Traveling to Gain Insight?

You may gain more at home.

Posted Jul 03, 2020

 Luke Stehr/Flickr CC 2.0
Source: Luke Stehr/Flickr CC 2.0

To try to gain insight or solve a big problem, many people journey. It could be as short as a quick stroll or as long as a pilgrimage to the East.

Of course, some people return richly rewarded, whether with clarity on the career they should pursue, the relationship they should end, or a broader vision for their life: less materialistic or the converse—deciding that the life of idealistic poverty is more romantic as portrayed in the movies than in reality.

But across my many clients who have traveled for insight, most return empty. Yesterday, a client reported on his solo hiking getaway to a remote lake. He said, "I’m still stuck, completely stuck.”

Here are some activities you can do without leaving home that my clients have found more helpful. Note that unlike journeying, in which the person tends to expect insight to just pop into mind, in these activities, you are actively working on the problem and so are more likely to generate something of value. Also, journeying has distractions: nature, tourist sites, etc. Each of the following activities can be done at home, making it easier to focus on the problem.

Journaling is widely recommended because it’s free, empowering, and can be done anywhere, any time, including in the most restrictive COVID lockdown.

Less discussed is structured journaling: writing something about each of a few categories. You should choose the categories to fit your needs, but for example, you might write the advice your wiser twin would give you about your career, relationships, money, physical health, mental health, and/or spirituality.

Try a pros/cons list. If you’re undecided among a few options, write pros and cons, perhaps weighting each in importance. One approach to weighting is to imagine you have 100 poker chips. Allocate them according to each pro's and con's importance.

For a given problem, write the best-case, medium-case, and worst-case outcome. What would you do in response to each?

Do a thought experiment. For example, pretend you have six months to live. Or that you just won $10 million, or that you lost your job, or that you lost your job and all your savings. What would you do?

Google the issue. Let’s say you’re trying to get motivated, Google-search on such terms as procrastination, “developing drive,” and even “motivation quotes.” A few other examples of issues that might trigger your thinking: social anxiety, weight loss, racial tension, parenting toddlers.

Chat with the right friend. For a career issue, you might want to talk with friend A, with a romance issue, friend B. I used the word “chat” because it implies the informality that helps engender honesty, plus it avoids over-intensifying the issue, which could inhibit reasoned discussion.

Write your nuggets. No matter your approach to gaining insight, write any nuggets, even if imperfect. And to avoid your nugget file becoming a good-ideas-forgotten file, read them aloud every morning until they're branded into your brain or are supplanted by better ideas.

The takeaway

Sure, if only for the pleasure and novelty, get away (COVID-safely.) And who knows, clearing your head could facilitate your developing insights. But even if you’re COVID- or otherwise house-bound, there’s ample opportunity at home to develop insight and personal growth.

I read this aloud on YouTube.