Insights are the creative impulse of the human mind.
And when acted upon, they formulate new connections in the brain.
These new connections are solutions to a myriad of life’s most pressing problems.
If business is all about solving problems, insights are the solutions.
Creativity is the process of generating those insights by putting existing information together in new and novel ways.
We’re drawn to novelty.
It’s in our nature.
New information and experiences are accompanied by a surge of dopamine in the brain, as well as the processes for encoding memories and our emotional response to them.
Novelty gets attention.
And in business, attention generates revenue.
But in an age of hyper-productivity and digital distraction, there’s one roadblock in particular that’s quite sinister in its ability to undermine our creative efforts beyond our conscious awareness.
That roadblock is, our brain’s default mode of operation.
It’s easily hijacked by our environment.
At the beginning of the pandemic…
When everything was shutting down, I felt a bit clamped by anxiety.
I had a lot going on at the time.
I just sold a property. I was winding down my construction business. I was dealing with chronic knee pain. I was teaching in-person classes and developing equipment for a popular fitness brand.
And suddenly I needed to pivot.
I’m looking back at my calendar, and for 9 days I did a lot of napping, walking in nature, and tending to the bare minimum of my responsibilities at the time.
Anxiety made it difficult to function.
But on the morning of that 10th day, after my morning coffee, I slipped into the shower.
And in the instant that I felt the steaming hot water envelop my body…
Insight hit me like a burst of sunlight on a cloudy day, dispelling the shadows of uncertainty within me.
I thought if I’m feeling this persistent sense of underlying anxiety, other people must be too.
And so I asked myself, “How are my heroes showing up at a time like this?”
My very first live, online workshop was born.
I didn’t know what it would be called.
I didn’t know what I was going to say.
I didn’t know how I was going to share it, host it, deliver it, etc…
All I knew was I wanted to take control of my destiny and inspire other people to do the same.
And in two days the landing page for it was complete.
And in two weeks, not only did I get paid to host my first ever online workshop, but I developed the first draft of my system for developing workshops.
My mind was blown.
Total paradigm shift.
I knew I was on to something.
And now, three years later I’m revealing everything I’ve learned along the way in Growth Workshops.
A framework I’m developing to help you build, launch and fill online workshops that actually facilitate transformation while elevating your authority in your chosen field.
Just click the link and fill in the opt-in form to learn more.
But for now, I want to give you some jedi-like secrets for finding calm under fire.
How to manage states that inhibit creativity.
Stress, anxiety, logic and reason all inhibit insight and creativity.
Logic, because logic and creativity are actually two different modes.
Both are useful.
However, logic focuses all of our resources on one tiny portion of the brain whose job is essential for planning, organization and complex decision making.
The prefrontal cortex.
Whose processing power is like a grain of sand on the beach when compared to the unconscious processing power of the rest of the brain.
And according to fMRI scans…
The moment of insight depicted in the graph below, is accompanied by a flash of gamma wave activation in the brain.
Graph showing large increase of power in the alpha-band frequency just prior to increase in gamma band activity, known as the alpha insight effect. Adapted from Kounios and Beeman (2009). CC BY-NC-ND 4.0: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
And gamma wave activation is associated with the unconscious parts of our mind.
Which brings me to the emotional side.
Stress and anxiety resulting from negative emotions also directs all of our brain’s precious resources towards one small area of the brain.
The limbic system.
Responsible for many essential processes for learning and survival.
The limbic systems hormonal response to negative emotions creates a state of hyperarousal unsuitable for insight and creativity.
And most people mistakenly believe that “trying not to feel something” is the best way to manage their emotions.
But the truth is…
Suppressing your emotions:
- Builds excess tension in the body
- Makes it harder to think
- & Raises other peoples’ blood pressure.
And while learning emotional competence can be a lengthy process that’s likely to involve: journaling, therapy, psychedelics, movement, wilderness immersion and more.
For the most part…
We can get past many logical and emotional impasses in just a few seconds, with a little bit of practice.
That’s because emotional and psychological states alike are part of our brain’s default mode known as the narrative network.
When our narrative network is engaged…
We’re thinking about ourselves, looking for “cause and effect” relationships between events in our day, and emotionally responding to the story of our lives.
We’re either planning, organizing and preparing for the future…
Or assessing past dangers and mistakes that might help us avoid them in our immediate environment.
And with deadlines, performance reviews, interviews, sales calls and more scheduled throughout the day, the resource hungry states of the narrative network leave us physically, mentally, and emotionally drained.
All the more reason to get to know your brain’s direct experience mode.
In this mode you are 100x more capable, empowered, and aware
In this mode, you’re enjoying the exhilarating sensation of being alive.
In this mode, you can rise to the challenge, or relax and unwind.
It’s the experience of being fully present.
Whether you’re slam dunking a basketball or enjoying the sunset.
In this mode, infinite amounts of information and insight are available to you at any given moment, so long as you’re able to relax and trust the process.
But in order to get better at engaging your direct experience mode, you need to practice.
And getting started is as simple as remembering to feel your feet on the ground.
But the hard part is remembering.
So it’s helpful to establish a daily practice (meditation, yoga, feldenkrais, martial arts, rock climbing, etc…)
Having a practice that forces you to switch modes, makes you better at switching modes.
But if you’re in the business of solving problems…
I’ve got something special for you.
Dr. David Rock, founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, developed a model called “A.R.I.A’.
It’s a technique designed to help you understand and generate new insights.
A.R.I.A – a practical approach to generating new insights
Awareness, Reflection, Insight, and Action – By Dr. David Rock
- Take a deep breath and quiet your mind.
- Describe your problem in as few words as possible..
- “I want to solve x.” rather than “I want to solve x because…”
- Lightly hold your problem in mind.
- Reflect on your thought process instead of your thoughts.
- Activate your easy, unfocused mental state (allow ideas to dreamily flow into mind).
- This is the moment of gamma wave activation.
- It’s shown to be similar to deep meditation and…
- Is accompanied by a surge of dopamine and adrenaline that sparks us to action.
- Insights are powerful but short lived.
- You will feel more courageous and motivated for just a few minutes.
- You must take action in order to form new connections in your brain.
At the very least that means writing it down.
So if you don’t have a ritualistic method for capturing your ideas…
That’s a good place to start.
Until next time,