Have you ever noticed that you come up with some of your best ideas (and even discover solutions to problems) while in the shower, on the stair master, driving down the freeway, washing dishes, pulling weeds in the garden, or while you’re on vacation?
At one time or another, we’ve all experienced the phenomena where, after many hours of blood sweat and tears of trying to solve a specific problem, we give up, walk away — and EUREKA! We discover the solution moments later.
Nevertheless, when we’re going through challenging times most of us superglue ourselves to our issues, cramming our heads full of thoughts, don’t we? We think, obsess, ponder, mull over, reflect, weigh the pros and cons, second guess ourselves, scour the internet for ideas, ask friends and family for their opinions – and so on, and so on, and so on.
As a result, not only do we NOT find the answers we’re seeking, we get STUCK!
In my coaching practice, I help men and women, transform personal and professional disappointments into bold new beginnings. By the time a client finds me, they’ve usually already spent months ruminating about their problem(s), trying to figure out how to move their lives forward.
Ironically, all that ruminating is exactly what’s keeping them stuck. (We’re never really stuck. We’re simply stuck in stuck thinking!)
One of the very first things I often do with a client is give them “permission” to set their challenge(s) aside for one week, and dive head first into mindless activities they enjoy. They usually resist the idea. The idea of having FUN feels blasphemous. “Shouldn’t transforming my life be serious business?”, they ask. Sometimes they even get upset with me. After all, they’re paying me a lot of money to help them transform their lives — and I’m giving them “permission” to set their challenges aside for a week? More often than not, it takes some convincing for them to dismiss their stewing and go have FUN.
But when they do?
The results are magical.
The activities that clients choose to indulge in run the gamut. But in the end, one consistent thing peeks through: possibility thinking. They’re no longer stuck. Solutions begin to appear – whether it’s an idea for a new business, how to move on after the end of a relationship– or just a fresh and hope-filled outlook about their challenges.
None of what I’m talking about here is hocus pocus.
See, our conscious mind is better at analytical (linear) decisions, while our unconscious mind is more effective at solving complex problems and finding creative solutions. This means that in order to solve a complex problem, you’re more than likely going to need more than your conscious mind.
Research has shown that activities like listening to music, exercising and taking a hot shower boost creativity because they trigger the release of dopamine (the brain’s pleasure inducing chemical.) At the same time, we are likely to experience epiphanies when we’re doing something monotonous like fishing, washing dishes, or driving. Why? When we immerse ourselves in activities that don’t take much brain power, WE ALLOW OUR THOUGHTS TO SETTLE, OUR MIND BEGINS TO WANDER FREELY, AND OUR UNCONSCIOUS MIND STARTS MAKING CONNECTIONS AND PRODUCING INSIGHTS!
What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing right now? Give your unconscious mind a chance. Purposely set aside time to NOT think about the problem. Remember, when you take a breather, that pause is never without energy.
Sometimes the best way to figure something out is to STOP trying to figure it out!