Personal growth Finding your path Ideation


Where do you draw inspiration from as a freelancer? Do you experiment with different methods and environments to inspire your creativity? Barbara Stewart shares how she sets a routine that supports the inquisitiveness of her inner child.

22 February 2023 • 3 min read

Throughout our lives, we encounter pressure to be inventive and think ‘outside the box’ – from our early school life through to our day jobs, we are expected to produce original thinking and solutions on a day-to-day basis. However we all get stumped sometimes. Which is why it’s vital to experiment with different methods and environments to inspire creativity.

As a consultant I get paid to solve people’s problems, sometimes the brief is clear and sometimes not. In order to deliver value to my clients, I need to be able to use creative problem solving methods on a daily basis, which means I have to come to each brief, task and day with a fresh mind. To do this I need to constantly looking to find inspiration in all avenues.

Inspiration for me is a new and better way of answering a question, or solving a problem. In life, we often get bogged down by business and set patterns. We are all born with a wild imagination and so there is space for us all to be creative, we just need to set a routine that supports the inquisitiveness of our inner child.

Starting every challenge with ‘WHAT IF?’ thinking rather than ‘I Don’t Know’ or ‘I Can’t’ thinking.

”To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination.”  Albert Einstein

Sometimes our own fixed patterns can be a major barrier to inspiration and creativity. Given the problem at hand, if you think close-ended statements such as ‘I can’t…,’ ‘I don’t know…,’ or ‘I’m stumped…,’ you’re more likely going to create a negative self-fulfilling prophecy and remain stuck.

When I sense a negative or closed mindset creeping in, I use a series of open-ended statements and questions to reset the challenge to an opportunity:

“I’m open to the possibility that solutions will come up.”

“I will find the inspiration I need to solve this.”

“There’s always a way…”

“What better solutions are possible here…?”

“What if…?”

These open-ended statements and questions act as my creative mantras and thus, I can’t force the answer. Instead, I empty my mind and enjoy the process. Allowing inspirations and solutions to emerge naturally and spontaneously.

Taking a break from the mundane

Every Sunday, I give myself a day (or at least a couple of hours) when almost everything I do is a departure from my normal routine. I take a different route to the shop, listen to unfamiliar music, try unusual foods, visit an interesting place, problem solve in a new environment or watch a TED talk video on an innovative idea. I am deliberately breaking my normal experience of the world to see it from a different perspective.

Using exercise to get out of my head 

Studies have shown that exercise stimulates the brain by creating new neurons in the hippocampus region of the brain. Physical activity helps me get out of my head and stimulate new thought patterns.

In communication there’s a saying: “motion dictates emotion.” Motion can dictate inspiration too. And for that reason, everyday I engage in a robust physical activity, such as running, hiit and body weight training. The types of activities I engage in are dependent on my workload and also if i require fresh ideas.

Immersing myself in nature and colours

 “Look!  Look!  Look deep into nature and you will understand everything.” Albert Einstein

Nature and colours are well known for their re-invigorating abilities. When I feel stressed and am in search of clarity, I go for a run in by the beach or in a park. I find being around green and blue colours have a calming effect. If I am looking for creative ideas, I run to places that put me in the midst of vibrant colours (like a flower garden or urban street), which stimulate my senses.

When going for a walk or run, don’t forget to open all your senses. Take in the colours around you; hear the sounds of birds and the city; smell the fresh air. Take deep breaths as you let yourself mentally explore this wonderful environment. It’s a nice mental vacation – perhaps just what your mind needs to rejuvenate!

Watching biographies of inspiring, creative people

In my search for creative solutions, I watch a lot of biographies of those whose creativity, innovation and/or entrepreneurship I admire in order to be inspired and influenced by them. (Currently I am obsessed with Michael Jordon.) I am watching to understand how people tackle problems and work to motivate themselves.

 “We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

T.S. Eliot

May you find your inspiration today!

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