Sometimes after you've been struggling with a problem for a long time, a radical new idea just pops into your mind—in a flash—and the problem is solved. This is an aha! moment. Today you'll learn how to have more of them, and how to have them more easily.
Whenever you have an intractable problem, the real obstacle is that you are locked in a certain point of view. You are trying to solve a problem with what you already know; but if what you already know were sufficient to solve the problem, you wouldn't have the problem. So you need to find something you don't already know.
That's why aha! moments tend to strike when you are truly fed up with the way things are, or when you are just exhausted from exhausting the options. Only when you are ready to let go of what you already know are you truly ready to see things with fresh eyes. You are ready to be in the moment.
Creative ideas actually seem to visit you from another level of your mind—a level that is much bigger than the one that had been working so hard on the problem. When an aha! moment strikes, it's as if your conventional view of things cracks open to reveal an insight that is startlingly different and remarkably fresh.
You don't get aha! moments by simply adding up the evidence and drawing conclusions. In fact, you don't tend to get them when you are thinking about a problem directly. They seem to strike when you take a break from thinking about a problem directly.
Artists and writers understand this well. They create special habits, rituals and tricks to maximize the possibility that creativity will strike. At the very least, they spend time alone, without distraction, waiting. They carry a notebook around with them—sending a signal to the universe that they are ready and waiting.
But the core strategy is just to provide some space in which a new idea can manifest. Just trust that the answer exists and that it will appear if you make some room for it. Learn to make decisions by not making decisions.
In other words, once you have done all the research and considered all the options, take a break. Go for a walk. Sleep on it. Allow some other part of your mind to work on it. Get in the habit of making decisions by clearing your mind, rather than filling your mind.
If you want a really high-quality break, do a short meditation. When you meditate, you are consciously clearing your mind of clutter, and you are becoming more open-minded. With each meditation, it's as if you are building a little landing pad for inspiration. Of course, inspiration will not necessarily land precisely when you meditate—that's not the goal. If you do meditate, it's more likely inspiration will know where to find you.
Not all aha! moments announce themselves loudly. Sometimes they are very small and tentative—they need a curious and playful soul to tease them out of hiding. With One-Moment Meditation, you are cultivating a mind that is always awake to possibility. You are becoming the sort of person who is more likely to notice a new idea, no matter how little. When you realize this little idea might be the handle of a bigger one, you can give it a tug.
If you make One-Moment Meditation a regular part of your day, I believe you will have aha! moments much more frequently. You might even become an aha! person. In fact, with moments of meditation peppered throughout your day, you could have so many aha! moments that there's nothing aha! about them anymore.
Today, simply notice whenever you are struggling with a decision—and stop immediately. Then do a moment of meditation as soon as possible.
Martin Boroson is a playful, practical new voice in the next wave of meditation teachers. Author of One-Moment Meditation: Stillness for People on the Go, he lectures on the benefits of a meditative mind for decision-making and leadership. Marty studied philosophy at Yale, earned an MBA from the Yale School of Management and is a formal student of Zen. Visit his website for One-Moment Meditation® help and resources, tweet him at @takeamoment or find him on Facebook.
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What kind of aha! moments are you experiencing? Did you take some time to meditate today? Let us know—leave your comments and questions below!
Published on April 16, 2010