I recently heard a speaker talk about the fact that many big solutions and big ideas don’t come while you are hard at work looking for them.
They come during Eureka moments — just before falling asleep, during meditation, gardening or even in the shower. The concept of Eureka comes from a story about Archimedes.
In 287 BCE, King Hiero ll of Syracuse commanded a local goldsmith to create a gold-wreath crown worthy of the gods.
The king then summoned his young cousin, Archimedes, a math and physics scholar, to determine if the crown was pure gold. Archimedes was working hard on how to determine the volume of this irregular object without melting it down. He was not willing to give up.
One day, he walked to the public bath for his daily bath. As he began to lower himself into the cool tub of water, he noticed that water was running out over the side of the tub.
He realized he had found the solution to his problem. The story goes that he was so excited, he ran all the way home forgetting he was naked shouting Eureka, Eureka! (In Greek this means I have found it, I have found it!)
Just let go
Now, I’m not sure you have to go to the public baths, but think about the theory that “truly novel solutions are not often found purposely; a deliberate approach can search the whole box, but not outside of it.”
Scientific research suggests that when going after a problem methodically, the mind can tune out stimuli it deems irrelevant and you can get stuck thinking about previous solutions.
Both Albert Einstein and Salvador Dali used a technique called “slumber with a key.” They would take micronaps to unlock free flowing creativity. The process included falling asleep, but always waking before leaving the first stage of sleeping, the in-between state where you are just beginning to dream, but not asleep.
As you fall asleep, the key in your hand drops on to a plate, wakes you up, refreshed and inspired. This was probably very similar to transcending during meditation.
More current Eureka moments include how Jack Canfield came up with the name “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” Jack, a longtime meditator, had Chicken Soup come to him during meditation. They sold 500 million books.
Andrew Stanton of Pixar Animation was struggling with the design of the robot character Wall-E’s face. He was at a baseball game and someone gave him binoculars. He missed an entire inning because he turned the binoculars around and just played with them moving them to make them look happy and then sad. Eureka!
In order to get to this kind of insight, you have to have all the pieces in your mind, which can only come from more traditional analysis and focus. Then find time and space to clear your mind, disconnect from technology and stop focusing on your current work.
Try things like walking in nature, writing, reading, meditation, and see what works for you.