Let your imagination run free
Think back to your days as a student, staring blankly at the math problem on the board. You may have been looking straight at the teacher, but how often was your head in the clouds? Much of the time, right? Then, when the teacher called on you, and you didn’t know the answer, you had to endure the embarrassing speech about paying attention.
When it comes to solving problems in school or in life, we’re taught that focus is the key to success. From a young age, we’re led to believe that focusing will enable us to reach our goals. While this may be true to a certain extent, studies show that daydreaming plays a vital role in the creative problem-solving process.
According to research, distractions during demanding projects often lead to inspiration. In other words, sometimes you need to step away from the task at hand in order to get a fresh perspective.
Unconscious thinking can help us reach our goals
In his book, Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, Scott Barry Kaufman – NYU psychology professor – explains his Theory of Personal Intelligence, which goes beyond traditional indicators of intelligence such as attention and working memory, to include intelligence as it relates to mind-wandering: insight and intuition.
“The latest research on imagination and creativity shows that if we’re always in the moment, we’re going to miss out on important connections between our own inner mind-wandering thoughts and the outside world,” according to Kaufman. “Creativity lies in that intersection between our outer world and our inner world.”
Serendipitous solutions come from the wandering mind
You may come up with your most brilliant ideas when you least expect it. Let’s face it: some of the most successful people are visionaries, even in professions that aren’t necessarily considered creative such as business, math and science.
Here’s a fun fact: Einstein developed the Theory of Relativity by imagining what would happen if a street car moved away from a clock tower at the speed of light. The time from the clock could never match the speed of the car. He called this sudden epiphany as a “storm breaking loose” in his mind.
When we’re faced with a challenge, “daydreaming can be the mind’s incubator. When we’re hyper focused, the possibility of the mind reaching into its reservoir and making an ‘Aha!’ diminishes,” Professor Will Willimon states. “In daydreaming there’s no controlling censor to whisper, ‘That’s ridiculous’ or ‘completely impractical.’”
Ironically, when you let yourself drift off to la-la land, your brain’s problem solving network is more active. Yes, you have to focus and put the work in to make things happen, but it all starts with a dream – or daydream.
In the wise words of Albert Einstein, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift; the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”