Inspiration – your mind’s reactions

Creativity always starts with inspiration. It doesn’t matter what your creative field or talent is, the flame of a new creative project starts to burn because of the initial idea that sparked inspiration. It could have been generated by a memory or some unexpected external event. The moment we get a spark of inspiration we are usually overcome by a sense of excitement, an eagerness to tell people about it, and an urge to get on with making things work. Our attitude is usually very optimistic and we carry an aura of happiness about us.

However, it’s said that the number of new ideas that fail to be experimented with is far greater than the number of businesses that fail in a year. Ideas can fail at the conception stage because of how three psychological issues are managed at the moment of inspiration: cognitive ease, associative activation and hindering thoughts.

Cognitive ease

Cognitive ease can basically be thought of as a dial in the mind that tells us when things are going quite well, and there is no need for the mind to exert any further effort to generate an idea, or to register any threats or problems. There are a few things that generate a sense of cognitive ease and being in a good mood is one of them.

When cognitive ease arises as a result of a good mood, you like what you see and hear, you trust your intuitions and enjoy the feeling of being in a comfortable situation.  A state of cognitive ease is known to make the mind more creative and intuitive, but you are also likely to make more errors while working.

Associative activation

Associative activation can be described as what happens when an idea triggers many other ideas, creating a cascade of activity in your mind. Ideas can be thought of as nodes in a large network known as associative memory, where each idea has a link to many others.

Examples of links are cause and effect links (tickle is to laughter) and links between things and properties (Leather is to shoe). These links between ideas/thoughts are referred to as associatively coherent, which basically means that all the activated ideas are connected and support each other in some way.

It’s important to note that only a few of the ideas generated through the process of associative activation are consciously registered. The majority of them remain hidden away from the conscious mind and exist in the background. Some people have experienced disturbed sleep because hidden ideas have surfaced in the night and they have had to get up to write them down to avoid forgetting them!

Hindering thoughts

Hindering thoughts are more commonly known as negative thoughts, which talk new ideas down without giving them a chance to be explored. Hindering thoughts are doubtful and fearful comments that we make, such as:

“I don’t know how to do that” or “No, that will never work”

See our posts on your choices about fear and failure, which are two emotions when hindering thoughts can arise.

Cognitive ease and associative activation both work very quickly, in some cases within only a few minutes of inspiration. They are automatic mental responses.

Cognitive ease is a useful state of mind to maintain if you want to enhance your creativity, but this would also be at the cost of being less vigilant about the bigger picture of the project you are working on.

Associative activation generates ideas on mass, but the majority of them are beyond the reach of the conscious mind.

Hindering thoughts can cause a problem with your mindset both immediately and also during the long-run phases of a project.

A coach can work with you to keep your eye on the critical parameters of a newly inspired creative venture and also help you maintain a positive mind set to ensure your levels of cognitive ease are kept elevated. This will assist you with staying creative (without sacrificing your vigilance over other matters), and will also ensure that hindering thoughts are minimised or eliminated.

Through asking structured and intelligent questions, a coach can also assist you with realising all the valuable hidden ideas that were generated during the associative activation process that went unregistered by the conscious mind.

Written by Prashant Jadav. For more information about coaching and personal development support, please get in touch here.

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