What’s the single best habit you can build in order to be more creative?
A lot of possible answers almost immediately come to mind; daily meditation, journaling or writing every day, creating something (no matter how small) every day, trying new things, trying to see things from a different perspective, or simply taking more chances.
Each of these habits have deep roots in creativity. Writer Julia Cameron believes in the power of morning pages, a daily practice of writing three pages, by hand, every morning. Meditation has repeatedly been shown to increase creative capacity in participants who practice regularly.
But if you had to pick just one habit to build in order to increase your creativity, what should it be?
Developing a habit of constant curiosity.
Einstein noted: “I have no special talent, I am only passionately curious.” Steve Jobs once exclaimed that “Creativity is the whole thing.” If I had to attribute my creative success to one particular thing, it would be my insatiable curiosity for the world around me.
But how do you build a habit of curiosity? The way I’ve always gone about it can be described in three steps:
1) Find time to be mindfully present. Set a repeating timer on your phone, write a sticky note and put it somewhere you’ll have no choice but to see it throughout the day (a mirror is a good place), tell all your friends to remind you, whatever it takes to constantly remind yourself to be in the moment. Not the mindful zen type of being in the moment, just recognizing that whatever moment your in at the moment is happening right then and there. The moment doesn’t have to be anything special or anything in particular. In-fact: the more mundane the moment can be, the better.
2) Take it all in. Once you’re being present in the moment, take a minute to acknowledge all of your sense. What do you hear? What do you smell, anything familiar or anything new? What are you feeling, what do the clothes on your body feel like or the temperature of the environment around you? Can you taste anything? What do you see?
3) Ask questions about the details. Once you’ve acknowledged your senses, start asking questions about it all. What do you see that maybe you didn’t notice before? How did it get there, whatever it is? What would it taste like to lick the floor? Who would do such a thing? What about the sounds? What are you hearing that you maybe didn’t notice before? What is making that sound? What sounds do you find yourself missing?
Here’s the thing: this entire practice, from step one to step two, doesn’t have to take more than one minute out of your day. But if you take the time to practice curiosity often, what you begin to find is that these types of questions become engrained in your thinking.
Suddenly you’ll start asking these types of questions about everything you encounter. You’ll find yourself asking questions nobody else is asking, or questions you didn’t realize you could ask. And when you start becoming this curious, new ideas will suddenly spring up in the most peculiar places.