That’s why it always seems like you get your best ideas on airplanes.
If hopping on a plane isn’t an option right now, try simulating temporal distance instead: That’s the message of the timeworn advice to imagine the eulogy at your own funeral. Looking back at your life from this imagined future perspective, it’s suddenly far easier to see what really matters, which battles are worth fighting, and how you’ll be proud (or ashamed) to say you spent your time. Alternatively, externalize your thoughts by writing them down in a journal. The point isn’t necessarily that you’ll have an instant breakthrough, but that by relating to your thinking in this “third-person” way, you’ll loosen the grip of the old assumptions, seeing your thoughts afresh, and creating potential for new insights.
Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter exactly how you choose to deliver a jolt to your unseen assumptions and fixed perspectives. What really counts, when you’re faced with a challenge, is remembering that it’s even an option. Next time you’re feeling the pressure to hunt frantically for an incredible new idea, don’t forget that merely seeing the old ideas differently might suffice. With enough practice, you might even attain that state of perfectly fresh seeing known to Zen Buddhists as “beginner’s mind”—that clear and spacious mindset where, freed from everything you thought you knew about the world, you can finally see what’s really there.
By Oliver Burkeman