Why we kill our own ideas

Human beings are idea machines. All of us have ideas all the time. Most of us don’t notice because we kill those ideas as soon as we have them.

We’re all guilty of this. In writing down and sharing my ideas on this blog I’m pretty unique – odd some might say, but despite the fact that I’ve documented hundreds of ideas, I too kill most of them. 

Why do we kill our ideas? 

One word answer: risk.

  • What if it’s a stupid idea and I risk looking silly?
  • What if it’s the best idea a human as ever had and I risk someone stealing it?
  • What if it’s already been thought of and I risk people thinking that I’ve stolen it?

The creative part of our brains that triggered the idea is in a constant fight against the parts of our brain that are designed to keep us alive. Human beings, like all living things, are essentially designed to stay alive and our brain’s job is, first and foremost, to keep us safe — to reduce risk.

When it recognises that it’s in survival mode — when we need creativity it serves us with ideas. When it doesn’t, when everything is fine, it kills those ideas because it’s safer to kill an idea than do anything with it.

It’s safer to tell ourselves that we’ll do some more work on the idea before we tell anyone about it.

It’s safer to convince ourselves that it probably won’t work than spend time trying to figure it out.

It’s safer to allow yourself to be distracted by the next brilliant idea.

It’s safer to stick with the status quo than take a risk that our idea might make our lives better. That’s why most of us stick with the status quo even if we believe we’d like to change something about our lives.

The people that seem to have done exceptional things regardless of what that is — building a business, inventing something, getting rich, walking around the World, saving lives, winning a medal at the Olympics — whatever, they didn’t wait for the ‘best’ idea, didn’t wait for someone else to motivate them, they simply acted on their idea