How to create space to think

Unique physical spaces, can trigger amazing changes in how we think.As I open the door and step across the threshold, I’m struck by the sweet aroma of fresh coffee. The warmth inside contrasts the crisp air outside, as does the bustle and noise of a busy café. I glance around the café and take comfort from the fact I see no-one I know.

I slide into a booth and my mind is ready. I’ve reached my liminal space.

A space for thought and focus and creativity.

It’s not a space for a catch-up (I only ever go there alone). It’s not a space for surfing the web or being connected. It’s not even a space where I engage with anyone. It is a space for thinking through one big thing at a time. It is a space where I break down a problem and mapping out a solutions.

This space is a place for threshold thinking. Taking old thinking and crossing the threshold into something new (the word liminal means threshold, in psychology it’s where the word subliminal derives.)

The reason I call this café my liminal space, is because I use the space to both trick and trigger my brain. By only ever doing creative thought at this café, I’ve made it really easy to think there.

When I slide into the booth, unpack my notebook or surface, I’m no longer drawn to read my email, and have little desire for social media, not because of my fantastic discipline, but because I have an internal narrative for this space. I have solved big problems in this space. I have built resolve for personal disciplines in this space.

Unique physical spaces, can trigger amazing changes in how we think.

Over the years I’ve underestimated how incredibly important spaces are. Spaces, places, environments are important for setting the scene for physical, relational or mental outcomes.

Here’s some more ways we use spaces…

  • Dinner at the table: Causes our family to interact and engage more than we do on the couch watching TV.
  • Lunch at a café: Allows me to engage at a deeper personal level than I would in my office.
  • Walking meetings: Walking with people and chewing through big ideas provides for more open and reflective conversation.

And of course you can have negative spaces as well. Places where you are drawn away from who you want to be.

If you want to make some changes, sometimes you need to change your spaces.

What are your spaces? What outcomes do they drive in your life?