How to Overcome Obstacles to Personal Innovation

This is a Guest Post By Chuck Frey. He is the author of Up Your Impact: 52 Innovative Strategies to Add Value to Your Work. Available May 1st.

As someone who seeks to add value to your work, you ought to make a commitment to personal innovation – to seek out new ideas, strategies and solutions to improve what you do for a living. But there are a number of things that you may be doing that cause you to unwittingly diminish your potential for personal innovation. These unseen barriers may be the reason that you feel stuck in a rut – which one wise person once described as “a grave with both ends kicked out.”

Here are some tips to help you free up your creative energies and realize your potential for personal innovation in your work and life:

Eliminate limiting self-talk

Everyone has a steady, internal stream of “self-talk” – those beliefs and messages you tell to yourself. Examples of limiting self-talk include “I’m not creative” and “That idea will never work.” To free up your creative potential, you need to realize that you were born with the most important creative tool ever devised by the Creator – your marvelous brain, which is more powerful than any computer ever created.

Your brain can make intuitive leaps, associations and combinations that are truly stunning. Stop reading for a moment and take in your surroundings. Realize that everything you see that is man-made started out as an idea in someone’s mind.

To begin realizing your full creative potential, adopt more positive, creative self-talk. Examples include “I AM creative!” and “My brain and its ideas are the source of my future success!”

Lack of time for creative thinking

It’s one of the perils of the Modern Age: We fill up nearly every waking moment with activity. When we’re driving, we have the radio on or we’re cranking tunes on our portable music players. When we’re walking, we’re talking on cell phones or listening to music. When we’re eating breakfast or lunch, we’re reading a newspaper, book or magazine. And each time we have a few minutes to spare, we’re checking Facebook or Twitter on our smart phones. All of this ceaseless activity doesn’t give your mind much time to incubate ideas – one of the things that it does best.

Think about the times during which your best ideas come to you. Chances are that they are the times when your mind is disengaged, and able to drift freely from one thought to the next. For many people, these times include taking a shower, mowing the grass, walking or when you’re trying to fall asleep at night. To be more creative, you need to take longer showers! (Just kidding!)

Actually, you need to take time for think time. Go to a quiet spot. Turn off the radio when driving. Turn off your music when walking. Forget about Twitter and Facebook for a few hours. Let your ideas begin to bubble up and enjoy the fruits of your creative brain!

A lack of understanding about your brain’s operating system works

Your subconscious mind is like the giant, submerged part of an iceberg – the unseen and little understood part of your brain where most creative thinking takes place. You don’t need to know a lot of brain science to benefit from the awesome power of your subconscious mind, any more than you need to know the principles of electricity to turn on a light in a room.

What’s important to know is that your subconscious takes in everything you read, hear, see and experience and stores it. That means one of the ways you can become more creative is to feed the “raw material” pile of your mind with a variety high-quality ideas and insights from varied sources.

Your subconscious mind relentlessly smashes together different ideas and concepts, and serves up those that are most intriguing as hunches or flashes of insight – the legendary “A-ha!” moment. Many people tend to ignore these hunches, but the creative person develops a great respect for them and seeks to capture them quickly – before they get away.

That’s one of the curious things about ideas: they tend to bubble up into our conscious minds when we least expect them, but they fade away just as quickly. And that leads us to the next obstacle to personal innovation…

A lack of tools to record creative ideas

Great ideas tend to get away – unless you quickly record them. Creative people always carry tools with them to record these flashes of insight, such as a small notebook and a pen, or a compact voice recorder. This enables them to go back to those ideas later and consider them further, add to them and DO something profitable with them!

One of my favorite tools is Evernote, a note-taking app on my iPhone. Using the Dragon Dictation app, I can dictate an idea into my iPhone. Within seconds, it’s translated into text, which I can then copy and paste into Evernote. I also like to use a small Moleskine notebook to record my ideas and insights – it’s very portable and durable, and even has a small, expandable pocket inside the back cover where I keep a folded-up sheet with creativity prompts, which I use to generate new content ideas for my websites.

Getting stuck in patterns of behavior

We human beings tend to be creatures of habit. We drive to work the same way. We listen to the same music, watch the same TV shows, read the same magazines and hang out with the same people. To be more creative, you need to jolt yourself out of your mindless routines, and expose yourself to fresh stimuli – which we’ve already heard are the raw materials of new ideas! Drive to work a different way. Read different magazines and books than you normally do. Travel somewhere that you’ve never visited before. Have lunch with one or two new people per month to share ideas. Inspire your mind with some fresh, different input – your brain will thank you for it!

personal innovation chuck frey up your impactChuck Frey is the author of Up Your Impact: 52 Innovative Strategies to Add Value to Your Work (, which will be published on May 1, 2012. Chuck is the publisher


  1. Jaeger Jermaine says

    I like this article very much! I liked it when I found out how self-talking can help one person to become innovative. And I totally agree on how getting stuck in repetitive behavioral patterns can hinder one’s innovative skillfulness. A person becomes stagnant when he keeps doing the same things everyday. One has to do stimulating activities which will help flourish the innovative ideas one has in mind.


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