From solving a problem to writing an essay, it’s easy to get stuck in one way of thinking. And when this happens, it can often feel like progress slows down as you miss the bigger picture. Here are three ways you can get out of that rut and think outside the box.
1) Play with the Alphabet
Mathematician Mike Byster recommends rearranging the alphabet to think outside the box. First, you just need to think of a word. It can be anything. Then, keeping it in mind, simply rearrange its letters so they are in alphabetical order. “Sutava” for example, would become “AASTUV”. As you get better at it, you can try out longer words.
After doing this exercise for just five minutes a day, three times a week, your mind will get used to looking at things in a different way. And it’s at this point that you’ll start coming up with fresh ideas you’d never have thought about before.
2) Ask a Child
Sometimes children have much more clarity on life than adults. Not yet fully attuned to social norms, their innocence and straightforward thinking could help you look at your problem differently. Although their advice isn’t always the best (Santa Claus probably won’t pay the rent or finish your assignment) their insight will will help you think outside the box.
Even if you don’t have a child around to ask, you could pretend you do. Just try to rephrase your problem in a way that a child could understand. Perhaps you’re struggling to explain how you feel to someone or you’re having trouble writing out an idea. Simplifying it will help you both understand what’s going on in your head better and look for ways to improve.
When traveling, you’re exposed to sights, smells, sounds and ideas different from what you’re used to. And being exposed to this could be enough to boost your creativity. One study of university students for example found that those who traveled abroad were significantly more creative than those who stayed on their home campus.
And it makes sense. Being exposed to different environments and social norms makes you reconsider what you think is normal. Although you may greet someone with a handshake in the US, in France it’s customary to kiss each other two to three times on each cheek. Seeing that what is considered “normal” varies from place to place shows that there are more ways than one to do the same thing. You just need to think outside the box!