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The Power Of Nothingness

Throughout history great innovations, new ways of thinking, have come, not to people who sat with their brows furrowed in a brainstorm, but to people out walking (Tesla) in the shower (Elon Musk) away from in all in a log cabin (Bill Gates) or in the bath (Archimedes).

A while ago, I experienced first hand for the first time how creative thinking happens best when our prefrontal cortex is relaxed. I was on a retreat in Spain. In the morning, the leader would ask the small group a profound question such as “what would you like people to say about you after you’ve died?” I didn’t have any answers. Then, we’d all go on a long hike, a kayak trip or a slow mountain climb. We’d re return in the evening exhausted. And she’d ask the same question again. Without having been thinking about it at all, my relaxed brain had been generating all day – and out it spewed, deep, buried fears and dreams that I didn’t know I’d harbored.

The point is, we think that doing nothing is bad, unproductive, lazy, even sinful, wicked. Yet, nothingness provides the blank canvas our creative brain needs to generate.

The creative industries love brainstorms – but these forums are almost as unproductive for creative extroverts who don’t know what they think until they’ve said it, as they are for creative introverts who like to come up with ideas alone in private. When we feel under any kind of pressure to perform we are not generating. We may be recycling, but we are not coming up with anything new.

So, next time you or your team need to deliver a breakthrough, set the parameters, ask a powerful question – and then invite everyone (including yourself) to do whatever it is they do to unwind and de-stress, whether it’s cleaning the house, swimming the channel, or walking the dog.

I find mowing the lawn very relaxing. How about you?

To read the full piece I wrote for Forbes on this topic click here

Remy Blumenfeld is a creative life coach living in London. He empowers leaders to play the game of life with purpose, grace and ease. Before training as coach, he launched a TV Production company which created  dozens of ground breaking, TV shows.

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