We live in an age of ideas. Thanks to the Internet, the opportunities and resources required to do remarkable things seem to be just a search away.
And yet, how often do you find yourself creatively stuck, unmotivated, or uninspired? You struggle to come up with ideas despite a vast ocean of possibilities. Not just ideas on businesses to start or apps to create, but ideas on how to stay entertained or how to solve some of life's most mundane challenges.
Fully utilizing the capabilities of the mind remains a daunting challenge. As U.S. President Barack Obama stated back in 2013:
"As humans, we can identify galaxies light years away, we can study particles smaller than an atom. But we still haven't unlocked the mystery of the three pounds of matter that sits between our ears."
What is it that leaves you creatively stuck? Why are you unable to generate ideas when so much possibility and inspiration is literally right in front of you?
The answer as to how to get creatively unstuck comes from the fields of psychology, neuroscience, and biology, as well as the lives of creative greats before--people like Aristotle, Picasso, Einstein, Edison, Margaret Knight, Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk.
When we look to the research about what we do know about the brain, one common theme makes itself clear: to overcome mental blocks, you must move into situations that are unpredictable.
Banality and routine are the primary reasons you end up feeling stuck more often than not. After a while of encountering the same stimulus time and time again, your brain becomes accustomed to thinking in a very certain way. Like walking the same way through a field repeatedly, eventually the path of distributed grass becomes the norm.
If you want to be more creative, do something that involves an outcome you cannot safely predict; get uncomfortable. Move away from everything you know and feel comfortable with, into new, previously unexplored territory, whether that's a real physical space or a mental one. Moving into an area that is new and uncomfortable exposes you to things you've either forgotten or haven't experienced, thought, or considered.
Maybe the move for you means traveling half-way across the world to gain new insights into how other cultures deal with what you've unknowingly taken for granted. That's what Steve Jobs did in his youth before starting Apple computers. Traveling away from the sunny, hippy-lifestyle of California to rural parts of India rattled Jobs' impression of what it meant to live a purposeful life. As his friend and travel companion explained about the journey:
"Out there in the dry creek bed, in the middle of India, completely disoriented, all our rhythms and beliefs shattered."
Or perhaps the move into uncertainty is simply a matter of trying a new technique or using new tools with a familiar behavior, as Picasso did in the 1920s with surrealism. After working years in cubism and classical painting, Picasso dabbled into the more abstract cubism, causing his work to forever shift into a more soft, angular style.
Getting uncomfortable might be simpler for you: picking up a new hobby or partnering with someone you've never worked with before. Try a new art form, book a trip to another city, pick up a book you never thought you'd read, call up an old friend and ask for their insight over a cup of coffee.
To be creative is to get uncomfortable by moving to where new ideas exist: outside what you already know. Don't wait to move either, take that first step into the unknown right now.