Ever struggle for hours to solve a problem – only to find that the solution was right in front of your face?
I’m not just talking about math problems – but about our work, too. Sometimes, a little clarity helps clients make the leap from struggle to growth.
This is where mindfulness can really help.
Through it, we can learn to rely on our creativity in the moment, rather than on the cognitive and emotional habits we’ve developed over time.
Jonathan Greenberg, PhD, and his colleagues at Ben-Gurion University, Israel, wanted to see if mindfulness training improved cognitive flexibility. To find out, they conducted a two-part study.
First, they gave experienced meditators and a control group of people interested in meditation a set of logic problems. The first 6 trials required complicated solutions, with many steps.
But, the next 3 trials could be solved with the same complicated solution or with a much simpler two-step solution. The last two trials could only be solved with the simple, two-step solution.
Researchers hypothesized that experienced meditators would spot the simple solution quickly, while the control group would continue using the complex method out of habit.
And they were right.
Experienced meditators switched from the complex method more often, and solved the simple problems more quickly, than the control group.
But, this experiment lacked randomization, making it difficult to draw conclusions from their findings.
It’s always possible that, rather than mindfulness fostering creativity, it’s the other way around. Maybe creative people are drawn to meditation in the first place.
Fortunately, their second experiment corrected this flaw. This time, researchers randomly assigned people with no meditation experience into two interventions. One group received a six-week mindfulness meditation program, while the other was assigned to a waitlist to serve as a control.
Participants then tried to solve the same set of problems. Again, the mindfulness meditators spotted the simple solution more often, and more quickly, than the controls.
This study suggests that even 6 weeks of mindfulness training could improve problem-solving skills, possibly by creating the state of “beginner’s mind.”
If you’d like to read the full study, it’s published in PLoS ONE.
Have you ever used “beginner’s mind” as a tool to help your clients? Please share your experience with us below.