Business psychology

Why mystery matters

- September 19, 2011 2 MIN READ

Of all the many enlightening things I heard at Flying Solo Independents’ Day this year, one has been a light bulb moment and triggered a real shift in my thinking.

The light bulb moment occurred when Dr Helena Popovic, talking about ways to boost your brainpower, said, “The brain loves suspense”.

I’ve always liked suspense in movies and novels, but if you’d asked me whether I like it in my life, I would’ve answered with a very firm “No”.

I have always believed that there is nothing more exhausting than feeling unable to influence something important and having to wait to find out how it’s going to turn out.

When faced with a situation that appears outside your control, time just seems to drag on. It’s almost impossible to stop your mind nagging at the issue, trying to find ways to solve it, working out how you’re going to cope if the outcome isn’t what you’re hoping for, and looking for clues as to which way things are headed.

In the past, I’d always considered these situations to be examples of the energy-draining issues that Robert calls tolerations. But if the brain is in fact intrigued by the unknown, maybe it’s time for a rethink.

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Rather than viewing “Will this turn out for the best?” situations as though there’s a binary outcome, (either a relieving “Yes” or a heart-sinking “No”) it’s time for some reframing.

The powerlessness and passivity implicit in the question doesn’t sit well with me and really isn’t my style. So from now on, I’m re-phrasing the question as “How will this turn out for the best?

Helena reckons the word ‘How’ helps get synapses firing, and she suggests we banish the word “Can’t” from our vocabularies and replace it with the word “How”.

It’s a subtle distinction, but asking ‘How’ immediately puts me back in the driver’s seat and I can feel my creative juices start flowing as soon as it’s asked. My brain still likes to nibble away at the edges of the problem, but is now doing it in a much more constructive way.

Did you have a light bulb moment at Independents’ Day too? Please don’t keep us in suspense; comment below.

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  • Andrew Caska

    Caska IP Patent Attorneys

    'Flying Solo opened up so many doors for us - I honestly don't know where I'd be without it"