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Your main objective during the incubation sub-stage is to sleep on your ideas and allow them to grow and develop at a subconscious level of awareness. You’re essentially allowing your subconscious mind to do the work that will help you to refine the ideas you have generated to date.
After a period of intensive thinking and creating, it’s time to give your conscious brain a rest. It’s important to rest even if you haven’t been able to generate any viable ideas that might help resolve the problem you are facing. Often the harder you try and push past creative barriers, than the more difficult it becomes to think creatively. This added pressure increases anxiety, frustration and stress. Creativity cannot thrive within such a psychological environment.
Rest Within the Silence
Determine how much time you will spend generating ideas and then transforming them. Once done, switch-off. Completely switch-off from your thoughts. In fact, stop thinking about solutions and simply spend time clearing the mind. New insights and unique combinations will only be found within the silence resting between your thoughts. By pausing within this silence you are effectively creating a conversation with your subconscious mind, which will help improve your perspective of the situation.
Change Your Environment
In order to free your conscious mind from itself, it might be worthwhile separating yourself from your thinking space and changing your environment in order to gain inspiration and unique insight from other places, people and circumstances.
How long you spend within this new environment or setting is completely up to you. It will depend entirely on your frame-of-mind and on your ability to gain the necessary insights you need to make connections that might lead you to a viable solution to your problem.
Sleep on it
Many times, after a long period of creative thinking, it’s worthwhile to take a nap (if it’s the middle of the day), or simply to go to sleep (at night).
Because your conscious brain was completely engrossed with finding a creative solution to your problem, it would have transferred this information onto the subconscious mind for processing. While you’re sleeping, your subconscious mind will take these thoughts, concepts and ideas you have managed to generate and work on refining and making sense of them. It will actually take this information and begin creating connections and making relevant associations with past memories, knowledge and experience that you may no longer be consciously aware of.
Your subconscious mind is a powerful tool you have at your disposal. Not only can it recall absolutely everything that has ever come through your senses, it also has knowledge of things that you were never consciously aware of. It will use these memories to make sense of your problem and ideas in unpredictable and surprising ways. And that is in essence where its power lies, because you just never know what you’re going to get.
One way to stimulate the subconscious mind is to simply ask a question as you nod off to sleep. This question could be:
- What is the perfect and ideal answer to my problem?
- What solution would best help me overcome this challenge?
- What’s a creative solution to this problem that I hadn’t thought of?
- What’s a better way to look at this problem that I hadn’t considered?
- What’s a better way to apply this idea that I may have overlooked?
There are plenty of possible questions you could ask here. The most important thing is to ask these questions. It’s better to ask and not get an answer, than not to ask at all.
Once the question has been asked, simply clear your mind from conscious thought, and go to sleep. While you’re sleeping your subconscious mind will go to work restructuring your idea in unpredictable ways.
If you awaken during the middle of the night, pay close attention to your dreams or to the very first thought that crosses your mind. Within this might lie the answers you are looking for. It can also be worthwhile to jot down any dreams you had on paper, or to record them digitally. The answers to your question may be hidden within.
As you awaken in the morning, it’s important that you do not disturb your period of incubation with loud music, visual distractions or irrelevant conversation (with yourself or others). In fact, it is recommended that as you awaken you jump straight into the shower or go for a jog, bike-ride or walk. It is often during these periods right after you have slept on your ideas, that new insights come to light. Although it’s paramount that you stay within a calm and relaxed state-of-mind that is open and receptive to new concepts and ideas that may come your way.
Come Full Circle
Many times you may not consciously realize that you have actually gained some unique insights and ideas during the incubation sub-stage. The reason for this is that most of these insights are very subtle and may not initially excite you. This is okay. Simply take anything that has come your way and move through the idea generation and then the transformation sub-stages once again. The second time around you will be far more prepared and open to the possibilities.
Finally, always keep in mind never to over-think your ideas, otherwise you could fall into traps that breed no suitable solutions to your problems. Just allow things to flow naturally and easily. Creative thinking isn’t difficult, however it’s very much like a stubborn mule that doesn’t want to move. Pushing and shoving it will not work, however a little incentive (carrot on a stick) and encouragement will do wonders. 🙂
Follow the Misunderstandings
As you move through the incubation sub-stage, you may actually find that sometimes ideas will come to you disguised as other seemingly inconspicuous things that appear to be meaningless on the surface. Take for example Alexander Graham Bell who invented the first practical telephone.
While conducting research, Alexander Graham Bell misunderstood a German translation which informed him that vowel sounds can be reproduced by using electric tuning forks. He misinterpreted the passage and thought that electrical wire could reproduce vowel sounds, and as a result of this misinterpretation he created the telephone.
Bell’s experience shows us that ideas can come in many forms, and that we should never discount anything. Anything and everything can provide us with the insights we need to make an idea real. Even misunderstandings can hold the seeds of greatness.
- Does this misunderstanding contain a new idea?
How can I visualize this?
Integrated into this stage is a set of visualization techniques, not visual thinking techniques. These visualization techniques will help you to bring forth surprising concepts and ideas from your subconscious mind into conscious awareness. These techniques will be revealed and integrated into each stage along The Path over time.