Interesting guest post by Kate Tojeiro whose book we reviewed earlier this year here.

We brainstorm to seek a new idea or innovation. Yet conventional brainstorming (getting together to come up with something new) is ineffectual; it just doesn’t work.

Big thoughts, big ideas and new ways of doing things are just that; they are big, they are bold notions born of new, different information and experience that enable the brain to create something new. They in turn will bring forth other ideas and visions of future opportunities and possibilities.

To have these great big, bold ideas we need to understand the brain’s state of homeostasis, which is when our entire system returns to normal functioning range. The ideal state of homeostasis is to be calmly energetic, in other words when we are alert, energetic, and balanced. Achieving this state helps us stay open and ready to concentrate. When we are in this homeostatic state, we are not overly stressed, anxious or worried. We cannot avoid stress, but our ability to return to calm enables us to be more effective in problem-solving and sustains our well-being.

However, when you’re thinking about the big stuff, including the new things that you want to do with your life, the ideas will flow better when you are at the point of homeostasis or concentration.

In order for our brain to work on building our future, we need to find new data for it to digest. These new sources of information will help our brains create new neural pathways and new neurons which will literally power our creative thinking. In this state our imaginations will be able to think big, the ideal context in which to plan our new desired outcomes.

But tempting as it is for us to become over-excited at all the possibilities that lie before us, we need to avoid over-stimulating the brain and focus on bite size chunks.

There are many advantages to being more ‘aware’, in other words focusing on being present within our surroundings, taking time to investigate what is going on in the here and now. A state of calm helps us sustain our attention to the present moment. Examining what is present, in the moment (as opposed to thinking about the past or future), encourages the brain to process information more efficiently in the most efficient context, i.e. right this minute.

We naturally get very tied up with the future (and often the past), preoccupying ourselves with all those ‘what ifs’. However, once we recognise that the future is largely determined by what happens now, in the present, we can start using the here and now more effectively. Because the more we are open to noticing what’s around us now, the more the world of possibilities and opportunities will reveal itself to us.

When I work with a client who is stressed, anxious or overworked, I will suggest that, just for a little while, they pause. I do mean pause, rather than stop. The fact is that the brain doesn’t do stop unless something catastrophic has occurred. But if we focus on pausing, taking time to notice and observe our surroundings we are enabling our brains to receive the ‘new’ input it is craving, in manageable bite-sized portions. And it will reward us handsomely with creative empowerment.

When performing tasks, from mapping an annual plan or something as mundane as stacking a dishwasher, the brain constantly looks for pathways that it already knows; patterns of habit, information that makes it easier, e.g. the spoons always go in the cutlery space. However in order to contemplate big, bold new plans and ideas the brain needs something new to work with.

So, when you are pausing, actually watch someone or something that you haven’t noticed before (for example another member of staff doing their job, or just look up and notice the patterns in the clouds for a while) and see how your thinking changes; you will notice what a difference pausing makes. By pausing your brain in this way you might find that you effortlessly have more new and original ideas than when you try to purposefully sit down and generate ideas.

Expose yourself to new and different experiences and senses and see what they inspire in you. Change your usual and familiar radio station, take a different route on a regular journey, read a different newspaper, go on a different sort of day out or holiday.

New stimuli will create the new bold and transformative thinking necessary for you to enter the next stage of your life.

Extract by Kate Tojeiro author of: The Art of Possible – new habits, neuroscience and the power of deliberate action. Priced £16.99 hardback and £8.99 Kindle and eBook.

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