It’s nice to know that some things are inevitable, and I’m not talking about death and taxes 🙂. Yes, those are inevitable, but something else that is just as reliable flows through life. When we are present to it, life becomes less pressured, and solutions appear more fluidly. I’m talking about the inevitability of your mind producing new and helpful thoughts when facing a problem.
Thoughts are so simple and innocent. Something occurs in the mind that makes you stop and reflect, decide or notice life in a new way. Thought is a creative force that doesn’t have to be forced. Thoughts – even your most creative and helpful ones – can flow from the mind organically without much (or any) effort.
You can test this out for yourself:
Stop reading now and close your eyes (or look out a window). Patiently observe your mind until you notice a thought arising. Continue watching until you see what appears to be a new (fresh) thought.
How long did that take: A few seconds? A few minutes?
While many issues my coaching clients encounter have their source in thought – particularly too much of it! – it’s also true that my clients’ primary asset is the capacity for new (fresh) thinking in service of whatever they want to create in their careers and lives.
Anyone who has dived deep into the brilliant mechanics of the human mind might come away with erroneously labeling thoughts as the enemy and the cause of all our problems. That is not true. The capacity to think is a beautiful thing. What’s even better is that with a few moments of patience, a fresh thought can arise in service of whatever challenge or opportunity you face.
Here’s an example from my coaching practice:
I was recently working with a client, a Principal Engineer at a top software company, who was exploring a potential career shift. Should he stay at his company, where he has progressed through nearly ten years of effort and dedication, or venture out to a new role elsewhere? Before our working together, he had been agonizing over the decision for the better part of a year, eventually seeking help and working with me as his coach.
We started by spending several long sessions together exploring how the human mind works. We looked into how the mind naturally generates both signal and noise and the inevitability of fresh thought arising that can prove helpful in service of specific goals. Over a few days, my client found himself with more peace of mind and less tension over his ambitions to move ahead at work. Despite feeling better, clarity regarding what to do about his career predicament didn’t emerge. I encouraged him to be patient. Having already spent almost a year agonizing over this decision, with no progress made, he was obliged to try patience for a chance!
A week later, we met for a coaching session and he mentioned that in the days after our first sessions, he had some new thinking about what to do and spontaneously acted on it. The thought occurred to him to reach out to an old friend. It was a passing thought, almost inconsequential, but he decided to act on it nonetheless.
He spoke with his friend, who put him in touch with another friend, who ended up knowing someone looking to hire a particular type of engineer needing unique expertise matching precisely what my client is an expert at! It all seemed both miraculous and obvious at the same time. The conversations all flowed naturally.
I asked him what inspired him to reach out to his old friend. He mentioned that it was something that occurred to him in the past, but he had a bunch of noisy thinking about it that seemed to cloud his judgment. The idea of “networking” made his skin crawl and it struck him as the sort of hard work he wasn’t up for. So he kept ignoring the thought and moved on with his life.
Then, after our first coaching sessions, he had some fresh – and very helpful – thoughts. It became apparent that connecting with old friends – who also worked in his field – could be a pleasant and low-pressure way to learn about opportunities and get some clarity. What before seemed like a drag became a glaringly obvious next step.
As his coach, we explored what was going on behind the scenes: repetitive noisy thinking had settled, making space for seeing life and circumstances with fresh eyes. He was then able to spot the “signal” amidst the noise. The “signal” being new ideas about what to do next, which in his case involved reaching out to old friends in his professional network.
Like it or not, the mind delivers a steady flow of thought, including fresh thinking – and solutions to problems.
While the story is not over – my client has yet to see how his initial conversations will pan out – it illustrates a powerful principle of the mind. Like it or not, the mind delivers a steady flow of thought, including fresh ideas that inspire solutions to problems. New thoughts can be profound and game-changing (a-ha moments!) or subtle and obvious (like remembering where you put your keys!) but both are welcome and powerful agents of change.
You can always turn to fresh thoughts when faced with problems. While you cannot control what thoughts will show up or when they will arrive, you can be sure that something always will arise if given a little time.
Knowing this makes solving problems a whole lot easier. It’s less about how much you can suffer and struggle and more about trusting the mind’s capacity to dish up new and fresh ideas to serve the moment’s challenges.
New thoughts are inevitable, and it’s through this steady flow of ideas that solutions to your greatest problems can be found.