This may sound counterintuitive to everything you heard from teachers growing up, but taking time to unfocus can ignite your mind. Harvard researchers have found that the default mode network (DMN) circuit in our brain, informally referred to as the “do mostly nothing” part of the brain, actually does a lot. When this circuit is at rest, it uses 20 percent of the body’s energy. This is impressive considering that any other effort requires only 5 percent of the body’s energy. So what does the DMN do? It dips into the subconscious, races to the future, returns to the past over and over, combining ideas from all three along the way. This is how the brain prepares ideas for the conscious mind to examine.
This brainwork is part of the unconscious mind, and to come up with new ideas, problem solve in creative ways, and unleash creativity and new ideas, the DMN has to be allowed to work. While teachers may tell us to hurry up, stop daydreaming, and focus (if I had a dollar for everytime I heard those statements directed at me), if we truly want to excel, we must practice the art of unfocusing.
Meditation is an effective way of unfocusing. Although I still struggle with sitting still for thirty minutes, meditation allows me to keep my mind from wandering. When your mind isn’t focusing on anything, creativity follows. This is how you begin to break away from the pack. Take some time every day to sit still and do nothing. Ironically, by taking some time to stop your constant mind-racing problem-solving, you end up solving many problems … often by gaining the perspective that most of them are not problems.