Laser Beam, Table Lamp and DLPFC
Two types of problem solving require two diametrically opposite mental states.
We often focus like a laser beam: Precise and with high intensity. When we focus like a laser, anything that is not under the beam vanishes from our attention, including our perception of time. We are usually under flow state and we are reasonably confident about cracking the problem that we are focusing on.
When we focus like a laser, a portion of our brain called Dorsolateral Pre-Frontal Cortex becomes highly active. DLPFC is involved in our executive functions, working memory, self control, etc.
Other than laser focus, there is a diametrically opposite powerful mental state: Illuminate like a table lamp! The light has no specific agenda. But it has its fingers in every pie there is. This is the state of mind we typically acquire when we become spontaneously creative. Examples include composing a new tune, writing a poem, flirting with someone special, etc.
Interestingly, when our mind lights up like a table lamp, the DLPFC become under-active!
DLPFC often underlies the difference between the well-organized disciplinarian and the artsy-creative types. The former has overactive DLPFC and the later has under-active DLPFC.
Each mental state has its own advantage. There are times where we need to focus like a laser and there are time where we need to bounce around like the photons from a table lamp. Usually, every individual is good in one type of thinking.
But there is a ridiculously simple way to acquire each mental state:
Mimic a laser beam or a table lamp with your attention!
Don’t think. Just visualize your light source and mimic it with your attention. You can shift your mental state in a jiffy. With that, your whole persona changes!