Connecting the dots

Have you ever talked with someone for so long that you eventually found yourself talking about a topic and having no idea of how you got on the subject?

Maybe you started talking about your day or work or a friend and ended up talking about a TV show or a childhood memory or your favorite food. If you haven’t experienced such an event, you need to have more conversations.

It’s surprising how our brains jump around from topic to topic almost entirely on their own, without our even realizing it.

When we look at what’s going on in our brains (through meditation or research studies, for example), we see that our brains are actually champions of a game called “connect the dots.”

A connect the dots puzzle is a series of dots arranged on a page. When two dots are connected with a single line, they start to form a picture. When all the dots on a page are connected in the correct order, the picture suddenly becomes vividly clear.

Your ideas are a lot like dots on a page. There is no apparently link between them, but there could be. When you use your creativity you’re basically telling your brain to connect the ideas in your mind and ultimately see if some type of image, or new idea, makes itself clear.

If you really want to be creative you need to make sure that your brain has a lot of dots to connect.

How do you build up a large cache of dots – or ideas – for your brain to use? By experiences, trying new things, asking questions, and participating in things you never would have tried before. The more dots or experiences you have, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to think up new and innovative ideas when you need them most.

Do two things today that are new to you, in order to build up more experiences for your brain to play connect the dots with. Try a new food, talk to someone new, do something you haven’t done before.

It’s the experiences we can draw ideas from that we’re able to think up new ideas. That’s what creative thinking is all about.

Illustration by Jim Blodget.