fuels persistence and feels like it’s the thing they are here on earth to do.

Until two years ago, I thought mine was to design great experiences. In 2009, I started Motivate Design and built it to serve really special clients — clients who were nice, smart, passionate and wanted to build great experiences too. It has been a great ride.

Solving problems feels great, but I realized that it’s more fun and rewarding to help those clients solve problems for themselves. The teacher in me kept wanting to help people learn to do their best work; to identify the core problems.

I looked around me and I saw clients who were stuck. They wanted to shift the way they thought, worked and innovated, but they weren’t sure how. It became my mission to help them see that there was a space between option A and B — this gray kaleidoscopic space full of opportunities that could help them solve big, meaningful problems. So I set out to create a technique that showed people how to reframe problems as awesome opportunities.

Getting Out Of The Box

Start by reframing the way you think about your creative potential. Instead of imagining it as something fixed, think of it like a muscle. Everyone has it, but some people are more toned and flexible than others because they’ve used that muscle more and have worked to strengthen and hone it. To get your creativity muscle in shape, we came up with the What If Technique™ (WIT).

The fundamental premise is that anyone can ask a question that starts with “What if,” not just design experts. Think about it. You used to ask lots of “What if” questions as a child. And then somewhere along the way, your parents, friends, teachers (and if no one else, then your boss) probably told you to stop. To get back in the box. To color within the lines. To stop asking questions that couldn’t be answered — or at least were really, really hard to answer.

Tap back into that childhood brilliance uninhibited by rules and ask, “What if…?” The goal is to help you see the difference between facts and beliefs, to reframe the impossible as the possible, and to see problems as opportunities. Doing so will help you discover and overcome your patterns of thinking – your “blind spots.” You will confront your fears and the excuses that prevent you from coming up with those fantastic, innovative ideas and more importantly, doing anything with those ideas.

The Reframe

Can you solve every problem by reframing it and asking what if? What would a personal trainer say? Some problems (and people) are tougher than others. But yes, in theory, everyone should be able to achieve their own form of healthy. And therefore, every problem does have a solution. The ultimate goal is for you to believe that you are creative.

That means starting by getting yourself in the right frame of mind. You can do this by choosing at least one piece of the following list to focus on for the rest of your week; it’s an exercise we use at the beginning of workshops, in our office and with our clients. Write it down in your notebook. Print it out and keep it on your desk. Take it in, ruminate on it for a bit, and then try to apply it to your life:

  1. The status quo is often just a lingering trend; it stifles innovation.
  2. So-called “creatives” do not have a monopoly on creative output.
  3. Examine your beliefs; don’t limit your creativity by framing your beliefs as facts.
  4. To sustain a competitive advantage, “good enough” is never good enough; push for continuous innovation on the macro- and micro-scale.
  5. Discover, and then let go of the negatives you carry.
  6. The way forward is between Option A and Option B — explore that delightful, kaleidoscopic gray space.
  7. We all have Excuse Personas; figure yours out and check your B.S. at the door.
  8. Just saying “no” is easy; figuring out the “how” is the challenge.
  9. Never underestimate the power and reach of your allies and ammo.
  10. If you think it’s all been done before, you’re wrong.

Your next big idea might be just a reframe away. Could it be the big multimillion-dollar idea that will be your new company? Maybe. More importantly, you will have great ideas, momentum to move forward and the confidence to say, “I have amazing ideas.”

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