Your habits: from narrow forrest path to expressway

Stig-motorvägHave you ever thought about your habits and everything that you do automatically with your autopilot turned on without even being aware of it? We, as humans are biologically hard-wired to save energy by automating all processes we routinely perform daily. In this way, we do not need to use valuable thought power on how we are moving or how we implement all the hundreds of everyday routines we have. In front of a new problem, the brain always begins to review similar experiences and how we handle them earlier. Attacking a new problem in the same way that we previously solved similar problems is often a sensible strategy, but at the same time, the power of habit prevents us from finding new solutions and exploring new ways that can make our lives richer and more meaningful.

The brain is designed to make our thinking as effective as possible by automating all the processes that need not be managed by our conscious mind. Our thoughts, memories and habits are consolidated and reinforced by the repeated activation of some of the billions of neural networks in our brains that are gradually becoming increasingly comprehensive and effective. This happens in a self-organising system that constantly reinforces our past behaviors. Each time a specific neural network is activated, the signals on that network become faster and stronger both by increasing the number of nerve cells and for each individual nerve cell to develop more contacts with surrounding nerve cells – one-off event develops into a habit. Such self-reinforcing systems are the basis for all learning (eg juggling or learning a new language) and all our habits. If the first thought is an impenetrable forest path, then the recurring signal will soon make them into a six-lane expressway.

The little child who is learning to walk or the little older child who is learning to ride her bicycle needs to put all the focused attention to the task. But after a while, it goes completely automatically and soon without any conscious thought at all – the autopilot is switched on. You can easily see this phenomenon also by yourself. These skills have then became patterns in an implicit memory in your brain’s sunbconscious association areas, which work without volume restrictions or difficulties to pick them up whenever needed.

If you are like the vast majority of people then you have regular morning rituals. You get dressed, wash, eat breakfast, and brush your teeth the same way every morning (at least the days you go to work). When you dress, you are likely to always put on the shoes in the same order (right or left first). Probably, your breakfast does not vary much from day to day. And when you clasp your hands, it’s always the same thumb that ends up on top (try to change and you notice how awkward it feels).

With the brain in autopilot mode, we can perform many everyday actions without conscious effort. But as for everything else in the world, we also pay a price for this ability. As we go through life with the autopilot turned on and the filters to our consciousness at maximal mode, we simultaneously deprive us from many experiences that could otherwise enrich our daily lives and increase our creativity. Instead, this void is filled up with an endless noise of thoughts that control us as much as we control them. Sometimes this may be good for creativity, but as often unwelcome thoughts focus on problems and negative things or pure banalities.


Tip: A great way to enrich your life is to make conscious your entrenched habits, and then try to do the opposite. Not because the way you do them is wrong, but to get new experiences and enrich your life. Vary your breakfast, take a new way home from work, vary your wardrobe, try a new lunch restaurant, change a newspaper, buy a cookbook and work through the recipes, find new walkways, take a bath instead of a shower, listen to a new radio channel… By consistently trying to challenge your habits you get both new impulses and eventually a way of life where you have easier to see new opportunities.


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De tio kreativa förmågorna

Illusion of the MindI början av mitt eget kreativa utforskande återkom jag ständigt till frågan vad det egentligen är att vara kreativ. Går det att definiera en viss kreativ förmåga? Det finns ju så många kreativa personer – uppfinnare, musiker, konstnärer – så det borde ju gå att borra sig ner till en gemensam nämnare, den magiska silverkulan, en förmåga som är gemensam för alla kreativa människor. Men ju mer jag själv lärde mig om kreativitetens olika aspekter, desto mer insåg jag att detta var ett stickspår. Det finns inte en enda kreativ förmåga utan en hel rad av dem, och det är när flera av dessa samspelar och förstärker varandra som vi verkligen kan utnyttja vår fulla kreativa potential. Efter mycket funderande kom jag fram till hur jag själv såg på dessa förmågor och vilka de var. Det finns säkert många som inte håller med om just den här listan, men för mig har den varit nyttig för att sedan kunna gå vidare och utveckla dem.

