How To Catch An Insight: Mindfulness and Creativity



Thoughts are a lot like bugs…

    Some fly right by us and we don’t notice. Others buzz in our ears and won’t stop. Some come with stingers. And some can be a pleasure to behold.

Quick! Grab a net before it gets away…

A lot of creative problem-solving is about being in the right place, at the right time, with the right mindset. And because we never know exactly when or where this is – maybe on the bus, in the shower, or while talking to a friend – it is important to be alert of potentially good ideas at all times.

Creative people collect thoughts like a bug collector, that means always having your net around and an empty jar. When something crosses your path, catch it and contain it, write it down somewhere or leave yourself a voice memo.

Have a place to store these ideas long-term: a notebook, a blog, or a digital folder.

Some ideas you might want to put into action right away while others you may never put into action. It doesn’t matter, good ideas are worth holding onto because you can always build upon them later, suggest them to others, or use them to stimulate your mind when it goes blank.

Whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’ll remember an idea when you get home, or when you wake up, or when you finally need it – you won’t. Like a bug, thoughts are always fleeting; they can be in your awareness one moment and then out the next. Get them while they are right in front of you or they might be lost forever!

“But, but…I’m never creative.”


Everyone has the capacity to be creative. Insights occur spontaneously all of the time, the problem is that they are often hidden underneath the everyday noise humming in our brains. Instead of using our minds to create and discover meaning, we get caught up in the smaller things: worrying about what to make for dinner or what grade we got on our latest exam. Lame!

Everyday we have tens of thousands of thoughts between hundreds of billions of neurons firing. That is a lot of competition going on in our heads and it is impossible to pay attention to it all at once. Neuroscientist Mark Beeman says that while an everyday thought, like what to eat for lunch, may take millions of neurons, an insight is usually made up of far less connections: a few tens of thousands. Therefore, Beeman claims that “…variables that improve the ability to detect weak associations may improve insight solving.”

One of the big variables might be better mindfulness. By becoming more attuned to our surroundings, and how we are reacting to them, we can more easily discover connections in our world, and therefore find meaningful solutions. This is just my hunch, but I like to think of mindfulness as the “net” we use when trying to catch those elusive ideas. In other words, by practicing better mindfulness we can be more aware of what would otherwise be unconscious to us – the “weak association” that tend to get outperformed by the “stronger associations.”

Another way to improve your insight ability is to just write down any ideas you come up with, even if they aren’t very good. My reasoning behind this is that it gets you in the groove of idea-making and thinking more creatively in general, which will push you to have more ideas in the future. As the ideas pile up, better insights will become more likely. A lot of this is a game of probability, and the more you practice the better your chances become.

Did you enjoy this article? Learn more about psychology and self-improvement in my new e-book The Science of Self Improvement.

The Science of Self Improvement

Related posts:

Comments are closed.