Where do ideas come from?

I have recently committed myself to following James Altucher’s Daily Practice. One aspect of the Daily Practice as Altucher describes it is to write down ten ideas a day. The idea behind this mental practice is that when I “exercise my idea muscle” (to coin a term employed by Altucher) I become better at generating ideas. Altucher opines that being able to come up with good ideas is a key to success. If you have not already I highly recommend listening to Altucher’s podcast or reading his book “Choose Yourself” where he discusses this concept in greater detail.

When I sit down to write my ten ideas I find that with any given topic six ideas come to me relatively easily but the last four require effort. It is at this moment that the brain begins to sweat (to coin another term employed by Altucher). When the brain sweats I imagine this is the point at which it is developing new neural pathways. I further imagine that these new neural pathways in turn allow the brain to become more receptive to ideas.

As far as I can tell the ideas themselves seem to generate spontaneously. This gives rise to the question where do ideas come from.  It seems reasonable that much of idea generation comes from memories that are linked to present experience and trains of thought. But there definitely appears to be a large chunk of ideas that are truly inspired. These truly inspired ideas are generated either internally from some subconscious location or externally from some source of which I am not aware.

My true self (as opposed to my ego) seems to play a role. As far as I can tell my true self is generally capable of two actions; observation and intention. It is intention that seems to play a role in the actual generation of ideas. That is, my true self can intend to be more receptive to ideas. I imagine that this intent through neuroplasticity alters the neural pathways such that the brain becomes more receptive to idea generation. Wherever the ideas come from, intending to be more receptive to ideas seems to allow the ideas to arrive into consciousness with greater efficiency.

I suppose it is possible that ideas come from my true self in such a way that escapes the awareness of my conscious mind. But the ideas seem to appear out of no where. Despite this, I seem to want to take credit for the ideas I generate. I think this applies to most people as there is a whole field of law (intellectual property) developed to protect people’s right to possess the ideas they come up with. Perhaps what people are actually taking credit for is their brains’ receptiveness to idea generation. This is a valuable skill in itself as James Altucher frequently attests.

Where do ideas actually come from? This question seeks to define one of those things where I don’t know how it works but it really doesn’t matter because I can get it to work without knowing how it works. I suppose I should affix a label on that concept.


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