Before this year ends, let me suggest a daydreaming exercise. Enjoy the longest nights of the year and prepare for the next year. Realign your goals and your values. Most importantly enjoy a peaceful night. You deserve it. More reading here, here, here, here, and here.
The miracle of revival
Somehow the week around the longest night of the year concentrates a lot of mythical thoughts and traditions. There is a strong feeling of a new light being born in the middle of the darkness. Christians celebrate Christmas, Jews think of Hanukkah and the Chinese have the Dongzhi Festival.
We can join the holiday celebration, and we can also have our own revival. Especially after a very hard year that is finally about to end, we deserve our own miracle and we will make it happen.
The creative power of daydreaming
Our most daring adventures often start from daydreaming. A classical image is a group of friends thinking about some strange situation, trying to come up with crazy ideas until something works. This sort of classical brainstorming is very rare in real life. Usually, there is a single visionary. Today it will be your turn.
Try to choose a single thing you would like to change in your own life or in the world. The small more specific issues tend to work better than the large problems. If you want peace everywhere this is not reasonable. However, if you want your kids to stop bickering this is something you can work with.
Choose something you are passionate about, but never quite had the opportunity to handle, and dream about it.
Imagine all the people
Try to imagine the perfect situation where your issue is solved. What would it look like? How will every relevant person act or feel differently? What would you feel in that situation?
Quite often the ideal situation has clues to what needs to be changed. You can process the solution from the current situation to the ideal one, but you can also process it in the reverse time. Maybe look for convergence of both directions, like constructors of the La Manche tunnel.
In the ideal situation, observing the desired situation in great detail we suddenly realize that we miss a small but crucial component, like a new skill we need to acquire. My personal success rate is about 60%, which means that often the first challenge does not bring a reasonable solution but the second or the third is fruitful.
Let us go back to the example that bothers me. My boys fight all the time without a good reason, typically over the games and computers. Instead, I would love them to cooperate over common challenges, like they do when they play music.
Supercharge your subconscious
When I was working on my PhD, my thesis advisor told me quietly: “You know, it does not look like scientists are working hard. This is misleading. They are daydreaming about their challenge all the time. When they eat, when they sleep, when they walk with their friends. Their challenge is always with them in the subconscious”.
The idea here is not to have a focused meditation of several hours about the subject, but to return to it spontaneously for several days. Each time I see my boys I notice things in their behavior I previously missed. I also notice the way they communicate with their sister, and it is different, more tender. I learn. I dream of certain new scenarios and fine-tune the details of the scenarios I already analyzed. This is an iterative process of refinement.
You can do this with any challenge. Once we focus on the challenge, our attention acts differently. We start noticing clues we would miss otherwise. When my wife was pregnant we tended to see x10 more pregnant women than before or after. It is a peculiarity of human focus.
Notice the change
Eventually, after several days of daydreaming, something starts changing. First, it is something small and we can miss it, but then it starts to grow. Suddenly we get a glimpse of some new idea or vision. Our subconscious comes up with a good idea. The feeling is sublime of almost religious joy.
While the initial idea might be not very good, we feel like it is the most glorious discovery. Yet we understand that the idea is unprocessed and needs a lot of work.
This is the stage where some daydreaming processes succeed and others fail. We need to formulate a very amorphous idea as something more concrete, constantly revisiting it and adding details.
Three wise men
We revisit our idea from several perspectives. Usually, three perspectives will do the trick. In a business environment, it is our best client, our mentor, and some sort of chief engineer. In our mind, these role models admire the new idea in a very modest setup, adding their blessings to the concept. Making it better and more specific.
It is very easy to criticize any new idea, but that would kill it. Instead, we try to admire it and add to it.
Consider the bickering of my boys. I add three wise people. My grandmother and her focus on the deep and real needs of everybody. My wife and her strong belief in creating valid alternatives. And my mentor in psychology, and her methodology of looking into specific events for clues to trends and patterns. What I see is a pattern: my second boy is more creative and often he tries to do cool things but gets stuck. My eldest is very good in execution but he is pushy and takes over, sucking all fun out of the process. All I need to do is regulate the pattern of their cooperation by simple rules.
The elephant in the room
I am switching the analogy to the Jewish Hanukkah. Greeks sent an army with elephants. The Jews did not know how to handle the beasts, until Maccabee’s younger brother, Eleazar Horan, cast himself under the animal and thrust his sword into its soft belly. The elephant died immediately and fell onto Eleazar, killing him.
Whatever idea we have, there is usually an elephant in the room. Soon after the initial success, we see a huge and detrimental obstacle. This obstacle can be approached directly, with heroic but not very positive outcomes. It is usually more effective to bypass the obstacles one way or another, often relying on creative solutions.
For example, in the case of my kids, there is only one computer work area in their room. One person will control it. A solution could be building another working area with compatible capabilities for my middle son to retreat to and work independently once the elder son takes over.
Do not get stuck
We can get stuck in every part of the daydreaming process, especially going from dreaming about situations to actually executing a solution. Sometimes we wait for money, time or tools and materials. More often we simply doubt our own capabilities. This is actually very natural. We do not use this complex daydreaming technique unless the challenge is large enough to invalidate a more direct approach.
Once we get stuck, the idea is to try different things until something eventually works. There is a huge array of tools in my productivity and anchoring courses. Use any of those until successful. Stopping and later resuming the process is often harder than pressing on constantly choosing the approach. We can use our inertia to our favor, creative and persevering.
Review and rejoice
All that time we review and refine our idea. It is necessary, as we get new and more detailed information. It can be very motivating, especially when we love our own creation. A positive mindset is crucial for perseverance, so make sure to rejoice in reviewing our own creation.
A common mistake here is substituting a rather artificial mood with a real advantage. This will not work. You should rejoice. That does not make the idea great. It may make working with the idea great, but it is not a validation for the actual idea.
In difficult situations, we may get lucky. Judas Maccabeus got lucky. I quote:
The defenders found themselves in a precarious situation because their provisions were exhausted. Just as capitulation seemed imminent, Lysias had to withdraw when commander-in-chief Philip, whom the late ruler appointed regent before his death, rebelled against Lysias. Lysias decided to propose a peaceful settlement, which was concluded at the end of 163 BCE.
The positive outcome was a miracle, and miracles are rare.
Past, present, and future
A good solution usually combines quite naturally the past experiences, the current state, and the desired future. If something is not in its place we will feel a sort of discontinuous nature of the solution, it will feel artificial. Try to smoothen these small issues, ensuring very smooth changes. Big revolutions are costly and unpredictable. A smooth evolution is easier to control. This requires more intellectual processing, but the implementation itself gets easier. The main goal is arriving at the desired result minimizing resistance.
Daydream some more
If the daydreaming evades the predetermined scenario this may actually be a good thing. Some byproducts can be very valuable. Notice in your diary the distractions to analyze them later. This kind of forces the mind to return back to the subject in focus.
Daydreaming is an effective method to deal with some tough challenges on a small scope. Try it, see how it works for you.