- Mental Health
Thinking with Jiu Jitsu and in a Distracting World
Surprise! You have an idea.
I found myself unable to sleep the other night, when all of a sudden three or four different ideas for articles hit me, including this one. I was excited to have been inspired like that, but it was also a moment of epiphany to me in terms of the ways I come up with some of my best ideas. I was able to categorize my thinking into three different broad categories, and this has helped me to justify certain activities during my day that might have otherwise seemed wasteful.
Here's the method by which I come up with ideas for articles, life solutions, and other narrow and extremely broad topics. I'm certain that you can glean your share of conceptual inspiration from this and come up with more ideas yourself. Being conscious of how your best ideas are established can be a true game changer!
Method 1: completely distracted thinking
Don't automatically dismiss distracted thinking. It actually has a great deal of merit as well as the other two types of thinking I'll outline here later on. When you're distracted, you often come up with a solution that's unexpected. I will frequently be listening to an audiobook, walking one of my dogs, when I'll come up with my best idea for an article I've had in a week, or I'll sort of plan out my next three years at my business, or some other fairly deep life plan.
I'll have to stop and he mail myself these ideas some people use Evernote, but it's always worth stopping for. These are ideas are almost certainly ones I wouldn't otherwise have come up with, because there's something about being out there, walking my dog, or reading a book, or doing something else where my mind is supposed to be paying full attention to the task at hand. I think a large part if it is my ADD: I simply want to escape from the moment, so my brain comes up with a clever solution to get away from the task at hand.
Do you often go on walks?
Method 2: partially distracted thinking
Partially distracted thinking includes the following scenarios:
- when I'm listening to music while browsing Facebook
- playing video games (also generally while listening to music)
- having a conversation I'm not really paying attention to (again, ADD)
- watching a movie in a theater or at home
- driving and listening to music
Often times I'll be able to brainstorm a solution because only part of my brain is distracted, and that means that the other part that can really focus on the problem at hand is not distracted in the least bit. Dozens of article ideas will come to me in these moments, but I have to be honest and give full disclosure here when I say that many of the ideas themselves come from the external stimulation. For instance, I might hear something in the music I'm listening to, and go off on a tangent about how the musicians came up with those particular lyrics, or get an idea from a movie or TV show. There's no shame in this game, though- original ideas are all but taken, and the great ideas nowadays are variations on previous themes.
The project board at my gym, where many ideas are outlined
Hard at thought
A couple of hours of rolling at my gym
Method 3: meditation
"Meditation" always seemed sort of lame and quasi-religious to me, but I've learned recently (from a variety of sources, to boot) that this simply isn't the case. Meditation is simply having the ability to clear your mind. A classic method for doing this is to close your eyes, keep your back straight while sitting up, and focus 100% on your breathing. The exercise itself of focusing your thought is what makes this meditation: you're doing mental gymnastics, forcing your mind to think about one thing.
While sitting up and closing my eyes seems appealing to some, I take a different approach to this, and I realized that I've been meditating all along in two different ways:
- When I'm about to go to sleep at night, after I put my phone away (or the book I'm reading, depending on the circumstances), I tend to do some very deep thinking. I don't always follow through with the breathing exercise (focusing on paying attention only to this), but I do nonetheless think extremely deeply, almost in a dreamlike state, on solving whatever problem presents itself to my subconscious.
- While "rolling" in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at my gym, I find myself able to hold conversations while attempting to choke or armlock someone (while not being choked or armlocked myself). When I don't hold a conversation, though, all of my focus moves in this direction and I tend to "meditate" in the conventional sense, because I'm focusing only on the act of BJJ itself. This is a strange phenomenon and a strange way to arrive at mental clarity, but that's exactly what happens when I'm training.
Think about your thinking
These are my examples from personal conclusions, but you are likely to come to very similar conclusions about the way you think. As a result, you may be able to budget your time accordingly so that you can come up with your own great ideas more frequently!
- Deep thinking, or meditation, involves clearing your mind so that you're only focused on the task at hand. One benefit is that your mind becomes stronger and more capable of focus, and you may come up with surprising answers during this phase of thinking.
- Partially distracted thinking means you're likely to come up with solutions or ideas based on the material by which you're distracted.
- Completely distracted thinking, if you're like me, means your ADD will rule the day, and you'll "flee the scene" in order to come up with creative solutions!
What ways of thinking do you find yourself most often employing?