I just can’t seem to move forward.
Do you ever find yourself stuck? Like you can’t seem to get past a certain problem, or a certain level of life? Are you living the definition of insanity by making the same mistake over and over, hoping for a different result?
You’re battling the same problem, struggling for a solution. Perhaps, it’s not the solution you should be looking for.
We get so caught up due to our focusing on our current set of problems that we easily lose sight of the bigger picture. When our field of view narrows we close out any other potentially helpful escapes. Let’s talk a little bit about our ability to focus and how we can change it.
Focused and diffuse.
To stay in the confines of a short blog post, I’m going to graze over this one like a weed-eater rather than a starving bovine. (Ok, that, admittedly, is the weirdest metaphor I’ve ever created. But the point remains).
Scientists currently believe we have two modes of thinking: focused and diffused.
Think of focused like an inch wide and a mile deep. It’s the pinpoint feeling when we’re really paying attention. We use a focused state when we’re studying, watching something intently, or reading the ingredients on a package.
Diffused mode, on the other hand, is more like a mile wide and an inch deep. Think of it as a creative mode. When we’re trying to brainstorm, ideally we’re using our diffused mode.
Side note, this is one reason why we often have trouble coming up with ideas when we “try to.” The entire act of trying to be creative runs against the act of creativity. It’s extremely difficult to focus on creativity.
These two modes literally use different areas of our brain. I think when we become so focused on a problem, we are obviously using the area related to focusing. Which hinders our ability to use our diffuse mode.
Therein lies the problem. In order to get around a problem, we often need to think creatively. So focusing intently on a solution many times will not help. It is much more productive to brainstorm solutions as abundantly as possible and then focus on which solutions make the most sense.
A little trick.
Now that we’ve got the basics outta the way, let’s continue.
If you catch yourself struggling with the aforementioned problem, ask yourself, “Am I focusing too much?”
It’s much more productive to step back and relax. Think a few thoughts that make no sense at all. Like picturing an octopus playing soccer. Or a puppy in a business suit….heh heh, silly puppy, why’s he wearing that suit?
This will allow you to break your intense focus and help you veer towards a diffuse mode.
Now that we’ve got the brain where we want it, we can find the solution – or, problem, actually.
Find a better problem.
If the focused mode is like an intense spotlight, then the diffused mode is the mood lighting that sets the stage.
However, we’re still not done.
Often, when we’re searching for answers we fail to consider all the possibilities. We’re so focused (or diffused) on finding the right solution, so it’s understandable. If we can develop the habit of looking past our desired solution by seeking to create a better problem, many times the solution will present itself.
An example of this would be somebody struggling to lose a pound per week. What would happen if they were instead asking how to lose 10 pounds in a week.
It’s important to note here the intention is NOT to then put the pressure of losing 10 pounds per week on yourself, but rather allow it to lead us to kickstart the stubborn weight loss.
Another example from a financial aspect could involve somebody struggling to make ends meet. Owing an extra $100 in bills at the end of the month is a hassle. Owing an extra $10,000 at the end of the month is much more likely to put you in a mental state to find a solution.
One last example I’ll use from personal experience, relating to the most recent blog post regarding procrastination and obsessiveness.
I was trying to find the solution to how I was going to knock out 4 week’s worth of blog posts I had put off. When I finally asked myself how I could create one larger blog post and incorporate them all, everything became much clearer to me. It became the longest blog post I’ve written so far and the pressure of procrastination has been relieved.
I feel I should emphasize this: I’m not condoning you to pile stress on yourself. I believe we are too stressed as it is and stress is a killer. I’m merely suggesting that by temporarily enhancing the drama of the situation in our minds, while in a creative thought pattern, we can increase the chances of finding a solution to almost any problem.
No matter the problem, by simply changing your style of thinking and the level of solution you can oftentimes come up with an effective answer. Like anything else, it takes time and effort to finesse the habit, but it’s one well worth developing.
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