How to Get It to Work for You
We know that asking the right questions are the key, and that we need to get the Captain Kirk of our ego to release its hold on the situation and take a break.
So now we can look at how to practically do that and set up our brains for finding creative solutions and success.
Questions are the key. A question is better than an opinion or affirmation for finding creative solutions. Positive affirmations can be very effective for changing the programing in our subconscious, but it doesn’t send the command to do anything: to search and connect.
I’ve been consistently working on this idea of setting my subconscious a question for nearly a year and I have noticed differences in my results. Here is what I’ve learned, through trial and error, and some corresponding research.
Ask quality questions
Good questions invite action and expansion. The subconscious loves making connections and having something to do, and it loves good questions.
Secondly, the focus of the question makes a difference. A big difference.
If I send the question ‘how can I feel less tired all the time?’ it’s a negative question. The focus is on feeling tired, so that’s what you are telling your computer to focus on. The resulting thoughts and feelings will reflect this focus. ‘Tired’ in, ‘tired’ out.
By rephrasing the question to: ‘How can I re-energize myself this week?’ the focus is positive, on energy and feeling energized, and the results will follow suite. By setting a specific time frame of this week or tomorrow, you are also setting nice manageable parameters for your subconscious to play with.
I found that it was worth spending a little time phrasing my questions so they were positive and specific. The five or ten minutes I spent weighing the question until it felt right and in line with what I wanted was worth it in results.
Get your ego to let go
When we hold on to our issues in our conscious mind, it can cause stress and frustration. It’s not surprising really: it needs options and space with which to consider decisions or have that insight.
Essentially, you need to take a break! It might sounds surprising to say that to find the solution, you should stop consciously working on it. Remember: Archimedes didn’t have his ‘Eureka’ moment until he had his bath.
Sherlock Holmes, although a fictional character, would play chess or the violin when wanting the answer to something that had him stumped. I wonder how many times Arthur Conan Doyle did something similar as he allowed his mind to percolate his stories and ideas?
Personally, I find taking a break allows me release the build up of pressure in my thoughts, meaning that the only headbanging that I do is to music.
Take a break to be more productive.
It is an effective short term solution. It gives ‘engineering’ time to sort through data and make connections, send the results back up to the bridge and … ‘Eureka!’
Nap to release the ego
Thomas Edison would regularly take a nap when faced with a problem. He is famous for taking a nap in his chair while holding two metal balls in his hands, which would drop and wake him if he fell into a deep sleep. The answer or insight would often be there upon waking.
Albert Einstein and Nikola Tesla were also famous for their napping habits.
Did you know that famous British prime minister Winston Churchill had a bed in the Houses of Parliament, and was convinced that his regular siestas and power naps were part of the success of his governing?
I used to laugh at the idea of a power nap—they’re for grannies, right? But I found I was wrong and that sometimes a brief bit of downtime refreshes my energy levels, and allows my subconscious mind to shine. The subconscious doesn’t sleep, remember, so a brief bit of shut eye effectively releases my conscious mind’s hold on a subject so that ‘engineering’ can do what it does best.
Sleep, perchance to dream…
Napping is good, but what I find to be most effective is to ask a question at night, right before sleeping.
In bed, nice and relaxed, I like to review my day and send a question to my subconscious to play with while I recharge my batteries.
I’m literally working in my sleep.
One article on neural plasticity published in the ‘Frontiers in Neural Circuits’ journal explains that —
“During sleep, new synaptic connections are formed, and old connections are ‘cleaned up’. This can allow you to see patterns where none existed before.”
Edison is said to never have gone to sleep without first setting his mind a question. Those patterns mentioned in the article are what give us the solutions and insights the next morning.
Write your pre-sleep question down
Writing the question down before sleep helps me twofold.
It helps me to think about, and carefully form, the best question to give me the best answer. It also reminds me in the morning what I’d asked.
Writing it down at night to review the next day keeps me on track.
This has become a part of my nightly routine—a sort of mental hygiene. In the same way that I brush my teeth at night as part of my dental health, I also review my three wins and set my question in my journal as part of my mental health.
Journal in the morning
The technique of setting your question at night before sleep works really well in conjunction with morning journaling.
I’m not talking about the ‘what I had for breakfast and my back aches’ type of journaling, but rather a form of writing where we move ourselves into a peak state of focus and set our most valuable priorities for our day, sculpting our future before it happens.
Some use the habit of ‘morning pages’, where they brain-dump, first thing in the morning, as they write without specifically filtering ideas. Nedd Herrmann in his work on brain waves confirmed that there is something special about capturing your mental state upon first waking:
“During this awakening cycle it is possible for individuals to stay in the theta state for an extended period of say, five to 15 minutes — which would allow them to have a free flow of ideas about yesterday’s events or to contemplate the activities of the forthcoming day. This time can be extremely productive and can be a period of very meaningful and creative mental activity.”
This creativity is vital. It allows us to think from a different perspective and see what we couldn’t see before.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that writing morning pages is just for, say, creative writers. It can be used by anyone wanting to access their full range of brain power.