Insights – Where do they come from?

Please find below my second article in my series of the ‘school of motivation’ looking at how to get the best out of yourself and reduce the complexities of life.

This programme will be constructed from a number of fascinating and significant pieces relating to ways and means to dramatically improve various aspects of your life in and out of work through self-development.

You will find tips and guidance that will help you along the way and you will discover personal performance levels you could never imagine, which will also produce a knock-on effect to inspire others.

The pivotal aspect when approaching this is self-management i.e., managing yourself from the inside out.

It has been said that we live in two worlds, an outer world and an inner world. The outer world consists of daily events and circumstances that we react and respond to dictating our state of being. The inner world consists of our thoughts, feelings and emotions that spring to action in response to what our outer world throws at us.

Working on our inner self can change our lives so dramatically that our outer world changes too.

Understanding more about ourselves helps manage and regulate our thoughts and emotions, culminating into the ability to look at life’s landscape through a different lens.

Self-improvement can fix so many things for us as individuals but imagine the wider benefits in terms of team building, improving performance, leadership, relationships and inspiring others – it’s without doubt the way forward for us all.

Over time I will share with you what I have learned and what has worked for me. Remember though, no two brains are alike so what works for me might not work for you.

Today I’m sharing this article about insights with you. What are they? Where do they come from and how do we find them?

I will cover what happens in the brain and how we can recognise certain signals to help us along the way.

My insights tend to occur whilst on my road bike somewhere out in the beautiful Suffolk countryside, in the sauna after a workout or after karate training! They just materialise from nowhere when I’m in a state of winding down, almost daydreaming, I guess. I used to try to hunt for them, sort of forcing myself to find the wisdom to produce inspiring answers to deal with life’s dilemmas, but now I just relax, switch off and that’s when something happens.

Insights used to be thought of as mysterious events that occur with no one knowing about them biologically. Dr Mark Beeman however broke through the mysticism through years of painstaking research on the brain.

An insight is that ‘aha’ moment, the answer we have been waiting for but couldn’t find. It actually comes from our sub-conscious, that’s why they appear at unusual times.

Therefore, can we understand more about our brains to actually help create insights? The answer is yes!

Problem solving is never too much effort for the brain as long as the problem is similar to others we have solved in the past, as these circumstances will be archived in our memory.

The art of finding new insights is to learn to switch off our conscious working processor, the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC) and stop thinking! This is vital to creativity.

The PFC sits behind our forehead and is the vigorously active part of the brain. It is responsible for our high-level thinking processes, actions, decisions and the complexities of planning and problem solving. It’s the executive function. It’s only 4-5% of the volume of the brain but takes huge energy resources when active and suffers with fatigue when overloaded.

It was discovered that the people who found more insights were not the more determined or those who had a greater focus, it was the people with greater self-awareness who could observe and alter their thinking. These people had the ability to access a quieter mind on demand. This skill is a magnificent example of self-management. Quite simply paying attention to yourself is the secret.

As mentioned, our PFC suffers and can get overwhelmed during a busy working day, processing so much information, attempting to multi-task whilst dealing with a plethora of distractions. It really does need rest at times. During this period of mental clutter it’s impossible to find insights. That’s why at times it’s so challenging for us to find inspiration, provide solutions and make decisions. We find ourselves suffering with brain fog and deliberating over low-level situations.

So let’s now reduce activity to the PFC, get it out of the way and move our activity to another part of the brain.

This can be achieved by doing something different; doing something that will absorb you or simply just doing some breathing exercises. Focusing on the breath alone that will take you into the present moment. Humour and having fun helps reduce the pressure when hitting the mental wall too, even for a few minutes. You must take a break.

It has been proven that at the insight stage the brain sees a burst of gamma waves. The gamma frequency highlights the fact that brain regions are communicating with each other. Strangely, people who meditate have lots of gamma activity and people that are unconscious have almost none. The region of the brain that sees the action is the part of the right hemisphere, more related to holistic connections, the right anterior temporal lobe.

Dr Beeman found that increasing happiness increases the likelihood of insight with the opposite occurring with an increase in anxiety.

Working with a partner can help create insights. Whist you’re suffering with mental shut down a partner might not be and can help you on your journey to find that wisdom. Insights appear with a buzz of positive impact, producing dopamine and adrenaline making you feel great. You can visually see this in people’s faces or hear it in their voices when an insight occurs. It’s a marvellous occasion and we all have them inside us to unearth.

So, remember this; a greater inner cognitive awareness and reducing the mental noise will help you find the wisdom, the answer, the vision, the next idea or concept to take your life, relationship or business to another level.