Every so often, for all of us, a dilemma comes along with no clear answer or correct solution. In these moments, it can be tempting to overthink, make pro/con lists, analyze, or look for more information to guide us. Sometimes we throw up our hands and turn to trusted friends or colleagues for advice.
None of these are bad techniques in the face of uncertainty. In fact, they can all be super helpful, especially when viewed as necessary homework. But when it comes to dilemmas, especially thorny dilemmas, sometimes extra thinking, rumination, or other people’s advice can block our access to the one thing that helps the most – our own connection to an endless source of new ideas and wisdom.
Have you ever had a eureka moment in the shower? In the car? While exercising? Cooking? Somewhere else? If you reflect for a moment, you’ll realize that the answer came when your mind was free, working just as designed, bringing you something totally fresh, totally new, totally helpful, and totally clear. These ideas are usually accompanied by feelings of relief, inspiration, and excitement. It sort of feels like the answer comes out of the blue.
We’d call these answers moments of insight.
Here’s a story we heard from a participant in a recent program:
My son had to write the essay for his college application. I offered to read his drafts and make suggestions. However, as the deadline for submission approached with no drafts in sight, I started to get nervous.
I wanted to poke and prod him about it (as mothers do). During the day I’d rehearse what I’d say when he came home from school. But whenever I’d start to say something, a voice within told me to stay quiet. When I saw him – nothing came.
Two days before the submission date, I was up early and on the dining room table was a beautifully written college essay with a note from my son thanking me for not nagging him. He said my silence allowed him to find his own determination and confidence. I guess somehow I knew that.
Don’t get me wrong – information, advice, and thinking things through is sometimes totally necessary. And sometimes we can find answers with these things alone. But when we’re stuck – and we all get stuck sometimes – it’s helpful to remember that insight has appeared endless times in your lifetime. You’ve been having new ideas since the minute you were born and they’ve been helping you learn, grow, and navigate life. And they’ll continue to show up, sometimes when you least expect it.
All we have to do is remember that our minds are beautifully designed to work this way, give them a break, let go a little, and trust.
Or, if all else fails, maybe just take a shower.
Nikki Platte Nieves