4 Ways Sea Glass Collecting Can Improve Your Thinking

Improve your creative thinking agility.

Posted Dec 18, 2020

As insignificant as it might seem, spotting a wave-sculpted sliver of glass amidst thousands of pebbles and rocks on the seashore brings with it an exhilarating feeling of satisfaction. Grabbing the piece of sea glass before the next wave washes it under is the icing on the cake.

One day at a Lake Michigan beach, I realized that sea glass hunting uses essential creative thinking skills. It's all about seeing differently, looking closely, and gaining new perspectives. Here are four ways to learn from sea glass collecting to improve your creative thinking agility, which by extension improves your freedom and potential prosperity.

1. Shake Things Up. Most often, a piece of sea glass isn't just sitting on the top of the pile of sand or stones waiting for you to find it. You need some techniques to guide your search. One is to use your feet to move the loose ground, uncovering new layers and potentially your prize. Or, you can physically approach the search area from another direction. The light will be glinting differently and perhaps will reveal exactly what you're looking for. The key is to create change in the physical environment.

In the same way, you can get yourself out of a rut and find new ways out of sticky problems. Move things around in your environment, or move yourself into a different environment. Switch your furniture into different spots, or simply move the items on your desk. Sit in a different place in the room, house, or yard. Go for a walk. Deliberately think about your challenge in this changed setting, and note the new perspectives that come to you.

2. Don't Get Distracted by Shiny Objects. Wet pebbles can be exquisitely beautiful. Some have sparkles and some boast brilliant colors. But when you are on the hunt for sea glass, it's important to resist the temptation to fill your pockets with these brightly-colored stones that dull when they dry. You must keep your goal front-and-center, and not get distracted by the next shiny stone.

This, too, is an essential lesson for creative thinking. It's important to formulate a clear challenge question and be sure you continue to focus on solving the appointed challenge. As I wrote here, creativity is not chaos. With the right training and skills, you can apply your most robust, original thinking to any curveball that arises — you know, things like pandemics and lockdowns — to adjust your work and not get stuck.

3. Collaborate. Like creativity, sea glass searching can be quite effective as a solo venture. It is peaceful and contemplative. Yet, now and again, it's helpful to seek the perspective of another, to work together toward the same goal, and to take advantage of multiple vantage points.

No two people see exactly the same way. In sea glass searching, you might easily find a piece that I missed. In problem-solving, you might pitch an idea that had never occurred to me. Your idea might inspire a new one on my part and the sparks keep flying.

4. Stop to Look at the Sky. One day, when my son and I were at the beach searching for sea glass, we became so focused on our goal that we forgot to look up. All of a sudden we were in the middle of a rainstorm, hightailing it for our car. Had we taken time for a break to look at the sky, we'd have stayed dry and we'd probably have found more sea glass after gazing away from our target for a moment.

It's always important to take breaks after sustained focus on creative thinking. These breaks are called "incubation time" in the science of creativity. While you may still be thinking about your challenge on the back-burner, incubation time allows new inputs to come into your thinking. Often, you will make improvements on your ideas or come up with a new one altogether.

Especially after an exhausting year of twists and turns, sea glass collecting can teach us two important lessons. One, it's important to get out into nature to renew our sense of beauty, joy, and peace. Two, when we keep our creative thinking primed by shaking things up and seeing from fresh vantage points, we are less likely to get stuck and we'll have the tools we need to achieve maximum freedom and success.