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April 23rd, 2019
Digging into a problem can often result in an endless rut of unproductive stabs. Hours are seemingly wasted banging a forehead against some issue that is unyielding. This is one of the ways that work expands in pernicious ways. Suddenly our time is up and we have to leave without a sense of accomplishment and productivity, attempting to comfort ourselves with the idea we’ll return with fresh eyes for the subject.
The next day we return and perhaps the answer is suddenly staring us in the face, or we have a mind to work on some other aspect of the project or problem.
How might we cultivate a perspective that is constantly trying to be on the lookout for such ruts and when identified, our perspective comes equipped with a mind to refresh itself.
This is a smaller example of an age old concern: should I pivot in some way, or should I persevere?
But to persevere is like climbing a mountain – it is not done in one epic step, but hundreds or thousands of smaller steps. Even if we are going in the wrong direction, the wrongness of the direction will not illuminate itself until we’ve gone far enough in that direction, which requires steps in that direction.
We must make a distinction between actual activity and mere staring at a problem or perseverating over a problem. A writer who stares at a screen for two hours is really no closer to putting a word on the page than during those first few seconds. This is quite unlike someone who has been hiking in the wrong direction, who eventually when their destination is proving to be less and less likely in such a direction will consider a new direction of action.
Having fresh eyes with regards to a problem is more about taking a new action, any action really, as opposed to wondering why past actions did not have the desired effect. Fresh eyes is not really about new insight, it’s about a relaxed willingness to poke at some other aspect of the issue.
It’s about exploration more than anything else.
We waste less time when we look out for times when we’ve been lulled into inaction, and find ourselves aimlessly pondering over some issue. Best to get out of one’s own head and take some new action that will give our eyes something fresh to see.