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Creative Thinking for Productive Muslims (Part 2)

Published at http://www.productivemuslim.com

In this second and last part of the series about creative thinking, you’ll read more about habits that get in the way of your creativity, and more practical tips about developing your creative thinking skills.

Road blocks on the path to creative thinking

Creative thinking can be a positive, productive and rewarding habit. It’s a potential as well as a responsibility that we have been given by our Creator, one that we should use with the well-being and progress of the Ummah in mind:

“It is He Who has made you (His) vicegerents, inheritors of the earth: He has raised you in ranks, some above others: that He may try you in the gifts He has given you: for your Lord is quick in punishment: yet He is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Qur’an, 6:165)

But as with building most positive habits, there can be thoughts or attitudes that get in your way. You can experience these blocks individually, but unfortunately some of them have also climbed the career ladder up high in our Ummah. Let’s look at some major road blocks:

Negative attitude towards creativity. Some people feel that creative thinking opposes logic by default. Or that it’s just a waste of time, like daydreaming. Often, even the way education is approached, kills creativity, natural curiosity and innovation. I hope the previous part helped clear some of these misunderstandings about creative thinking and highlighted its benefits.

Imitation. Doing something because others do it. It feels safe to be part of a herd, but if there ever was an antithesis to creative thinking, it would be imitation. Why are you afraid of what others think when you don’t conform? Remember that in the end, all that matters is the satisfaction of Allah, not that of the people.

Not paying attention. Being continually busy can prevent you from noticing what happens around us, or being genuinely involved in your activities. You can’t be innovative and productive when you simply go through the motions of our everyday lives like a robot. Take some time everyday to slow down and reflect.

Fear of failure. What if your ideas turn out to be a total flop? Nothing and nobody is perfect, except your Creator. Failures are to be expected and accepted in life, and as long as your intentions are sincere, they can be taken as an opportunity to learn and be humble, patient and grateful.

Some more ideas and techniques to keep you going

You’ve already looked at some tips to get started in the first part of this article, and here are some more ideas and techniques on how to keep up the habit of creative thinking:

1. Recognize your road blocks. Analyze yourself and be honest. Which of the blocks that I described earlier keep you from thinking creatively? Write it down, or, even better, use the mind mapping technique that I described in the first part to come up with solutions.

2. Make time and space in your life for creative thinking. Make a small ‘creativity corner’ somewhere in your home or office. Stock it with books and resources that inspire you. Or dedicate a specific time to creative thinking, a time without disturbances or distractions. Use your space and/or time for reading, scribbling, doodling or just playing around with you ideas. Don’t expect too much, the idea is to let your creativity flow and see where it gets you.

3. Have a notebook ready. Ideas, thoughts and observations don’t always come to you at your desk. Make sure you carry a small notebook with you and use it to write them down wherever you are.

4. Do some creative thinking games. There are a lot of fun games or exercises for creative thinking that don’t have to take a lot of time. For example this one: Pick a random word and try to come up with at least ten ways of how this word relates to your life. Or play a board game and change the rules. You could try to invent a new secret code and use it to write a message. Optical illusions, word puzzles and brain teasers are also great and there are a lot of them available, online or in newspapers or magazines.

5. Unplug. We’re all guilty of it: spending a lot of time behind a screen, whether it’s a computer screen, TV screen, or your iPad. At its best, this habit distracts you, and, at its worst, it clutters and dulls your mind to such an extent that creative and innovative thoughts are blocked. Pull out the plugs regularly for a couple of hours and see your creativity and productivity flourish.

6. Go outside. Being outside in nature is not only a great Iman-booster and stress-reliever, it is also linked to increased creative thinking and problem solving skills. So, take a walk in the woods or in the park, spend some time at the beach or any other place in nature, and feel relaxed, refreshed and inspired!

As this is the end of the series about creative thinking and how you, as a Productive Muslim can benefit from it, I hope you feel inspired enough to start applying the tips in your life from now inshallah.

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