Ever notice just how much better you are able to think after a break of some sort, especially where you haven’t dwelled on work for a while? As Steve Jobs has said, “Sometimes when you’re almost asleep, you realize something you wouldn’t otherwise have noted.”
It turns out there is now some very good science that explains the value, importance and function of a mental rest. In particular, the research relates to our ability to have insights, the ‘aha’ moment when something that didn’t make sense suddenly becomes clear. Research shows that we tend to solve about 60% of our problems in this fashion. This involves finding a sudden solution, that you can’t really explain. It’s non-linear problem solving, and it’s the way we unravel a lot of complex problems. So if you want to unravel a really tough problem, it’s useful to tackle things when our mind is still.
I’ve just returned from a week in a remote corner of the west of Ireland (Cork and Kerry) where there are few streetlights, less noise and more green than the eye can see. Like a hermitage, it is a place that feels like a retreat. After a few days of decompression from my normal rushed mode, I was able to stop and relish the simplicity and seclusion. Taking time to just be. Spending the New Year there helped me to get out of the rat race for a few days to reflect on some important decisions. I took long walks, listened to the wind, read some books, and generally put my feet up for the week I was there. Days were free of all plans and structure. The nights were filled with family, friends and good conversation. Rather than packing every moment with “activity”, I tried instead to let the days guide me. And guide me, they did. Of course, you don’t need to go to Ireland to be in touch with this. When you are in need of some mental rest, I suggest you create your own personal snow day or hermitage. Even in the heart of a city, there is calm if you look for it. Shut the door. Turn off the TV. Focus your attention to your breath. Be mindful as you make dinner. Draw a bath. How does the water feel on your skin?
If all you can do is take 10 minutes for yourself every day, then make a date with yourself, free of all obligation. Sit with both feet on the ground in a comfortable chair. Close your eyes. Value tranquility and quiet your mind. By preserving this precious commodity you’ll find that silence is truly golden…]]>