Have you heard such a word - eureka? Yes, yes, it was him who was running naked along Archimedes Street, who was instructed to measure the volume of the golden crown of King Syracuse - and yet she was of irregular shape. And how many people screamed him when he woke? Yes, do not count! Of course, everyone remembers Mendeleev. Some still know about the German physicist Kekule, who discovered benzene, seeing in a dream a snake of six carbon atoms. I can even tell you about the Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, who slept with a guitar and tape recorder to record sudden nightly insights. So, one morning he found on tape a recording of the introduction to the future hit of the band, followed by a half-hour recording of his snoring. It seems that the morning of the evening is indeed wiser.
All these stories of sudden insight were often preceded by the so-called “useful pause” - psychologists call it the incubation stage of the creative process that follows the informational. Has this happened to you? Did it ever happen that a solution to a problem suddenly occurred to you by itself when you didn’t think about it at all - while you were walking, reading books or cleaning shoes?
There are several reasons why it is very useful to temporarily step back from problems. All of them are connected with the peculiarities of our thinking. However, let's first define how our thinking does NOT work.
Many people have a rather strange idea of how the thinking process takes place in our subconscious. They believe that inside us there is a sort of army of tiny clever men who are looking for a way out of the situation for us while we are busy with something else. In the end, one of these clever men comes up with a great idea, throws it into our consciousness and - voila! - we have an insight.
Unfortunately, in fact it does not work at all. “Useful pauses” are really useful, but not because someone inside us is working on the question while we are resting, but for completely different reasons.
Our memory is a bit like an autoregistrar flash card, which records video in a circle, erasing old recordings. Of course, things are more complicated for people, but the thoughts in your memory also try to force each other out. When you start thinking about a problem, certain ideas come to the fore. You notice them because they: a) fit the description of the problem and b) successfully displace competing memories.
As soon as thoughts are conserved in long-term memory (so to speak, they are stored for long), it becomes very difficult for them to reach your consciousness, even if they carry very important information for solving the problem. This is where clapping on the forehead occurs with all its might: “How could I forget? This was on the surface!” Yes, it was very easy - you think that everything lay on the surface, but in fact the poor little idea crawled onto this surface with all its might, getting out of thousands of your compressed thoughts.
The incubation period does not work because you have your own army of little clever people, trying to find the answer. When you step back from the problem and switch to something else, your memory will reboot. Those ideas that are spinning all the time in your head, fade into the background. And those thoughts that were put on the back burner are gradually becoming more accessible. If you again turn your thoughts to your problem after the "reset", old memories will have much more chances to reach your consciousness.
From a different angle
Memories and thoughts in our minds emerge associatively. If you can’t remember where the keys to the apartment were put (but it’s a pity that you can’t call them, right?), Then you need to remember what you were thinking or talking about at that moment and what you were doing. We have our thoughts associated with life experience - think about vegetables, and you will remember either a lunch or a vegetable garden, and not just a picture of a carrot from a botany textbook. Think of a disco, and you will remember the last party at the club. How does this relate to your problem? Directly. The way you describe it directly influences what thoughts come to your mind.
Often, when you want to find a solution to a problem, you describe it quite concretely and one-sidedly. You push yourself into the framework of the area to which it relates. In other words, if you are trying to reinvent the wheel, then think about the wheels, the pedals, and the steering wheel. However, when you take a break and move away from the problem, all the concrete details fade, and its description gradually changes and becomes more abstract. You can move from thinking about the steering wheel and pedals to the idea of movement by transferring effort from the pedals to the wheels. As the general understanding of the problem changes, the thoughts and ideas that pop up in your head change. This leads to insights.
The role of intuition
However, it happens that you make every effort to look at the problem from a different angle, but ... you can not. Stuck in one place. In such cases, useful pauses just take you to the outside world and allow you to face a huge amount of things not related to your problem. Here is one of these random encounters and can lead to insight. Isaac Newton, for example, just an apple fell on his head - and this could hardly have happened in his office.
You can never turn off your brain for one hundred percent, and some part of it will still remember the unresolved issue. So, it is this part that will filter all your thoughts and associations, trying them on to solve the problem. There is a quite natural rule: when you have a goal that you have to achieve, you will notice things around you that could help you with this. For example, if you need to send a letter (by paper mail - yes, it still exists!), Then you will begin to notice mailboxes on the way to work, although they have been hanging there since the time of King Pea, you just didn’t need it before.
By the same principle, your unconscious will relate to a problem that requires a creative solution - it will automatically increase the likelihood that you will notice something around you that can help find a way out of the situation. You do not think that Archimedes for the first time in his life climbed into the bath when it lit up? Of course not. He simply drew attention to the fact that the water level in the bath rises when the body is immersed there only when the specific task of measuring volume is set before it.
So the next time you get stuck in one place - just pause. Despite the fact that within us there is no army of Einsteins, working while you are resting (and so we would like!), Reloading the brain can be very useful. Take a bath, sleep, polish your shoes - you will not find inspiration, so at least you will bring yourself in order. This is also useful.
Adaptation Art Markman's The Value of Taking A Productive Pause