Creative problem solving? It happens only when you’re in the moment.
After spending a long time struggling with a problem, you may experience a moment in which the solution just lands in your head, suddenly, as if from nowhere.
An odd thing about these “Aha” moments is that, once they appear, people are astonished. They say things like, “The answer was right there all along, staring me in the face. Why didn’t I see it before?”
The reason we fail to see novel solutions sooner is that we are stuck in the past — seeing things as they always were, living from outdated assumptions, rehashing the facts we already know. We live blinkered by our limited beliefs about what is possible.
But as soon as you have decided to invest in the moment, you can blast through these limitations In the moment, you see things not as they were, and not as you believe they should be, but as they actually are now.
Einstein said it best: No problem can be solved by the same level of consciousness that created it. This means that you will never find a new solution if you are stuck in an old frame of mind.
Yet this is what we do, over and over again. We reshuffle the same old deck of cards — reminding ourselves of what we already know. It’s like banging our heads against the wall. And we’ve been doing it so long we don’t even realize that we’re doing it.
But instead of banging that same old head against that same old wall, why not just go out and get yourself a whole new state of mind?
It’s no accident that something as simple as taking a break — or even “sleeping on it” — can be effective. Taking a break from what you already know gives you some space — the opportunity to see what you didn’t know. When you come back, the project can be solved, the decision made, or at least a new possibility opened up. This can happen so easily that it seems almost miraculous.
So at very least, in the short term, take a break. Do anything that clears your mind — get some exercise, go for a walk, wash your face, play a game, take a nap. In other words, instead of just staring at the problem, do something radically different — anything — to get yourself a new perspective.
Knowing how to meditate, however, gives you an even better skill.
Research has confirmed that mindfulness makes us less vulnerable to “sunk cost bias”. In other words, it empowers us to respond to current reality rather than being unconsciously biased by our previous investment (“sunk costs”).
Furthermore, mindfulness induces the relaxed, alpha state in the brain that, research shows, directly precedes an”aha” moment. In other words, it seems that, just prior to having the sudden insight, or synthesizing information in a radically new way, your mind gets very calm.
This is why smart people learn how to become self aware, so they can recognize when they are not at their best, or too stressed to think straight, or simply need to creatively clear their minds, and then do something about it. The surveys in our One-Moment Meditation workforce training programs are showing a 55% improvement on this question: When I get overwhelmed, I notice this and take a recovery break.
When you know how to meditate, and how to deploy it quickly, you can be confident that, whenever the answer isn’t clear, you can give yourself a “mind sweep” and come back to that problem with a fresh perspective.
As a leader, you want every member of your team to be able to do this, too. And if you want to be a truly visionary leader, you need the presence of mind to call a creative “time out” at a moment’s notice.
But to fully step into a leadership role, you need a mindset that is always able to look at things differently. And this means training your mind–or at least stretching it regularly.
Yes, I know you’re busy.
But what is more essential to being a leader than getting the kind of mind that solves problems creatively and quickly?
Fortunately, there is probably nothing better to give you this kind of systematic mind training than meditation. With practice, meditation helps you unfold higher potentials within your mind. You can process new ideas more quickly and synthesize things in new ways. You can become someone who is more open-minded, curious, and flexible. Someone who is open for inspiration. Someone who thinks differently. Someone who thinks better.
So, now that you know better, isn’t it time to think better? Instead of bashing your same old head against that same old wall, make the choice to invest in a new state of mind.
With practice, you can become the kind of leader who, rather than lurching from problem to problem, is leaping from one “Aha” moment to another.
Read the next article in this series: See Opportunity
For updates follow @MartinBoroson or #investinthemoment