Are you struggling with a big decision and just don’t know what to do? Trying hard to figure out what decision will take you to the best future can be difficult. Perhaps you find yourself imagining what bad things can happen if you do one thing and whether you’ll be successful if you do another. But solutions rarely emerge from an anxious mind. Fear-driven determinations hardly ever turn out well.
Milton Erickson, the famous psychiatrist who was picked by Life Magazine as one of the most influential people in the 20th century, often engaged his students in a mind experiment. He asked them to tell him how many ways they could travel from Phoenix (where he lived) to Tucson. The students told him the regular ways: use a car, bus, plane, train, or walk. Then Erickson would say, “that is very good. But if you relax your mind, your unconscious will give you more ideas.” So, the students would relax and then notice other ideas pop up. Perhaps they could take a hot air balloon, fly around the world backwards, tunnel under the ground, or ride a camel to their destination. Erickson continued to encourage other ideas through accessing the other side of the mind that we call the unconscious. Sure enough, his students demonstrated that they had access to unlimited ideas. Even though their ideas seemed whimsical and impractical, by tapping into another part of the mind, which Erickson called the unconscious, they were priming themselves to think outside the box and find novel solutions. Fast forward to the 21st century when neuroscience research discovered that shutting down conscious thought drives the process of developing creative ideas. It turns out that when you stop evaluating a problem and do something else like take a walk in the park, play a game, listen to music, take a nap, or enjoy a warm shower, and focus attention away from trying come up with a solution, a new idea shows up. This is called the process of incubation and can be induced in a short time through “mind-wandering,” where you let your mind move into a dream-like state for a few minutes (Christoff et al., 2009, Christoff et al., 2011).
When we get into a worry-mind, old solutions that don’t work, become stuck in the mind in a loop of repetitive concerns that can spiral into running your worst Stephen King horror movies of the mind. Attempting to generate new ideas is impossible until you change your mental state to one that is calmer. Then you tend to forget those stuck ideas and make room for creative solutions that you may never have thought of before (Segal, 2004; Dijksterhuis and Nordgren, 2006).
Mind Wandering is not a replacement for learning about a topic and analyzing it. But when all your preparation leads to dead-end solutions, you need to learn to reorganize the hard-earned knowledge. Taking the mind away from your goal can create the break-through you’re looking for.
In a world of fast-paced change, those people who can develop creative ideas and use a process to solve problems become successful entrepreneurs, parents, teachers, and leaders in all professions and life pursuits. Whether you are struggling with a management issue, trying to decide whether to move or not, or where to spend your birthday, you can feel stuck. When you feel blocked, take a break and know that the other side of your mind is working on the problem. When you come back to the issue, watch the answers pop up. It’s a kind of Harry Potter magic the mind uses and a wonderful extraordinary ability you have all of the time.
Carol and Bill are being interviewed by a variety of radio shows around the country. Watch for our announcements via Facebook
April we will be in Dallas teaching the 2-Day Hypnosis Certification Course for Psychological Issues for Pesi April 2-21, 2017 Pesi.com
May we will be in Overland Park, Kansas teaching the 2-Day Hypnosis Certification Course for Psychological Issues for Pesi May 11-12, 2017. Pesi.com
Many people have asked us about doing a workshop for the public. We would love to offer that. Let us know your interest by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a great rest of March.
Love, Carol and Bill