Perhaps you were trying to solve a math problem, make furniture fit in a small space or understand why your friend got upset at you. Or maybe your solution was larger scale. You developed a better procedure for operating part of a company, a wearable computer or cheaper method of delivering products to homes. Whether small or large, such moments of insight are part of human progress. They can also be exhilarating.
“Aha!” moments are those in which the brain suddenly recombines information in a new and useful way, Nessa Victoria Bryce wrote in her story “A Step-by-Step Guide to Your Next Creative Breakthrough” in the July/August Scientific American MIND. Although these instances seem to occur out of the blue, you can create a mind-set that increases your chances of having one. The first step, Bryce tells us, is explore the world broadly and with an open mind. You might take up a new hobby, for example, or challenge yourself to do something in a new way.
Next, find something you are passionate about and devote a lot of time to learning about it. The more you know about a problem,” Bryce wrote, “the better equipped you are to solve it.”
After you have done your research—stop; take a walk; sleep; daydream; meditate. Shifting gears lets your unconscious mind go to work, and often, it can put the finishing touches on an incubating idea, leading you to… “Eureka!” And if taking your focus away from your problem doesn’t shake an idea loose, you can try other creativity-building strategies such as describing a common object in an unusual way (see “Put Your Creative Brain to Work” by Evangelia G. Chrysikou) or you might have to circle back to step 2.
Let us know how the process worked for you. Think back to a moment you suddenly arrived at a solution to a problem that had stumped you. Tell us about the challenge and your moment of insight below. We are accepting submissions until August 6. We plan to post the best entries on Scientific American Online. Please note that you must own the rights to any photo or video you submit.
Submissions are now closed. Thank you for your interest.