Solving Problems: How to Get Unstuck with Creative Brainstorming

Image placeholder title

Life is full of brain-busting dilemmas and major conundrums that require creativity for solving problems. Finding a new place to live, landing a new job, deciding which school is right for your children – perhaps these major life dilemmas used to be easy, but today they require mental and emotional calisthenics to solve.

Are you currently stuck trying to crack a major problem? Don’t wait for someone to figure things out for you or to help you out. This is your world, your life, and you can deal with it. Put on your thinking cap and try the following strategies to see ways to solving problems from a new perspective. Approaching your problem from a different angle can loosen up your brain and help spark solutions and ideas that work.

Method 1: Worst Ideas Ever

You may not be able to think of the best way to solve your problem, but you can no doubt think of many terrible ideas with horrendous consequences. Make a list of the worst, dumbest, most awful ideas to solve your dilemma. Need to move but can’t find a house to buy? You could always live in the forest with the birds, move into your neighbors’ garage and hope they don’t notice, or trade your home for a paddleboat and hit the local lake for the next few years. You’ll have fun while forcing your brain to be flexible, and you never know when an idiot idea contains a kernel of truth.

Method 2: Occupy Your Logical Brain

Have you ever figured out the solution to solving problems while washing the dishes, cleaning the floor or driving to work? Our brains have a logical and creative side. Often the creative brain’s great ideas get squashed before they are ever expressed, because the logical brain crushes them first with thoughts of statistics, social mores and “that will never happen.” But when your logical brain is predisposed with a menial task, your creative brain is free to work its magic. Improv comedy actors use this method on stage. They know that once the logical side of the brain is occupied, the creative side is free to get funky to crack jokes and solve problems. Use mindless daily chores as a time to let your brain loose around your dilemma, and you may find that the solution presents itself when you are least expecting it. Keep a note pad handy at all times to write down inspiration wherever it strikes you, which is often in the most unexpected places.

Method 3: Move

Humans tend to regard thinking as a stationary activity, but in reality our brains and bodies work in tandem. Moving your ass often has the side effect of moving your brain; athletes often find that they do their best thinking while working out. But you don’t have to be a runner to make movement work for you. Instead of confining your brainstorming sessions to your work desk, take it on the move. Hit a local coffee shop, public park or mountaintop and watch the change of environment move your brain. Stuck at home? Tape up blank pages that represent different problems around your house, and spend time meandering between each and letting your brain jump between solutions.

Method 4: Let It Go

Finally, if you’ve been struggling with a big dilemma for weeks and weeks or even months, your brain is probably fatigued with the old problem. You’re unlikely to have any eureka moments if you’re mired in the same-old situation. Put your problem on the side of your life for a certain time, from a few days to several weeks. Resolve to avoid thinking about your dilemma for this time period, and if at all possible, spend some time doing or going someplace new. After this mental break, you’ll be better equipped to solve your problem.

Image: Paolo Margari

Shop Editors' Picks

Related Stories