What’s the best approach to getting an answer for a persistent problem? It might be a business problem, a problem with an employee or employer, or a technical project you’ve been working on. You feel stuck on these problems, and the frustration is starting to mount up.
The solution to this may seem counter-intuitive, but it works: hands down, the absolute best way to arrive at answers to these problems is to actually not think about them at all.
If you are serious about getting an answer to the problem that’s bothering you, it’s paramount that you resist the temptation to continue thinking about it.
The more difficult the problem, the more you’ll have to fight that urge to consciously think about potential solutions.
Letting go of all conscious thought and attempts to solve a particular problem actually allows your creative mechanism to take over, creating solutions that you might not have seen before. Any time a problem is difficult to solve, or you can’t seem to find an answer, it’s because the creative mechanism inside your mind is blocked.
In a recent study, scientists studying brain scans learned that the creative mechanism works best when the mind is at rest instead of working on something.
Fortunately, everyone has this creative mechanism inside of them. It’s not something exclusive only to artists, musicians, writers, or any other right-brain dominant individual.
As a matter of fact, this concept may make more sense to those who are more left-brain dominant. It requires a conscious effort to analyze, use logic, and think hard about a particular subject.
The antithesis of this is to relax and let things go. Then, and only then, will the creative mechanism within your mind begin to work. When this happens, you’re no longer straining and focusing on using logical analytical thinking.
The trick here isn’t just not thinking about the problem, but doing something to take your mind completely off the matter. The more you engage in something that is the complete opposite of what the nature of the problem is, the better.
A word of warning: this isn’t an excuse to ignore the problem completely. You may encounter something and not able to solve it at first glance, but that’s not an excuse to turn away and forget about it forever.
This method should be applied after you’ve done your homework; after you’ve done your research and really committed to solving this nagging thing that’s been frustrating you.
Then you can take a break from it and let it go for a while.
And that’s when the breakthroughs start to happen.
When you’re in the most relaxed state is when your creative mechanism will churn out some magical solutions to your problem. Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, writes, “Neuroscience is finding that when we are idle, in leisure, our brains are most active. The Default Mode Network lights up, which, like airport hubs, connects parts of our brain that don't typically communicate. So a stray thought, a random memory, an image can combine in novel ways to produce novel ideas.”
Thomas Edison was known for taking naps throughout the day. His wife recalled that whenever he encountered a persistent problem or was on the edge of something spectacular, he would nap and frequently wake up with the answer shortly after.
Friedrich August Kekule, the German chemist famed for the discovery of the benzene molecule, actually first discovered the exact structure of said molecule in his dreams.
These are prime examples of allowing the creative mechanism to work by relaxing. Your creative mechanism cannot be forced to function. The harder you try, the harder you’d fail. The process that goes on through the brain via our creative mechanism must be allowed to take place if you wish to see any results.
An uncomplicated way to look at this is by viewing analytical thinking as a computer operator and the creative mechanism as the computer itself. In this instance, the operator is coding on the computer to create a program. The operator knows what he or she wants the program to look like and how he or she wants it to function. So he or she inputs the appropriate codes into the computer, letting it decipher the input and generate the output.
What if the operator doesn’t allow the computer to decipher the code and starts trying to generate the program himself? What if he tries to manually create the program without allowing the computer to process the code that was input?
That’s simply not possible, and the computer can do the job much faster with much better results.
In the same way, when you block out the creative mechanism with conscious effort of logical thinking, you’re trying to solve a problem that your creative mechanism can handle much better than your conscious analytical thoughts.
So sit back, let your brain go through its process, and allow the answers to come to you instead of chasing after them. You may be surprised at just how easy the results come.
Most of the time, you’ll find that the answers you seek will come to you when you’re doing activities unrelated to the problem.