June 2, 2011

« The fact is that a problem, after prolonged absence, may return into consciousness essentially clarified, much nearer to its solution than it was when it dropped out of consciousness. Who clarified it, who brought it nearer to the solution? Obviously, oneself, working at it subconsciously. It is difficult to give any other answer; although psychologists have discovered the beginnings of another answer which may turn out some day to be more satisfactory. Whatever may or may not be the merits of the theory of subconscious work, it is certain that there is a limit beyond which we should not force the conscious reflection. There are certain moments in which it is better to leave the problem alone for a while. “Take counsel of your pillow” is an old piece of advice. Allowing an interval of rest to the problem and to ourselves, we may obtain more tomorrow with less effort. “If today will not, tomorrow may” is another old saying.
But it is desirable not to set aside a problem to which we wish to come back later without the impression of some achievement; at least some little point should be settled, some aspect of the question somewhat elucidated when we quit working. Only such problems come back improved whose solutions we passionately desire, or for which we have worked with great tension; conscious effort and tension seem to be necessary to set the subconscious work going. At any rate, it would be too easy if it were not so; we could solve difficult problems just by sleeping and waiting for a bright idea. »

« Yet understanding alone is not enough; he must concentrate upon the problem, he must desire earnestly to obtain its solution. If he cannot summon up real desire for solving the problem he would do better to leave it alone. The open secret of real success is to throw your whole personality into your problem. »

~ “How to solve it”, G. Polya.

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