Lightbulb moments are those sudden strokes of inspiration that we usually think of as being experienced by scientists, mathematicians, and famous inventors: Isaac Newton getting hit on the head with an apple, sparking the theory of gravity, and so on. Oftentimes, the retelling of such "a ha" moments feels closer to myth than reality. Could one spark of genius really change your life?
The truth is, lightbulb moments are more common than we think. In our everyday lives, they inspire us to solve difficult problems, approach our work in novel ways, and even launch new business ventures. However, these revelations must be cultivated, which requires a focused mind -- and lots of patience. Here are six practical ways to find that inner calm and unlock your next great idea.
1. Take a Moment of Leisure
Painter Agnes Martin once observed that inspiration tends to strike when we're in an "untroubled state of mind." In our cluttered, digital-frenzied world, though, it can be exceedingly difficult to achieve a truly peaceful mental state. Turn off your electronics for an hour, go for a walk, jog through the park, read a book, take a moment of leisure -- let your mind settle. Once you've turned the white noise off, inspiration may be just around the corner.
2. Try Mind Mapping
Write down an ideal on a piece of paper -- a problem you're facing, an interesting topic, anything at all -- and branch that idea to as many other ideas as you can think of. As The Creative Penn notes, the resulting visualization allows you to see the initial idea in new ways, with connections and associations between disparate areas that you might not have considered. In academic settings, mind mapping has been shown to improve factual recall and understanding 10 percent more effectively than standard study techniques.
3. Take a Shower
Aside from its hygienic value, taking a shower is an opportunity to let your mind rest, and, more importantly, daydream. As the Business of Introverts attests, lightbulb moments happen when you allow your imagination to wander. Showering just so happens to be a regular part of everyone's day -- use that creative space, free from distractions, to your advantage.
4. Learn from Failure
Forbes tells the story of Lee Murphy, whose seemingly successful construction company failed after encountering a cash-flow problem. To avoid financial missteps in future endeavors, he enrolled in an accounting course. In the process, he realized that many small business owners run into nearly identical cash flow issues, because they aren't aware of financial best practices. Murphy's failed risk turned into a golden insight -- that he could help other small businesses avoid financial ruin -- which he then turned into a highly successful venture called The Accountancy Partnership. Great ideas are born of experience.
In an article titled "How Meditation Benefits CEOs," the Harvard Business Review cites peer-reviewed research suggesting that meditation enhances creativity, improves emotional intelligence, helps you focus, and aids in general resilience under stress -- and major business leaders are performing the ritual every day. Meditation can be as simple as sitting in a quiet place and focusing on your breathing for 30 minutes. In this state of spiritual reposal, your mind will be clear -- and much more receptive to lightbulb moments.
6. Break Your Patterns
Oftentimes, introducing variation into your day can offer a fresh perspective. FastCo recommends shaking up your daily routine: take a new route on your commute, make an effort to spot interesting architecture along your walk, or even brush your teeth with the opposite hand. What's important is that you routinely open yourself up to new perspectives and, hence, new possibilities for action. You never know -- the smallest spark, when actualized, could become the flame that ignites your imagination.
Ken Sterling is the executive vice president and chief learning officer at BigSpeak Speaker's Bureau -- the leading keynote and business speakers bureau in the world. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California and a MBA from Babson College. Ken teaches entrepreneurship, marketing, and strategy at UC Santa Barbara. He is a serial entrepreneur, keynote speaker, business consultant and sales and marketing expert. For press interviews, contact [email protected]