How to Unlock Brilliant Solutions

EinsteinThere is a reason that Einstein came up with his theory of relativity. He had time to let his mind wander. Well that and he was a genius of rare ability. When he was in school his mind kept dancing around these ideas, but never landed. They never had a chance to sink in until he was working an easy job at a Swiss patent office. When he was able to do easy work he could let his thoughts meander in all different directions. Einstein’s greatest mental strength was his ability to visualize experiments within his own mind. He did this to test out his theories before he spent too much time on seeing if they were worthy of figuring out mathematically.

We all have worries about our career and relationships, but it’s these worries that hold you back from explosive creativity. They hold you back because you don’t have time to let your subconscious relax. You are consumed with staying on top of the details that you forget to allow you mind to wander free.

Stuck Between a Rock and a Box

I was working with my father a few years ago, an electrical contractor, on a job that was frustrating me. We needed to put a box inside a stone wall. The hole was cut by the stone cutter earlier in the week and when I arrived on a Saturday I found out the box was too big for the whole. I grabbed my hammer and chisel and lightly tapped on the rock I noticed how hard the composite of the stone was.

The plumber walked by and told me to be careful because the rock will chip away in large chunks. I’m not sure if this was true or not, but I wasn’t going to find out. I went to go see if my father had any ideas. He was busy himself and told me to figure it out.

I must of stared at the rock for twenty minutes trying to figure out a way to chip the rock away so my box would fit. I thought about drilling holes then chipping out the piece that I needed to remove, but it scared me. I was trapped. I could have waited for my father, but I really wanted to show him that I could do this on my own.

I went to the truck to take my mind off the problem and I noticed a trail of ants along the walk way. I bent down to see what type they were. Black ants and hundreds of them, slowly gathering food to bring back to the queen.

That’s when it hit me. I should stop worrying about the rock and focus on the box.  I hack- sawed the brackets off the sides and checked to see if it would fit. Nope. I banged on the metal box with my hammer and walla! It worked. My box was in the wall.

New Angles, New Solutions

My point of the story is looking at the problem from the easiest angle is not always obvious. Sometimes that means pulling yourself out of the problem and giving your brain a rest. When I discovered the ants it triggered a solution that was probably there, but unable to release because I was so focused on chipping away at the rock.

I let my conscious mind relax so my subconscious could release its solution. You can do this too. You have to find what relaxes your mind, so you can tap into the parts of your brain that might have a resolution.

Here are 7 ways that I like to relax my conscious mind:

  1. Bike Ride – The wind in my hair and pumping on the peddles just relaxes me.
  2. Ants – Watch some ants do their thing to distract you from the problem.
  3. Shower – A nice hot shower loosens my muscles and mind.
  4. Walk – A walk with the dog forces me to enjoy the moment.
  5. Car Ride – I know it’s not good for the environment, but loud music and the windows down helps me forget my worries
  6. Coffee Shop – Sometimes working at home gets too quite, so I need to work outside the home. The local coffee shop has free Wi-Fi. The people talking, ordering and making other noises keeps me distracted enough that I can release my subconscious.
  7. Game – A game on your phone is always an easy solution to getting out of the usual thought process.

Leisure breaks can unlock almost any difficult problem.

What do you do to slow down and let your subconscious mind help you solve some of your problems?

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* Think Simple Now covered how to lock in your focus and make those brilliant ideas come to life. Once you have the idea you need to harness that focus to get results. Go check out Tina’s post and start conquering your brilliant ideas.

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Image courtesy of doubleaf


  1. Karl,
    Great work with your Dad!

    And – I’m all for stepping away as a way to re-focus.

    A hike, a bike ride, a game of football in the backyard, or just “bugging” my kids are great ways for me to relax and refresh. (…although I’m not sure my kids would always agree!!)

  2. Hi Karl — I can definitely relate, as I’ve spent much of the day relaxing, and I really needed to do that for a long time. The importance of taking care of myself and just acknowledging where I’m at has really become clearer recently for me.

  3. Hi Karl,

    Great article. I found it interesting that it was those industrious and very focused little critters, ants, that inspired you to rethink the solution to the problem.

    You’re right on the mark, though, that we sometimes have to let go and unwind a bit before we can find a creative solution to some of our problems. When we get too tensed up and focused on trying to solve the problem in one way only, we get more stressed because we keep trying to tackle the problem from the same angle. I think it was Einstein who also pointed out that the definition of insanity is persisting in trying to solve a problem at the same level it was created.

    You might be interested to know that many of the great scientific discoveries that have been made didn’t actually occur in the lab using the scientific method; the ideas or the missing piece to the puzzle often appeared to the scientists when they were relaxing or dreaming.

    I find that baking or doing online jigsaw puzzles are great ways to relax and let new solutions “cook” or “piece themselves together” when I’ve hit a wall and I’m feeling stuck.

    Have a great day.

  4. There’s a lot to be said for changing focus, casting a wide net of options, and testing various paths.

    Edward de Bono explains how a lot of our solutions come from changing how we direct our attention.

  5. Hey Karl, great article. To add to what you mentioned, I enjoy catching a movie or watching a show on Hulu when I feel stressed out or need to relax. Really depends on the mood.

    I know last spring I hiked every weekend, full day. It was refreshing. I was doing lots of nature photography work then and my other work, with people, seemed to benefit from it. Now, Im too overwhelmed with projects and it’s freezing to hike. It shows in my work from time to time.


  6. I do many of the things you mention in your list (except watch ants!) For me sitting quietly helps a lot to just relax my mind. Breathing, meditating, sometimes just a minute or two is all I need.

    I also love to cook. Being that focused on the food I’m chopping, sauteing or roasting is a creative endeavor that allows my mind to settle and get used in a different way. I often come up with solutions and ideas while I’m cooking!


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