Creative ideas are the bread and butter of any entrepreneur. A great problem solving idea can become a large part of your livelihood, and the continuing growth of your business is depended on your ability to create more groundbreaking ideas.
It's not always easy though. Some ideas seem to come out of thin air, some are spurred by our own experiences (necessity is the mother of invention), and still other ideas come about more mystically. Since we're so dependent on new ideas, wouldn't it be nice if we could take some specific steps to increase our chances of coming up with an earth shattering idea?
I'm thinking of two particular creative thinkers whose greatest ideas resulted during or immediately after a time of sleep:
Exhibit A. In 1797 an ill Samuel Taylor Coleridge is reported to have fallen asleep in his chair while reading this sentence from a book: 'Here the Khan Kubla commanded a palace to be built, and a stately garden thereunto. And thus ten miles of fertile ground were inclosed [sic] within a wall.'
So, right after reading that line, he feel asleep. To the appearances of the outside world, Coleridge slept for another
3 hours, but according to the poet in his sleep he had an intense
vision. Upon waking, the vision he had manifested
itself into lines of poetry, and Coleridge quickly and immediately wrote down no less
than 200-300 lines of what would later become his most famous poem, Kubla Khan. According to Coleridge, he actually wrote hundreds of lines of poetry in his sleep.
Exhibit B. In his book Psycho-Cybernetics, Dr. Maxwell Maltz wrote about a man who was paid to come up with problem solving ideas for a living. This was the man's idea generating technique:
- He would lock himself in his office with the lights out and the curtains drawn.
- In darkness he would quietly sit and reflect on the problem he was trying to solve.
- He would then lie down on the couch in his office and take a short nap.
- Upon waking, he usually had a solution to the problem.
I'm sure there are more documentations of creative thinkers who use sleep as a fermenting stage for their ideas, but these two in particular interest me. I was wondering, given these two incidences, is there anything an entrepreneur can do to help matters along and position himself to have the best chance of having a life changing idea?
Yes, I think so. Here are some ideas for using sleep to stimulate creativity:
- Block out all distractions. Turn off the computer, phone, tv, put away books--simply concentrate on the matter at hand and do not try to split your attention.
- Turn out the lights. Darkness is a way of blocking out distractions, and I think you'll find that in darkness your mind is sensitive to some things that you wouldn't necessarily notice with the lights turned on. As we can't see, our other senses become more active and different parts of our mind get more use.
- Proceed with confidence. Don't try to force anything--there is no pressure here, and a big key to coming up with ideas is to be focused and relaxed. So, it's okay if you don't come up with a life altering idea. Just be confident that your mind is a powerful organ, and if you give it the opportunity it may surprise you. They say that most of us only use 10% of our brains--that leaves us with a whole bunch more to work with if we tap into it.
- Relax, focus, meditate. Immerse yourself in the topic that you'd like to create an idea or solution for. Remember, no splitting attention. All your mental effort goes to processing the various elements of information that you have on this particular problem or topic.
- Set up a pen and notepad beside your sleeping area. After a time of intense focus, your mind will naturally get tired.
- Lay down in darkness and close your eyes.
- Relax and let the ideas ferment. Continue your meditation on the elements of the problem you're trying to solve as you're falling asleep, but don't try too hard--just imagine that the elements of your problem are puzzle pieces that are gracefully floating in the air waiting to be assembled.
- Upon waking, pay special attention to how the various elements of the situation you were meditating on fall into place. Imagine them as puzzle pieces floating in the air and languidly assembling into place.
- Immediately write down any revelations, ideas, or solutions that have come to you.
I know that some folks might thing that this is hoaky, but there have been many times in my own life when I've unintentionally followed these steps, have had very powerful dreams and have awoken with a sense that I understood an issue better than when I went to sleep. There is something about sleep that clarifies situations, and helps us make wise decisions and come up with unique solutions to problems that were not obvious to us at first.
This may also account for so many people citing the very early morning as being their most creative time of the day.
Does anyone else feel like productive sleep/napping enhances their creativity?
Or do any of you have any other methods for stimulating creativity or problem solving?