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Mentalrobics™

You exercise your body to stay physically in shape, so why shouldn't you exercise your brain to stay mentally fit? With these daily exercises you will learn how to flex your mind, improve your creativity and boost your memory. As with any exercise, repetition is necessary for you to see improvement, so pick your favorite exercises from our daily suggestions and repeat them as desired. Try to do some mentalrobics every single day!

This little exercise will help you start thinking creatively. Pretend that you are on a team in charge of coming up with a name for a new chocolate flavored breakfast cereal. Take 5 minutes and come up with as many creative names as you can for this new cereal. How many did you get?

0-5 You need to practice.
5-10 Pretty good. Next time try for double.
11-20 Good job!
20+ You have an excellent imagination.

You can repeat this exercise as many times as you want with different products (they don't have to be all cereals). The more you practice the better you'll get.

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Many famous thinkers got their bright ideas while they were relaxing and not thinking about the problem. Archimedes got his sudden flash of genius while taking a bath and Darwin figured out evolution while driving down the road. These flashes of insight happen because the unconscious mind continues to process information in the background while you are doing other things. If your subconscious figures something out, it will seem like the idea came out of nowhere.

One way to encourage this is to periodically review your notebook to remind your subconscious mind about some of your recorded ideas. Then give your conscious mind a break from concentrating on the topic and do some novel and interesting activities. When you do this, it gives your subconsciousness a chance to freely explore the idea without the constraints that you impose upon your conscious thinking.

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Picasso once said that "good designers borrow, great designers steal." Similarly, Einstein said that "the secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources." There are many great ideas out there that are just waiting to be applied in new and exciting ways. Figuring out a novel way to use an idea is just as important as coming up with the idea in the first place. You should always keep a lookout for interesting ideas that you might be able to modify and apply to a new problem. Put these ideas into your notebook.

Since some people believe that all new ideas are simply elaboration on existing ideas, borrowing or stealing is unavoidable!

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Get a good notebook and start writing down all of your ideas. A written record serves two purposes. It guarantees that the idea cannot be lost, and it gives you a way to come up with new ideas via the technique of elaborating on old ideas.

Any interesting idea that you have or you hear about should be recorded in your notebook. If you can, try to organize your notes by topic. You could use notecards and file them in appropriate categories. You could use your PDA or computer to keep notes, or you could designate different notebooks or different sections for different topics. If the idea comes from a source, indicate the source in your notes so you can go back and get more information if necessary.

Don't worry about wasting paper or writing too much down. Your notebooks will be a great resource to go back to when you need some interesting ideas for a current project. Thomas Edison had over 3,000 notebooks documenting his career, so you better get started!

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Elaborating on an existing idea is a great way to come up with new and better ideas. One way to do this is by taking an idea apart and looking at its components. By looking at one part at a time, you might be able to ignore your preconceived notions about the idea and come up with some interesting improvements.

Start by listing the attributes of the idea. Just the act of listing the individual pieces will get your mind thinking about improvements or modifications. For example, if someone asked you to design a better bird feeder, you might be at a loss about where to start. It's a little overwhelming to tackle a large project all at once. To take it apart, you might list the individual attributes like this:

1. Hook for hanging
2. Container for seeds
3. Covering to shield feeder from rain
4. Perch for birds to sit on
5. Tray to collect fallen seeds
6. Device to prevent squirrels from eating seeds

Now you can look at the individual components and work on them in isolation. Maybe you could focus on making a really good perch for a certain type of bird, or maybe you would combine the rain shield and seed container in some interesting way. By taking your idea apart into its pieces, you will be able to innovate more easily and come up with interesting ideas.

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