When it comes to solving complex problems where we don’t seem to be making any headway, an approach called “the breakout” can be helpful. I came across this in a Harvard Business Review article a few years ago.
Here’s the summary of the concept: “By bringing the brain to the height of activity and then suddenly moving it into a passive, relaxed state, it’s possible to stimulate much higher neurological performance than would otherwise be the case. Over time, subjects who learn to do this as a matter of course perform at consistently higher levels.”
And here are the key steps:
- Struggle mightily with the thorny problem.
- Walk away from the problem at the top of the curve (when you stop feeling productive and start feeling stressed) and do something utterly different that produces the relaxation response.
- The actual breakout–sudden insight comes. A sense of well-being and relaxation brings an unexpected insight or higher level of performance.
- Return to the new normal state within which the sense of self-confidence continues.