Viewpoint: How Thinking Like a Kid Can Spur Creativity

How thinking like a kid can spur creativity

By Peter Himmelman

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It’s common for adults to feel like we’re drowning in judgment — “You’re not famous enough,” You’re not smart enough,” “You’re not thin enough.” The weight of these appraisals, from others and from ourselves, can prevent us from looking at the world as a child might, as a place of wonder and new possibilities. This, in turn, keeps us from accessing the state of mind that stands at the root of creativity: playfulness.

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When a child is engaged in play, she is taking material from her inner reality, or dreamworld, and placing it into what we might call the real world. Very young children don’t think about the consequences or how they might be perceived; they just play. Studies have shown that when we fully immerse ourselves in joyous doing — as opposed to anxious mulling – we can become more creative.

How can we, as adults, adopt this mindset? Before undertaking a daunting task, spend a few minutes writing a detailed description of what your idea could be in its most beneficial form; that way, you’re primed to think positively, as kids do. Then set a timer and being one small piece of the task, which forces you to act rather than ruminate. To be sure, you may have to assess the kinds of risks that children do not. But more often than not, we tend to stress over imagined threats, not real ones. The more we’re aware of that trap, the easier it is to avoid.

 

Viewed in Time Magazine, October 30, 2016

Peter Himmelman is the founder of Big Muse and the author of Let Me Out: Unlock Your Creative Mind and Bring Your Ideas to Life

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