Monday, June 18, 2012

Sweeping your mind

People who regularly read my blogs will know that I am often on holiday. Usually I spend two or three holidays abroad, not counting the shorter trips, both within the Netherlands and on the other side of the border. This year I was already a week in France and also one in Hungary and I have been in six countries. And the summer vacation yet has to come. Although my holidays are not long – most last only one or two weeks – when I am back, there is always the same “trouble”: How to adapt again to the daily routine. I think that many other persons have this experience, too. In fact, it doesn’t make much difference whether a holiday was short or long. What counts is that there was a clear break with the daily routine. This makes that also just a weekend away from home in a totally different setting can have the same effect, for example an intensive course or a training camp with people you do not know in another town or somewhere in the countryside. Also then it can take some time to adapt to normal life again.
All this sounds rather negative, as if daily life is the norm. But of course, you go away for the break, for the difference, for what you can learn during the discussion weekend, and so on. And then, as you certainly will have experienced, it often happens that the break gives you a fresh start, and, if you are a thinker like I am, new ideas. This is often explained by the rest and relaxation you got (and isn’t that also the reason that you have your best ideas at the moment you are taking a shower?). But in Psychology Today, which is often a source of inspiration for me, I found another interesting explanation: Doing something different is a good way to clear your mind. For the main difficulty of problem solving can be that you try to do it in the old way. Your mind is often full of old problems with old solutions and what is more obvious than trying to solve new problems with old approaches? Isn’t it so that this often works? For in many cases new problems are not really new, but they are variations on an old theme. But sometimes, a new problem, a new question, is really new, or it is different enough from the old stuff that old answers do not work. If that is the case, we have to clear our mind and sweep away what is old. Throw the old stuff in a corner of your mind, stow it away in a mental cupboard and keep it out of sight. Take distance from prior experiences for they inhibit new ones. But your daily routine often impedes this. So by a break, a holiday (or a shower), your mind will be swept. A holiday and also a short break function like a broom: They sweep away old ideas in your mind so that you can take distance from them. And then, the disturbance of your daily routine that you feel when you are back home is no longer a trouble but it is an asset. For now there is room for something new, for new ideas and for new solutions.

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