Mindful Problem Solving
Albert Einstein said, “You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it.” So was one of the greatest minds in the world advising us to give up and eat a cookie when we encounter a roadblock?
No, though the thought can be tempting. To solve a problem, you first have to see it with clarity.
At Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, we know that deepening self-awareness is about developing clarity within oneself. There are two specific qualities we like to develop: resolution and vividness. When resolution is higher, we can see a lot more details in any issue. More brightness and contrast, allow us see the issue more vividly. The combination of resolution and vividness makes the more useful to us. With these tools we can perceive our emotions more clearly in two ways.
Firstly, we can increase the resolution (or precision) with which we perceive our emotions, so we can see emotions the moments they arise and cease, and subtle changes in between. Secondly, we increase their brightness and contrast so we can see them more vividly than before. This combination will give us very useful high-fidelity information about our emotional life.
Both resolution and vividness are the key to developing self-awareness, or clarity. But how can these tools help you in the business world? It turns out, they’re pretty essential.
This is because self-awareness engages the neocortex (the thinking brain) in the process of emotion. Self-awareness maps onto areas of the thinking brain that have to do with self-focused attention and language, so when we are engaged in strong self-awareness, those areas of the brain light up, and that can mean the difference between screaming at some guy or being able to stop and tell yourself, “I cannot scream at that guy; he’s the CEO!” If you’re self-aware enough, you’ll even have the confidence to yell at the CEO, when it’s appropriate (NOTE: Please don’t yell at anyone unless it’s absolutely necessary, perhaps if a car is coming or something to that effect).
Our engagement of the neocortex in every experience of emotion is a necessary step in gaining control over our emotional life. Mingyur Rinpoche has a poetic metaphor for describing it, he says the moment you can see a raging river, it means you are already rising above it. Similarly, the moment you can see an emotion, you are no longer fully engulfed in it.
Now back to our friend Albert and his problem solving hypothesis. Einstein simply suggests approaching a problem from a new angle and not getting stuck in one mindset. What a SIYLI idea, huh?
So the next time you encounter a problem, take a moment to examine it with full resolution and vividness. Then, once you’ve found your solution, reward yourself with a cookie. Albert and SIYLI would want it that way.
Focus on finding clarity in your emotions. Take a moment to identify your feelings precisely (e.g. I’m annoyed that no one replied to my email). This moment will give you more control of your emotions and allow you to act productively.