60 Seconds To A More Creative Day

Individual Counseling Insights From Westlake Village-Based Patricia McTague-Loft

Peruse a shelf of self-help books in your local bookstore — or run down a list of books online if you prefer — and you may be struck by a similarity of theme. Many stress discipline, routine and focus. Developing a plan and sticking to it is indeed a pretty good route to success. But if you’ve been following this path, you may have noticed that rigid schedules come with a cost: a lack of spontaneity.

Writing for Fortune.com, Alexa Mikhail delves into a podcast by Jay Shetty in which he extols the benefits of daily acts of spontaneous, unplanned activities. “Randomness is unplanned and often means engaging with, reading, or visualizing something or someone new. Research suggests novelty helps the brain establish neural pathways that can stimulate us and serve as an antidote to boredom. If the task feels interesting or good, the brain releases dopamine, or the feel-good hormone, in response. Trying something new also forces us to be in the present moment solely based on a curiosity for what the randomness will bring. Kevin Mitchell, Ph.D., an associate professor of genetics and neuroscience at Trinity College Dublin, wrote in a Time essay late last year that randomness can help our brains retain more nuanced information and improve our ability to ‘think outside of the box’ on future problems.”

That one aspect of randomness — forcing “us to be in the present moment” — is a paradox. Instead of focusing on mindfulness, a different path to being in the moment is not to focus and simply to embrace the unexpected and unplanned. One of the nice things about Shetty’s daily embrace of randomness is how little time it takes. Mikhail cites a few habits that Shetty has developed to cultivate randomness. “One day,” Mikhail says of Shetty, “he’ll scroll through his contact list and see where his finger lands. He’ll text the person about how it’s been a while since they’ve connected or mention something that reminds him of them.” What a creative way to renew old friendships!

Aside from being a quick break from your routine, a random act can be remarkably simple. Mikhail says that Shetty will sometimes “grab a book on his shelf, flip to a random page, and read it out without context. While it may seem pointless — or dare I say random — it can energize and stimulate us.”

So, if you sometimes find that following a disciplined routine is tiresome, give Shetty’s habit a try. Allow yourself 60 seconds to do something completely unplanned and totally out of your routine. You may find yourself returning to your day with a newfound charge of creative energy.