When the pear trees outside my balcony burst into bloom, it’s a lovely reminder that spring has arrived. Springtime quietly brings with it new beginnings, seed planting, and optimism for things to come. Get ready to take advantage of this annual energy boost, by nurturing your own creative spirit.
Here are six easy ways to do just that:
1) Put yourself in the presence of people you admire. There’s nothing like seeing a masterful person in action to get your own ideas flowing. Conferences, special events, and workshops often feature people whose work and/or life is inspiring. Seek them out. Many successful people are generous about sharing their experiences and you can absorb a great deal by hanging out with them—even briefly.
2) Collect ideas when you travel. Even though franchises now blanket the world, so do unique and unusual business ideas. When you visit a new place look for ideas that you can bring home. That’s exactly what Howard Schultz did when he decided, during a European visit, that the U.S. needed more neighborhood coffeehouses. As a result, the ubiquitous Starbucks was born.
When you travel, visit small businesses and keep your eyes and ears open. You never know when a wonderful idea that charms you in a faraway location might be ready to come to life in your part of the world. If you don’t do it, who will?
3) Read a novel. Books are, of course, the repository of information and inspiration. Often people who are seeking a new idea head for a non-fiction, how-to book to give them a boost. However, even fiction can be an unexpected source of inspiration. Looking for a profit center idea? You might be surprised to discover that you can learn a lot about small business from novels.
Many fictional characters are self-employed (I suspect that’s because they’re more interesting than job holders). For example, Diane Mott Davidson has a series of mysteries whose main character also runs a catering business (and just incidentally solves murders). The ups and downs of running a small business is also an integral part of Davidson’s stories.
4) Dismiss ideas slowly. When you see the speed with which people dispose of creative thoughts, it’s a wonder that anything new happens. Gardeners know that not everything they plant will grow to fruition. That doesn’t stop them from planting.
Think of ideas as seeds and realize you need to plant them and see which ones will grow.
Keep track of ideas as they appear and give them time to simmer. It takes time to make friends with a new idea, just as it does with a new acquaintance. Hastily vetoing thoughts, which seems to be habitual with many people, is certain death to the creative process.
One of my personal favorite idea tests comes from Phil Laut. He suggests that anytime you try a new business idea make a commitment to stick with it until you’ve earned $100 from it. After receiving your first $100 you can decide whether you want to continue with the idea—but you’ll be making the choice from the position of having succeeded.
5) Take a sabbatical (or, at least, shift gears often). There’s nothing like time away from our normal environment to get the juices flowing and add to our self-discovery. That’s precisely what happened when writer Amy Daws was struggling on her latest book. After taking her car in to get new tires, she ended up cranking out about 4,000 words in the waiting room. She was pleasantly surprised to find that she was more productive in the tire store than in her home office. She kept borrowing her friend’s cars in need of oil changes so she could return to the Tires, Tires, Tires store where her writing flowed freely. She became the store’s official writer-in-residence.
If a long-term sabbatical doesn’t fit your current plans, find ways to take mini-sabbaticals. Stay in a monastery for a week, volunteer for an archaeological dig, create a project to learn more about yourself.
I have yet to meet someone who had the courage to go on a sabbatical who didn’t count it as one of the best times of their life. You need to plan ahead, of course, to make this work.
6) Pay attention. Don’t wait for ideas to land in your lap. Keep an idea file. Write things down. Listen. Look. It’s nearly impossible to expand your creative talents if you’re devoted to doing the same things, in the same way, at the same time, day after day after day. While it may seem efficient to have a regular schedule, it can also be numbing.
By putting yourself on the alert, expecting to get ideas in the most unlikely places, you’ll be amazed at the raw materials that are all around just waiting to be uncovered.
Put any or all of these suggestions to work and by the time spring rolls around next year, you might just find you’ve transformed your life. Or, at the very least, discovered more of your unlimited imagination.
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