Q: My job requires me to be creative, but some days I'm just too tired or uninspired. And then I get stressed, which only makes it worse. Do you have any tips for generating good ideas under pressure?
Jim: We've all had moments in life where we need to get the creative juices flowing. Each of us is different, and what works for one person might not for another. But there are a couple of suggestions that can be very helpful for most of us.
Experts say the first step is to recognize that ideas are sometimes "captured." In other words, our minds are constantly processing thoughts. That means it's often simply a matter of paying attention to what we're thinking and recognizing an idea when it comes along. Other times we may see or hear something, or have an encounter with someone who triggers that elusive spark of creative energy we need.
The second step is to turn over the engine and get your motor running. According to research out of Johns Hopkins, the best way is exercise. That's because physical activity increases oxygen delivery to the brain and jump-starts the creation of new brain cells.
So if you're looking for some mental inspiration, lace up those shoes and head out for a walk, a bike ride or go for a run. Speed isn't important -- it's the motion that matters. Regardless of how old or young you are, activity is key. Get the blood circulating, and shake those cobwebs free.
The key to all of this is to mentally pull out the wide-angle lens and look around. Take your focus off of the detailed problem for a few minutes -- but not too long (resist getting caught up in distractions). You may well find that when you zoom in again, the ideas you need will come bubbling to the surface.
Q: My four-year-old is constantly tugging on my sleeves for attention. I love her dearly, but I'm getting weary of this happening all the time. What should I do?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: Dr. John Gottman, a relationship expert with more than 40 years of research experience, refers to these small efforts to get relational attention as "bids for connection." They can be good, but sometimes bids seem to come at inconvenient times and can wear at our patience.
Bids for connection aren't always easy to catch, even if you're looking for them. Here are a few examples:
A boy tugging at his mom while she's on the phone.
A little girl grabbing her father's hand.
A child wanting to help, even though it creates more work.
It's essential to notice these bids and to have an appropriate response. You can teach your child how to bid for your attention successfully and with good timing. It's OK to tell her "not right now" and let her know when would be a better time. Be gentle in teaching her how to accept this, though; yelling or shaming are not good responses.
Likewise, understand that if the answer is always "no" because you're involved in other things, the bids may decrease and even disappear altogether. You still want to maintain the relationship, so take time to bid for your child's attention in ways she loves to connect. This will help her feel valued and noticed.
There are likely countless things clamoring for your attention, including work, responsibilities, bills, social media and entertainment. Try to set these aside, when possible and appropriate, to connect with your child. Talk as a family about how to notice bids for connection, and respond to each other's bids in meaningful, respectful and effective ways.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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