Creative growth happens outside one's comfort zone. Great designers are well-rounded and well-read participants in a variety of activities. They constantly strive to experience new sources of enlightening input to stretch limits, broaden horizons, make new connections, and see in new ways. This enhances their creative output and increases the wealth of resources from which to draw inspiration and influence. Neurobic exercises help motivate prospective designers to take risks and step into areas where they are afraid in order to expand and grow.
Neurobics (neuron + aerobics) are stretching exercises to increase oxygen and give your brain's neurons more life by experiencing or participating in some new activity, place, or event. When you stretch your mind, it never returns to its previous shape. Research indicates that taxing the brain (making it ‘sweat') with unfamiliar exercises can improve learning ability, memory, and problem solving.
The neurobics event must be something you do not ordinarily do (stretch your mind) and appropriate for creative mental expansion. It could be attending a live performing arts event, beginning an exercise program or playing a new sport, nutritional changes or breaking bad habits, visiting a new place, etc. Focus on your weakest areas: if language skills are weak - learn a new word every day; if its math - put away the calculator.
Enter into your neurobic event with an open clear mind. Allow events to change you. Be willing to grow. Be open to new experiences and be willing to be changed by them. Learn something new, see new things, respect other people, network with new audiences, and enrich your life.
Get into the world, participate, and enjoy.
Feed great inspiring new information to your brain.
Enjoy and appreciate diversity.
Broaden, stretch, and expand your creative thinking.
Change your life: break out of ruts and grow.
Spice up your life and have fun.
Encourage you to get out into the world. Be a participant. Go for growth.
Sample neurobic activities
Walk backwards for a day
Watch no TV for a full week
Move more: jogging, exercise, hiking
• Change eating habits at the table
Choose a cuisine unfamiliar to you when eating out
• Quit smoking
• Drive into the country and witness the sunrise
• Learn how to play chess
• Solve a crossword puzzle and/or Sudoku each morning
• Practice yoga or transcendental meditation
• Sample bizarre foods
• Begin and continue to write in a journal
Turn familiar objects - pictures, clocks - upside down
Cover all your mirrors for a week
• Drive a different route to work/school for a week
Gamble at a major casino for more than 30 minutes, wander and explore the amenities
Do not access any Social Media for a full week
Eat alone in a restaurant during lunch hour
Do not talk for a week
• Take a road trip with no agenda
Explore Art Deco buildings
Shower with your eyes closed
Examples of activities to attend
Museums: Art, Science,
Live professional theater
Museums and events at universities
Attend an Art Festival - eat snacks, and listen to entertainment
Ethnic, historic, or neighborhood Festivals
Experience life with open palms, not clenched fists.
Inspirations from others
• People cannot discover new lands until they have the courage to lose sight of the shore.
• I like to step into areas where I am afraid. Fear is a sign that I am going in the right direction.
Behaviors of Successful People
• Endure the pain of feedback in order to secure the joy of growth.
Abandon hope for a better yesterday.
Stop waiting for a better tomorrow.
Spend time with inspiring people.
• Do one thing every day that scares you.
• Great work is done by people who are not afraid to be great.
• Why not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the fruit is?
Grace Hopper or John Shedd
• A ship is safe in a harbor. But a harbor is not what a ship is for.
• As designers, we are the interface. Trying to make things understandable. That requires involving oneself with what's going on in the world. One must understand what people are, what they're up to, what they care about, how they feel.
• You have to motivate yourself with challenges. That's how you know you're still alive. Once you start doing only what you've already proven you can do, you're on the road to death.
• It's all a game. To play is to win. To not play is to lose.
• The simple act of trying raises your chances for success immediately. Not trying guarantees failure.
• Strive to control your mental attitude, your attitude controls your behavior, and your behavior controls your environment.
• You have the greatest chance of winning when your first commitment is to a total and enthusiastic involvement in the game itself. Enthusiasm is what matters most.
• Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines; sail away from the safe harbor; catch the tradewinds in your sails. Explore, dream, discover.
• Keep open to new influences, go out and actively look and explore the world and let yourself be inspired by it. There's so much amazing stuff around that it shouldn't be too hard.
• The greatest attribute for a professional designer is curiosity and to remain in a state of inquiry.
• Those who are afraid of being different will never make a difference.
• You are the single biggest influence in your life.
• The life which is unexamined is not worth living.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (or not?)
• Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
• This is an exciting world. Great moments wait around every corner.
• To be a good designer, you would need to have deep and far-reaching interests outside of the profession.
• Looking cool is the easiest way to mediocrity
• I constantly get out of my comfort zone. Once you push yourself into something new, a whole new world of opportunities opens up. But, you might get hurt. In fact, you will get hurt. But amazingly, when you heal - you are somewhere you've never been before.
• Seek the lofty by reading, hearing, and seeing great work at some moment every day.
• You miss 100% of the shots you never take.
• If your hands aren't sweaty, you're not in a big enough ballgame.
• Don't wait for your ship to come in; swim out to it.
• Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.
• I've learned that no matter how much I care, some people are just assholes.
• You shouldn't compare yourself to others - they are more screwed up than you think.
The word neurobics was created by James Robert Watson, PhD, Copyright: 1988
Neurobic activities project
Download, print, and cut in half the Neurobics form. Fill it out and turn it in at the beginning of each Monday's class between now and the end of the semester. You won't have to make an oral presentation. Enjoy the activity, don't worry about taking notes.
Instructions for the form
Print the name, place, and date of each neurobic event; a thorough explanation of how or why this event qualifies as a neurobic event (never done it before, afraid of doing this, etc); and an explanation of your response to the event: how you grew, what you learned, or how it will affect you.
• Use only the form provided, 4.25" x 11"
• Print clear explanations only on the front of the form.
• Proofread for correct spelling and grammar.
• Meet each deadline.
• Each neurobic activity must:
1. Have occurred during the week before turning in the form.
2. Be self initiated. You decide to change your life.
3.Be significant and impactful.
Follow the specs and you will earn 85 points. You will earn more points if the neurobic activity is particularly noteworthy, announced in class, design oriented, high culture, or extra special. You will lose points for misspelled words or poor grammar, if its not impactful, and if you did not initiate the neurobic.
Neurobics goes mainstream • 25 years later
Left: Ad from Reader's Digest, 2017, Neurobic exercises are like cross-training for your brain.
Right: a book of "copyrighted material" on Amazon, 2014 - Keep Your Brain Alive, by Lawrence C. Katz, PhD, and Manning Rubin. Blurb from Amazon description: Neurobics are simple, unique brain exercises that can be done anywhere, anytime. Based on leading neurobiological research, Keep Your Brain Alive introduces a regimen of mental cross-training - a series of deceptively simple exercises that help stimulate the production of natural growth factors called neurotrophins, which in turn grow brain cells and keep the brain younger and stronger. And nothing so easily stimulates the brain as breaking routines and using the five senses in new and unexpected ways.