I was sitting here trying to think of something to write about and couldn’t find anything that felt fresh. So I gave up and stared out of the window, watching the leaves on the hedge shimmering in the sunlight. And as my mind cleared, I got an idea – or did it finally get me?

It reminded me that most of my best ideas seem to come from nowhere: they just drop into a space when I’m not consciously thinking. It might be in the shower, or on the way to town, or while I’m making a cup of coffee – it’s not when I’m trying to think of an answer or a good idea.

This aspect of our minds is something that many creative people have talked about: how lyrics of songs or the music ‘wrote themselves’, or just appeared fully formed – see Mozart or the Beatles. It is how imaginary worlds were created, as in ‘Game of Thrones’; how scientific principles were discovered – Einstein with relativity, Newton and apples becoming the principles of gravity. This doesn’t mean that it is a phenomenon that only happens if you have a particularly creative mind. We all have that if we allow it to work.

Our minds are naturally associative – that means they will link various things together to create something new or will see a pattern behind apparently disparate things. We have to get our conscious thinking out of the way to allow this to happen.

We can consciously use this to make our lives easier, and can come up with answers or ideas without effort.

Firstly we need to set up the question in our minds – this is the command that sets our minds the task. I find it useful to say to myself: ‘I wonder how…’ or ‘I wonder what would..’

Then we distract ourselves – we don’t try to find the answer. Ask it before you go to sleep, when you’re about to go out somewhere, or just stare out of the window! We need to leave a space for our unconscious wisdom, our associative mind, to get to work. This means that the conscious mind needs something else to think about or to be put to sleep!

Once we have an idea come to us, we can use the conscious mind effectively to make it work. It is good at working out the steps that will put the idea into action – it has its uses!

So next time you’re stuck and don’t know what to do, ask yourself the question then get out of your own way – it’s so much easier!

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