Cranking Up Your Problem-Solving Creativity

Do you consider yourself to be creative? Perhaps you say no because you can’t paint or make music or sculpt. Creativity is MUCH broader than that. It’s about finding new ways to solve problems and finding ways to approach the situations we face. All of us are creative. It’s a survival skill. And we can become MORE creative in all areas of our lives. Cranking up your problem-solving creativity can make a huge difference.

Here we are in mid-2022, another year in the COVID-19 pandemic. The list of national issues that affect our lives directly and indirectly is long. The future is uncertain in many ways. And we are trying to live our lives in the midst of it all. People are responding to all of this in various ways – some with anger, depression, withdrawal and others with determination and positive energy. Probably most of us alternate among these reactions or are somewhere in between.

Given the unique nature of the convergence of these elements, cranking up our problem-solving creativity is important to our thriving. But it’s hard to be creative when we are under pressure or overwhelmed. It’s often said that necessity is the mother of invention, and there certainly is truth in that. On the other hand, you may have experienced – as I have – that my mind can be paralyzed in that kind of situation. What’s the difference? It could very well be our mindset.

Make Sure You Start With a Positive Mindset

It’s easy to have a negative mindset in challenging situations. This definitely hampers our ability to do our best problem solving. So before tackling a situation, make sure that you are coming from a positive view. If all you see is doom and gloom, if it seems hopeless, if you are just tired of struggling, this is the first step to effectively addressing what’s going on. Shift how you look at things to alter your thought process and open your mind to more options.

How do you do this? Begin with saying positive affirmations like:  I am creative, I easily come up with new solutions, my mind is open to unique solutions, I have navigated hard times before, etc. Say them multiple times throughout your day and see the difference. You can also seek out positive quotes to inspire you. Google can help you find them. Just search for quotes about creativity, or quotes about surviving tough times, or any topic that fits your situation. Print them and post them where you will see them regularly and/or make them a picture on your phone.

You can also do this exercise: practice looking at things from a different perspective. How would someone else view it? It could be a friend, someone with different life experience, a parent or grandparent, etc. You may be surprised at what this shift can do to go beyond your current thoughts.

Another suggestion is to take a situation and practice detaching from the emotion of it. Instead of being immersed in the feelings you have surrounding that, step back and jot down the facts of the situation. What are the elements? Who is involved? How did this start? Is it temporary and will pass with time? Pretend you are an outside consultant who brings objectivity.

Practice allowing yourself to look at the situation without boundaries. Don’t immediately search for a ‘sensible’ solution. Look for something out of the ordinary. This allows your creative juices to flow. Let your mind wander. Look at the problem from all angles. Remind yourself that you have navigated many challenges before and you can do it again.

Collect Resources That Can Help You

One of the by-products of the extended impact of the pandemic is that our usual practices of communication and support with others were drastically changed. Even as things have opened up, it is still different. I wrote about nurturing creativity about six months into the pandemic here:

Several approaches to increasing our creativity were highlighted there, including initiating sharing conversations and brainstorming sessions with others on specific topics. Other people can be our greatest resources. You can do this virtually, as suggested in the above post, or now in person. One of the advantages of virtual is that you can include people who don’t live near you. Each of us have unique perspectives and resource ideas and connections. We don’t have to struggle alone!

Keeping a running list of ideas on various topics can aid in cranking up our problem-solving creativity. Perhaps you think you don’t have many ideas. Or perhaps you know you do but think that they are impractical or don’t apply now. In either case, I challenge you to try using an Idea Journal. Capture ideas you have about anything. This reinforces your recognition that you are creative – and seeds the expectation that you can solve things creatively. You will be amazed after doing this regularly how many ideas you have. Some you will use, many you won’t use. The largest benefit is illustrating to yourself that you are indeed creative.

Cranking up your problem-solving creativity is essential, enjoyable and can make a huge difference every day. If you want to learn more, check out these books:

Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. If you are feeling fear about the future and your ability to creatively live in the coming months and years, this can be inspiring and helpful.

The Creative Habit, Learn It and Use It For Life by Twyla Tharp.  Included are simple exercises that can expand your creative thinking as you go about your daily life.

I’m Carol Brusegar, author, photographer and curator of information. My focus is on gathering and writing on topics that enhance all our lives – regardless of our age. Topics include health and wellness, personal development, innovation and creativity, and a variety of helpful, practical tools and practices. I have a special interest in helping people over 50 years of age to create their 3rd Age – the next stage of their lives – to be the best it can be.


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