Whatever your career, and whatever your goals in life, ideas are going to matter to you.
One great idea could give you that million-dollar business you’ve dreamt of.
One great idea could raise thousands of dollars for a charity that you support
One great idea could be the perfect present for someone you love.
One great idea could change your life.
The thing is, you probably don’t have as many great ideas as you’d like. Perhaps you feel unimaginative and unoriginal. You keep hoping that a really good idea will just pop into your head, but that never seems to happen.
The good news? Ideas aren’t magic dust sprinkled by the Muses. There’s an awful lot you can do to generate ideas any time you want.
Set Aside Quality Time to Think. This is the most crucial step. You need time to come up with ideas – and quality time, where you’re not worrying about the chores or your emails.
Some ideas come on a grand scale: life-changing moments where you recognise a new possibility that you’d never seen before. These occasionally appear out of nowhere, but more often, they crop up when you’ve prepared yourself. Getting quality time ideally means taking a whole day away from your regular responsibilities. Go out to a coffee shop with a notebook, or shut yourself in a room at home without internet access. Get a zoomed-out view of your life: set aside worries about “but what would people think?” and “is it sensible?” and let yourself dream.
You’ll be amazed what you come up with.
Get Proto-Ideas Out of Your Head and Onto Paper. Ideas often come to us half-formed. You might have a vague concept in your head – perhaps you’re thinking that you’d like to travel for an extended period of time, for instance – but there’s no real detail there.
Instead of trying to mull over the idea in your head until it becomes something, get it out onto paper. Write (or draw) what you’re thinking, and add in all the new possibilities that start coming to you. A mindmap is often a good format for this, so that you don’t feel constrained by working linearly.
Don’t Judge Your Ideas. Ever had an idea which you immediately dismissed? You probably told yourself “That’s stupid,” or “It’s been done before.”
When you’re generating ideas and thinking through possibilities, you’ll inevitably come up with a few false starts. Some ideas will be unoriginal, undesirable or unworkable.
But that’s not a bad thing. One idea often leads to a whole train of thought – and you might end up with a really good idea from something which seemed, at first glance, unpromising.
Talk to Other Like-Minded People. Although I’m a bit of an introvert – I like to spend a fair amount of time on my own – I also get a great buzz from being with like-minded people and discussing ideas and projects with them.
You’ve probably experienced something similar yourself – maybe in a brainstorming meeting at work, or maybe just at a bar with friends. The energy generated by several people together can spark some brilliant ideas – ones which you’d never have come up with alone.
How do you find like-minded people to bounce ideas off? You could try:
Local groups, such as evening classes.
Getting together with a couple of friends who “get” your dreams.
Finding an online forum of people with the same interest or goals as you.
Read Widely. Ideas don’t just appear in a vacuum. They’re formed from all the various input that you take in. Sometimes, a news story might give you the perfect idea for a Christmas present for your sister, or a book that you’re reading might get you thinking about a particular goal in your life.
The more widely you read, the more open you’ll be to new ideas cropping up. That might mean reading a magazine or journal article that’s far outside your normal area of expertise, or turning to a biography of someone who you know almost nothing about.
A great place to start is online: blogs, news sites, forums and even Twitter and Facebook are all a rich source of ideas, just waiting for you.
How do you come up with great ideas? And is there a particular area of your life where you feel like you’re lacking inspiration?