Step 4: Reason. Now you're ready to enter what Carson calls the "reason mindset," and think in realistic and practical terms about what will work instead of how you'd like it to work. "It's the perfect place to take a fanciful idea, to flesh it out and make it practical," Carson writes in her book. People who doubt their creativity often get tripped up here by jumping ahead to "evaluation" (see Step 5), allowing self-doubts to shoot their ideas down. Carson recommends giving yourself verbal commands like "don't go there" to stop such thoughts, or using the visual image of a stop sign to push the thoughts away.
Step 5: Evaluate. It's at this point in the creative process that a thoughtful and critical judging of your idea becomes necessary; "the evaluate brainset is where you want to be when you're deciding which idea or solution to implement," says Carson. She admits to being "a horrible evaluator" herself, however. "I'm an absorber," she says. "I come up with a lot of ideas, then they just sit there or dissolve from my memory the way my dreams dissolve." (She now carries a notebook and pen or a digital voice recorder to record her ideas for later pondering.) Practice using your evaluate mindset by making lists of your 10 favorite books, movies, restaurants, acquaintances, or memories, say, and ranking them in order of your preference.
Step 6: Dive in. After you've figured out how to implement your idea, completely immerse yourself in arriving at the goal. Ideally, says Carson, you'll enter a brain activation state that Claremont Graduate University psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has described as "flow," in which you lose all sense of time and self as you engage fully and spontaneously in responding to the challenge. To train your brain to get more easily into this mindset, spend time doing activities you really enjoy, and think of ways to make other tasks more fun and challenging. Can you load the dishwasher in under two minutes? Can you write that E-mail in less than 30 seconds? Or, as you dust your furniture, purposefully think back with pleasure to how you acquired each piece. Lastly, it often helps to raise your standards. Take pride in the oil change you're performing on your car—and do a little detailing while you're at it.