MIND FLEXORS and How to Use

As you go through these exercises, you will be practicing and developing the same abilities that creative people seem to naturally possess. Remember, just as singers warm up their vocal chords by singing scales, you can warm up your mind by practicing these exercises. Mind Flexors are your mental scales. Here are some hints to help you get the most out of your practice.

  • Don’t worry if you don’t do every Mind Flexor. It is definitely okay to occasionally skip the Mind Flexors. You can make them up at a later point, do two or three in one day’s time, or even omit the ones you find particularly troublesome.
  • If you do not understand a particular Mind Flexor, create a meaning that makes sense to you. This is creativity practice, after all! There are no right or wrong answers to these Mind Flexors. You cannot fail. We did have one participant in a seminar ask for the book with all the answers! She couldn’t wrap her mind around the idea that there are no answers to these Flexors.
  • Give yourself permission to make up totally wild answers. Stay away from what you think are the right or best answers.
  • The Mind Flexors are marked in the right column as to the type of creative ability that is being flexed. In some cases, more than one characteristic is being practiced. In these situations, only one characteristic is listed. This is particularly true with Withholding Judgment, which can be practiced in every Mind Flexor. The six characteristics that typify creative individuals can be broken into subsets as follows.

They are all exercised in your Mind Flexors.

  • Word fluency
  • Ideational fluency
  • Associational fluency
  • Expressional fluency
  • Withholding judgment
  • Tolerance of ambiguity
  • Seeing both sides of a question
  • Questioning
  • Imagination
  • Turning things around
  • Visualization
  • “What if…”
  • Flexibility or risk taking
  • Focus or Immersion
  • Preference for disorder
  • We encourage you to go through the Mind Flexors in order. That is, don’t skip around, or you’ll probably start looking for ones that are easier for you. Take them one at a time. If you skip one, go on to the next one in order.
  • Group leaders can use these exercises with teams for team building exercises or with seminar participants as ice breakers or simply as breaks from heavy mental work. Please indicate that the copyright for these original materials is: Copyright 2017, Janelle Barlow, All Rights Reserved.
  • Remember, that the point of these Mind Flexors is not to help you understand yourself psychologically. They are designed to help think more creatively. You may learn something about yourself in the process as well, but that is not the point of the Mind Flexors.
  • Share your Mind Flexors. If you go to FaceBook there is a page set up for Mind Flexor sharing. To make it easy for people to find the Mind Flexor you are sharing, be sure to list the number of the Mind Flexor.
  • Have fun! There is no doubt that creativity is hard work, but it is also incredibly pleasing activity and will stimulate you in other areas of your life. We’ve had a lot of experience using Mind Flexors with groups of people over the years. Virtually everyone reports that they become more nimble in producing ideas after practicing the Mind Flexors.
  • EVERY MONTH, WE WILL ADD 10 NEW MIND FLEXORS TO THE ONES THAT ARE HERE. We have approximately 1,000 of them ready for use, but if you have ideas for new ones, be sure to share them with us. We’ll add them to our treasure trove of Mind Flexors and give you credit for the ones you contribute.

A GREAT MANY PEOPLE THINK THEY ARE THINKING WHEN THEY ARE MERELY REARRANGING THEIR PREJUDICES.

— WILLIAM JAMES

1. IDEATIONAL FLUENCY

List 20 alternate (or more!) and unique ways to greet someone other than shaking hands. Make this list over the course of the day if you like.

REMEMBER, YOU CAN’T STEAL SECOND IF YOU DON’T TAKE YOUR FOOT OFF FIRST.

— MIKE TODD

2. RISK TAKING

Call telephone directory assistance and ask for a number—in an accent you do not normally speak. What happened? Did you give up before trying? Lots of people do. Some find it easier to do it at the end of the day after thinking about it. Did you reject the exercise justifying your not doing it by saying it wouldn’t be fair to the operator because you would be wasting that person’s time? Is it possible that you don’t take risks with your creativity and innovation that you could? Is it possible that you don’t take a risk and instead listen to your inner voice of hesitation?

THERE IS NO WAY TO KNOW WHETHER A THOUGHT IS NEW EXCEPT WITH REFERENCE TO SOME STANDARDS, AND THERE IS NO WAY TO TELL WHETHER IT IS VALUABLE UNTIL IT PASSES SOCIAL EVALUATION.

— MIHALY CSICKSZENTMIHALYI

3. WITHHOLDING OF JUDGMENT

Make up the titles for ten best selling books. These titles are so interesting that the reader feels compelled to pick up the book. List all the titles, and then rank order them after you finish your list.

WHATEVER THE THING YOU WISH TO SAY, THERE IS BUT ONE WORD TO EXPRESS IT, BUT ONE VERB TO GIVE IT MOVEMENT, BUT ONE ADJECTIVE TO QUALIFY IT; YOU MUST SEEK UNTIL YOU FIND THIS NOUN, THIS VERB, THIS ADJECTIVE…

— GUSTAVE FLAUBERT

4. WORD FLUENCY

Write down as many words beginning with the letter “f” as you can think of in one and a half minutes. Do not use plurals, and also do not worry about your spelling accuracy.

YOU MUST TRY TO OBSERVE YOURSELF MORE AND MORE OBJECTIVELY, TO LOOK AT EVERYTHING IN YOURSELF AS THOUGH IN ANOTHER PERSON.

— SIGMUND FREUD

5. FOCUS OR IMMERSION

Choose a small object and carry it with you all day today. Act as if your life depended on knowing where it is at all times.

NEVER ANSWER A QUESTION UNTIL IT IS ASKED.

— AMERICAN LEGAL MAXIM

6. TOLERANCE OF AMBIGUITY

There are many questions that you will never know the answer for certain. What are they?

THE REAL VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY CONSISTS NOT IN MAKING NEW LANDSCAPES BUT IN HAVING NEW EYES.

— MARCEL PROUST

7. WHAT IF…?

What if humans could not get fat? How would life be different? List at least seven things that would change. Stretch your answers to encompass something you wouldn’t think of when you first answer the question.

GENIUS IS RECOGNIZING THE UNIQUENESS IN THE UNIMPRESSIVE.

— MS. ANONYMOUS

8. IDEATIONAL FLUENCY

List 20 non-ordinary uses for a safety pin. Start your list and keep adding to it all day long.

GIVEN HOW DIFFERENT DOMAINS ARE FROM ONE ANOTHER, AND GIVEN THE VARIETY OF TASKS AND THE DIFFERENT STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF INDIVIDUALS, WE SHOULD NOT EXPECT A GREAT DEAL OF SIMILARITY IN HOW PEOPLE ARRIVE AT A NOVEL IDEA OR PRODUCT.

— MIHALY CSIKSZENTMIHALYI

9. IMAGINATION

You are writing a play about Elvis Presley the great rock star. In the final scene of the play, Elvis is on his deathbed. He says that he regrets not doing 5 specific things. As the playwright, what five things will you have Elvis say he regretted not doing in his lifetime?

A SINGLE IDEA, IF IT IS RIGHT, SAVES US THE LABOR OF AN INFINITY OF EXPERIENCES.

— JACQUES MARITAIN

10. IDEATIONAL FLUENCY

Chinese place the family name first, while most other national groups put their given names first. Mao, for example, is the family name of Mao Tse Tung. Think of 5 other ways to name and call people.