Explorations and Reflections

on awakening the true self  in education

  • Mick Scott

Trusting Our Inner Genius

Years ago I had a student who sat in his chair thinking and thinking about the next step in his design project. Everyone else in class was at work on their projects, but this student was stuck. So I told him to get up, go outside, and try not to think about the project. Just look around at the buildings and at nature, try to notice their detail, and something will come to him.

I then learned about the difference between focused and diffuse thinking (this site gives a great overview of the two modes):

  • Focused thinking is the engaged, intentional type of thinking. When we’re actively trying to remember someone’s name, or trying to solve a challenging problem, or studying a textbook for class.

  • Diffuse thinking, on the other hand, is mostly below our awareness. Diffuse thinking runs in the background. When answers or ideas spontaneously come to mind, like in the shower or while going for a run, that’s diffuse thinking at work.

Both types of thinking work together to help us develop understanding. Most of us, however, don’t use diffuse thinking nearly as much as we could. We either don’t know about it, don’t trust it, or we have become too practiced in valuing focused thinking over diffuse thinking.

This post is not about how we think. It’s about trust. Whether we’re studying for an exam or trying to make a decision, a major part of our thinking occurs when we stop intentionally thinking about the object of our focus.

Trust your capacity to solve big problems. Trust insight to show itself. Trust that you’ve got an inner wisdom, an inner GPS, that is always operating in the background. Relying more on that background, diffuse, nonconscious thinking is not only an effective strategy, it also feels good.

And trust that your students, friends, and family have this inner guidance too. An inner genius. An inner sage. An inner GPS.

Stillness is an access to insight. So after you’ve done all the focused, conscious thinking that you think needs to be done, take a walk, breathe deep, notice some detail in nature, and let your inner genius with its diffuse thinking handle the rest.


By the way, my workshop for adolescents and my workshop for adults are both beginning next week! Consider joining me and sharing with someone who may be interested! In each workshop, we'll develop a deeper understanding of our internal GPS so that thoughts and feelings become the valuable, pleasurable, and miraculous assets they're meant to be.

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