Three Steps to Brilliant Ideas
Scott Halford for ColoradoBIZ Magazine, 08-31-09
You actually bring into your life whatever you think about. Your brain is very good at attending to whatever you direct it to.
It’s kind of like thinking you’re the only person in the world who would actually buy that shiny purple VW bug; then you drive it off the lot, and you suddenly see them everywhere. They were always out there; it just took a focusing event to get them onto your radar screen.
Thoughts, goals and ideas work the same way. You can increase your brain’s considerable input on them if you learn how to ask your brain nicely and deliberately to get involved.
You should understand that this process works just as well with negative thoughts. The bad stuff will find you all day long. Negative thoughts overwhelm your positive thoughts more easily than the other way around. We generally have to be more deliberate about the positive.
The goal is to bring more balance so that depressive pessimism doesn’t set in from all of that negative thinking. It simply isn’t useful and leads to exactly what you think it will – failure.
So how do you make the most of your brain’s ability for right-thinking? Try these tips:
1. Sleep. Every night before you go to bed, write in a notebook a few pressing questions you have. Go to sleep. Research shows that much of the insight you experience happens while you’re focused on not focusing. For the brain to do its magic, it needs to be untethered from biases and judgment and negative self-talk. That happens while you sleep. If you continue to do this on a regular basis, you’ll train your brain to make the connections to find the answer you’re looking for. It worked for Edison, it can work for you.
2. Incubate. When you have a big issue, the worst thing you can do is to try to solve it immediately. Give it time. Have deep discussions with your trusted pals and then leave it. Research shows that the “Aha” moment comes after you’ve worked a problem from every angle without coming up with the answer.
3. Play. Google is famous for its play areas. The company’s ping-pong tables are a brilliant way to unlock the brain and allow it to wander. The brain gets to do the awake version of what it does when it sleeps. The ping-pong, or any other play, is just a way for the brain to attend to the problems you’ve been focused on without your cognitive brain butting in with its biases and opinions.
So, tell your brain what you’re looking for – or at least pose questions to it. Prime the pump with as much information and discussion as you can tolerate. And then, get out of its way.