Where do ideas comes from? That’s a tough question, a profound one.
While the mystery of where ideas come from might never be solved, there’s a ridiculously simple way of unlocking them. A proven one too. One, many of the creative geniuses have used time and time again. One backed up by science.
Yes. It’s as simple as that. Life’s best things are often the simplest and this is no exception.
I can personally attest to the power of walking. A quiet evening walk or a walk around my home, in between rooms has proved to be the best problem solver there is. I’ve had my most brilliant ideas that way.
The Buddhists talk of “walking meditation” or “kinhin” where the movement after a long session of sitting, particularly through a beautiful setting, can unlock a different kind of stillness that traditional meditation couldn’t.
- The French composer Erik Satie, walked from his home in a Paris suburb to the city’s Montmartre district, each morning – a distance of about 6 miles. There he would visit friends, work on his compositions in cafés, eat dinner, and go out drinking. he often missed the last train home resulting in him walking back again. He would slip into bed just before sunrise (and then getting up and walking back a few hours later). The scholar Roger Shattuck once proposed that Satie’s unique sense of musical beat, and his appreciation of “the possibility of variation within repetition,” could be traced to this “endless walking back and forth across the same landscape day after day.”
- Nietzsche, the 19th century philosopher, said the ideas in Thus Spoke Zarathustra came to him on a long walk. “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking,” he claimed.
- Thomas Cook came up with the idea for his travel and tourism agency on a walk from Market Harborough to Leicester.
- Tesla discovered the rotating magnetic field on a walk through a city park in Budapest .
- James Watt perfected the steam engine while going for a walk on a fine Sabbath afternoon. “I was thinking upon the engine at the time and had gone as far as the Herd’s house when the idea came into my mind.”
- Ludwig van Beethoven, took long walks in the afternoons, rain or shine. He carried a pen and sheets of paper to record anything that inspired him.
- Werner Heisenberg, who discovered the foundations of quantum physics, achieved the breakthrough in his thinking during a two-week absence from the University of Göttingen to recover from an illness. He traveled alone to a remote archipelago on the North Sea and did nothing but daily walks and long swims when the bewildering intricacies of quantum theory unraveled in his mind.
- Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher, conducted his lectures while walking the grounds of his school in Athens. His followers (who quite literally followed him as he walked) were even known as the peripatetics – Greek for meandering or walking about.
- Charles Dickens would walk around the streets of London or the country lanes of Kent, for up to 30 miles at a time, until the issue resolved in his head.
- Benjamin Britten said that his afternoon walks were “where I plan out what I’m going to write in the next period at my desk.”
- Morton Feldman, acclaimed composer, described his routine as: “I get up at six in the morning. I compose until eleven, then my day is over. I go out, I walk, tirelessly, for hours.”
- Soren Kierkegaard had his best ideas during his daily walks, and sometimes he would be in such a hurry to get them down that, returning home, he would write standing up before his desk, still wearing his hat and gripping his walking stick or umbrella.
- Immanuel Kant took a walk every afternoon at precisely 3:30.
- Milton walked up and down his garden most afternoons, for three or four hours.
- Charles Darwin had a gravel path installed at his home, specifically for the purpose if walking around. He would walk each day as he thought about his problems. He would stack stones at the start of his walk and the knock them down one by one as he went round, describing the difficulty of the problem as a three, four, or five-flint problem.
- When he lived in Paris, Hemingway would take long walks along the quais whenever he was stuck in his writing and he needed to clarify his thinking.
- The poet, William Wordsworth walked as many as 180,000 miles in his lifetime—an average of 6.5 miles a day since he was five years old.
If unlocking your genius is not reason enough for a long walk, you’re in luck. There is plenty more a long or even a short walk can do. Tremendous physical benefits like reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, maintaining body weight, improving sugar levels and blood pressure, better sleep and so much more.
I’ve saved the best for last.
Walking has the lowest drop out rate than any other exercise. Because it’s so easy.
That means, the new year resolution to take plenty of walks has the highest probability of not being thrown by the wayside by February. Also you might just stumble on a great idea and change your entire life beyond your wildest dreams.