Updated: Dec 5, 2022
“If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.” — Raymond Inmon
Finding distractions that are not trying to monetize our attention is difficult in the modern world. These kinds of interruptions seek to interfere with the direction we were already moving in and nudge us onto a different track. Notifications are a prime example of this.
“Our lizard brain, the part of our psyche dominated by instinct or impulse rather than rational thought, responds to notifications like a magnet.”
Notifications plaintively whine 'look at me, look at me," until we finally give in and dive deeply into them; distraction.
A winding path is nature's original distraction; it makes us curious about what's around the bend ahead of us
Distractions in of themselves are not the issue; it's the intent behind them. When we take a walk along an interesting path, the distractions we come up against are ones that are already ahead of us, already on the road we intended to travel in the first place.
This works best on a path not normally taken. The human brain is designed to stifle interest in familiarity and sameness; it's trying to preserve cognitive resources for the essential things, like making sure a saber-tooth tiger doesn't suddenly pounce and eat us. Yes, the lizard brain is still acting like it's 250,000 BCE!
New sights on an unfamiliar path are the kind of distractions that promote creative thinking
When we walk along an unfamiliar path, our brains are free to take in all the new sights and sounds, and we become totally absorbed in the unexplored surroundings. But here's the kicker, when we allow our brains to be open to new things, those very same brains start thinking for themselves! Essentially it minimizes the cognitive overload of "I'm familiar with the surroundings; now, where's the danger?" Instead, we allow our brains to process thoughts that were already present but were probably buried in the deep dark recesses of our skulls.
Now, the part of our psyche that seeks to find patterns is freer to delve into the thoughts that really matter, the ones where we think about our own needs and desires.
Why not give it a try?