Ideas come to us when we have a specific problem but we do not focus on solving the problem directly.
It’s not at all obvious how to go about thinking up some new twist on these things. A new idea can feel like a remarkable discovery
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Henri Poincaré, the father of chaos theory and the co-discoverer of special relativity, relates his own discovery. "the idea came to me, without anything in my former thoughts seeming to have paved the way for it.”
The Irish mathematician, Sir William Rowan Hamilton, had a similar epiphany while strolling by the Brougham Bridge. He was so delighted that he stopped and carved the defining algebraic equation into the bridge.
The first phase of solving can be described as “worrying” about a problem or idea. It evokes anxiety and gives the impression of productivity.
But, overthinking can lead to a dead end. The key to solving the problem is to take a break from worrying. Focus your attention on some other activity. Take a long hike or a long drive, to give your mind the space to have a good idea.
Big ideas do not come only from leisure. The arduous, mundane work is a vital part of the process. You can't skip the worrying phase. You work, and work, and work some more to get some understanding.
The eureka moments will emerge once you have prepared your mind.
Our modern society is the product of specialization. Albert Einstein may have been less able to come up with general relativity if he also had to grow his own food and sew his own clothes. Perhaps time constraints would have prevented him from reaching the depths of thinking required. If we enjoy one thing above another, there isn't a problem.
We can also enjoy learning lots of other things that may be more satisfying and interesting than narrow specialization.
Polymaths are individuals with deep interests and expertise in a variety of creative fields. Many historic creative geniuses were polymaths, including Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.
Creative people are also persistent in their beliefs and can be resilient when confronted with rejection or scepticism.
The important, big things can be 'baked-in' your calendar, while you keep track of meetings and appointments.
The Might-Do list acts as your goals list that you will incorporate in your coming days while doing your routine work.