  1. Nyfikenhet
  2. Fantasi och föreställningsförmåga
  3. Lekfullhet
  4. Associationsförmåga
  5. Medveten närvaro (mindfulness)
  6. Mod
  7. Uthållighet
  8. Förmåga att komma i flow
  9. Förmåga att utnyttja sina känslor
  10. Logiskt tänkande och problemlösningsförmåga

Dessa är förmågor inte egenskaper. En egenskap är vi född med, men förmågor kan vi träna upp. Se dem som olika muskelgrupper som med rätt träning kan växa och utvecklas. Lika lite som man blir en bra idrottsman genom att titta på Tv-sporten blir man mer kreativ genom att läsa böcker och blogg-inlägg utan förmågorna behöver tränas upp och mest träning behövs för de förmågor som inte faller sig naturliga för oss. Det finns mängder av sätt att träna upp dessa förmågor och jag kommer att återkomma till en del av dem i framtida blogg-inlägg.

united-kingdom-flag-1- This blog post in English

The ten creative abilities

Illusion of the MindAt the beginning of my own creative exploration, I constantly returned to the question what it really is to be creative. Is it possible to define a certain creative ability? There are so many highly creative people – inventors, musicians, artists – so it should be possible to drill down to a common denominator, the magic silver bullet, a creative ability common to all creative human beings. But the more I learned about the different aspects of creativity, the more I realised that this was a side-track. There is not a single creative ability but a whole row of them, and it’s only when several of these interact and reinforce each other as we really can utilise our full creative potential. After a lot of thought, I realised how I saw these abilities and which they were. There are certainly many who would not agree with this particular list, but it has been helpful to me to move on and ponder how to develop them.

  1. Curiosity
  2. Visualisation and imagination
  3. Playfulness
  4. Ability to associate
  5. Mindfulness
  6. Courage
  7. Persistence
  8. Ability to get into flow
  9. Ability to utilise your feelings
  10. Logical thinking and problem solving

It is important to note that these are abilities not traits. We are born with a trait, but we can train our abilities. See them as different muscle groups that with the right training can grow and develop. Watching the sports on TV will not make you into a good athlete, likewise you will not be more creative by reading books and blog posts. Also these skills need to be exercised and most training is needed for the abilities that do not come natural to us. There are lots of ways to exercise these abilities and I will return to some of them in future blog posts.

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Varför den här bloggen?

De senaste åren har kreativitet – vad det är, hur det uppstår och hur den kan odlas – varit ett av mina stora intressen. Jag som nu startar den här bloggen är läkare, chef, pappa, forskare, kommunikatör, amatörfotograf, storslukare av böcker och möjligen mer nyfiken än de flesta. Efter den traditionella krisen mitt livet, som så många av oss drabbas av, så ledde ett inre sökande efter de fundamentala svaren på våra stora livsfrågor, en ny relation och nya bekantskaper mig in på ett nytt intressespår, nämligen hur vår hjärna formar oss till dem vi är och vilken fantastisk 1-liters kreativitetsmaskin vi ständigt bär med oss – med dess enorma potential men också begränsningar som vi ofta inte är medvetna om.

Genom att plöja mängder av böcker och forskningsartiklar borrade jag mig successivt allt längre ner i vad resultaten av vad modern hjärnforskning och beteendevetenskap kan lära oss om vår kreativitet – inte bara en allmän förståelse utan också hur vi kan utveckla denna fantastiska gåva. Något hundratal böcker och artiklar senare tror jag att jag har tillräckligt på fötterna för att våga dela med mig av mina egna slutsatser och tolkningar, samt en hel del praktiska tips hur vi kan öka kreativiteten i våra liv. Förhoppningsvis kommer det hela att så småningom bli mitt eget bidrag i form av en bok (eller kanske flera), men tills dess kommer det att bli spridda funderingar på den här bloggen i stället.

This blog post in English

Why this blog?

During my last years, creativity – what it is, how it emerges, and how it could be nurtutred – has been one of my great interests. I, who now starts this blog is a medical doctor, a manager/leader, a father, a researcher, a communicator, an amateur photographer, an avid book reader och possibly more curious than most. After my traditional mid-life crisis, which comes upon so many of us, a new inner search for the fundamental answers to the eternal life questions, a new relationship and new acquaintances led me into a new interest path, that is how our brains shape us to who we are, and what a fantastic 1-litre creativity machine we are all carrying with us, with its enormous potential, but also hard-coded limitations that we are not always aware of.

By ploughing through numerous books and research articles, I successively drilled myself deeper and deeper into what the results of modern neuro and behavioural sciences could teach us about our creativity – not only a general understanding, but also practical guidance how we could further deveop thi wonderful gift. Some hundreds of books and articles later, and also personal explorations, I believe I have enough on my feet to share some insights, interpretation and practical advise on how we could increase the creativity in life. Hopefully, this will eventually lead to the publishing of my own book (or more), but meanwhile I will be writing some thoughts on this blog. I hope you will enjoy.

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