Have you ever known someone who seemed to have all of the solutions to her problems? To whom all of the right opportunities and “aha” moments just seemed to appear? These people are not “lucky” or “blessed,” and they don't have some special gene that the rest of us lack.
Consider that they might just be better at seeing answers when they present themselves … which means that you can, too.
On an average day, there is more information flying around you than you can possibly pay attention to: conversations, webpages, people walking down the street, emails, radio announcements, etc.
What sets the "magical" people apart is that their minds can filter through all of this information to find the tidbits that they need, whereas for the rest of us, answers just get lost in the noise. (It’s like how those TSA dogs in airports can sniff out contraband in people’s luggage, amid thousands of sights, smells, and sounds.)
For example, in a career coaching group that I am leading, a client of mine was struggling to find career ideas that excited her. When she sat down in front of her computer screen, she could only think of the same five options, none of which she liked, and she would feel hopeless.
Can you relate?
I gave her the assignment to find clues about her dream career by observing moments throughout her day when she felt excited or passionate about anything. It could be that she felt excited about a great sandwich she was having for lunch! I wanted her to train her brain to notice things that got her revved up, so that she could recognize career ideas that got her revved up.
And guess what? It worked! She began to realize that she liked creative jobs. And based on something that she heard one day, the idea of being a photographer popped into her mind. We took that as a starting point and dug deeper.
Before we knew it, she was head-over-heels excited about becoming a scientific illustrator. She is now busy investigating that career. Who knows if that will be where she ends up, but she never would have thought of it if she hadn’t trained her mind to go “fetch” things that piqued her interest.
Here is a four-step guide to train your brain to bring you the answers you seek:
1. Visualize what you want.
This is exactly how those TSA dogs are trained: the TSA agent first lets the dog have a nice long sniff of the contraband so it can know what it smells like. You have to do the same thing with your dreams. Write down what exactly you're looking for, whether it’s:
- A job that I absolutely love, that uses all of my strengths and talents.
- A partner who is ready and excited to commit to the journey of a lifetime with me.
- A house in a neighborhood that fits me perfectly.
Give as much detail as you can.
2. Revisit your vision daily.
This is where most people get stuck. They write their vision and then put it in a drawer somewhere, instead of in their brains. Read your vision each morning, to prep your brain for what it needs to look for.
3. Get emotional about what you want.
I know you sometimes wish you would be less emotional about issues in your life. But the truth is that our brains are wired to respond strongly to things that we feel emotionally about.
So make sure that you feel the excitement and joy that would come with your vision coming true. Wouldn’t it feel amazing to have that job? That partner? That house? Let yourself get excited about it.
4. Reflect nightly on the clues you found.
My career group clients at first were frustrated by this step. “The only thing I got excited about today was leaving work, Samantha! How is that clue supposed to help me?”
But trust me folks, your mind will deliver. Let it get warmed up and you'll start to see a whole world unfold. You need to ask it to find you the clues, though, otherwise it won’t deliver.
This four-step process is simple, and probably somewhat obvious. The real power lies in actually doing it!
The answers to your deepest questions will start to surface, in the most bizarre and unpredictable of places: in a conversation you overhear on the subway, in a poster you see in the hallway. On one hand, it feels a bit like magic. On the other, it's simply your mind knowing what to look for.
What answers are you looking for in your life?
What steps will you take today to start training your brain to notice them? Write me a note and share!
Samantha Sutton has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. in Biological Engineering from MIT as a Howard Hughes Predoctoral Fellow. She combines her knowledge of engineering design principles with coaching insights to help clients articulate what they truly want and then overcome obstacles in their way. She has presented her life design philosophy to companies such as Google and the National Cancer Institute as well as universities like Duke, Stanford, and Yale.