Abundant Optimism

Helping people regain and keep an optimistic outlook in challenging circumstances and improve their creativity, mind, and skills.

Finding Objects to Stretch the Mind

by Tamara Martfeld

One of the best ways to stretch the mind and enhance creativity is to make it work outside the box. One easy way to do this is to find shapes in everyday things which are supposed to be random.

For example, recent satellite images indicate there are clouds over most of the country. What kind of shapes to you see in those clouds? Recently I saw an animal crouched ready to attack its prey. I have also seen old men, dragons, and angels. Look at the clouds and find the shapes.

It is Autumn and most places have leaves on the ground. If a leaf is broken (not fully intact) or folded as it landed, what shape do you see in that leaf? What patterns can you find in a pile of leaves? What pattern do you see in a tree with some of the leaves missing? If the tree has different colors, what kind of pattern do the colors make? Look for something like an impressionist painting within the tree. When the tree is empty of leaves, what do the branches look like? Remember the “arms” of trees grabbing at Sleeping Beauty in Disney’s classic movie? I am sure the creative geniuses of that movie got the idea by looking at a barren tree.

Some walkways and building contain what appears on the surface to be rocks spread out in a single layer. What objects can you see in this random mosaic? Even concrete can have patterns. The pillar next to where I park my car at work has an angel guarding my car – this pillar was formed with a flat mold and the angel may be the pattern from wood used in the mold.

What do you see in the grains of wood? The family room in my parent’s house is full of ghosts!

Look at the winter squash. It is a favorite produce for working the imagination. What shapes do you see in the wrinkles? What character does the squash have? Is it evil? Happy? Sad? If you picked out a pumpkin for carving you may have already looked for that pumpkin’s character without realizing it. Root vegetables are another category of food which is good for this exercise.

If you have kids get them involved. If you and the kids are average, the kids will find a LOT more in whatever you are looking at. The youngest kids have the greater imaginations. Listen to them and let them teach you how to find the objects.

One nice thing about this mind stretching exercise is that it can be done almost everywhere. In a waiting room? Look at the ceiling. It is likely an acoustical ceiling of some sort with holes or bumps in which to find patterns. In line in a store? Look at the floor for patterns in the dirt, floor design, or carpet fibers. Stuck in traffic or at a light and not moving (be safe and don’t do this if you are moving)? Look for patterns in the lights on and off cars, characters of the cars, and meanings behind the numbers and letters on license plates, especially the kind which are not supposed to have any meaning.

I think you get the drift of what I am saying. This exercise helps the mind get used to thinking laterally, thus creatively. Always look for something to use to perform this exercise. Once you are in the habit of looking for patterns where none is supposed to exist you will find that every day problem solving becomes easier. You will see answers no one else sees because you will be subconsciously looking for unusual patterns and correlations. The “impossible” problems may become easier to solve. These are just some of the many benefits you will find as you train your brain to be more creative.

In case I don’t get back to you earlier next month I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving now. Enjoy your Jack-O-Lantern Pie (recipe on this site).