A couple days ago, I came across this photo I’d taken in a bathroom in South Korea the last time I was in Asia. It was similar to a diagram that was glued to the toilet paper dispenser in my apartment many moons ago when I lived in Tokyo.

Unless you travel to other parts of the world, it would probably never occur to you that humans use a wide variety of bathroom facilities or that someone encountering a Western toilet for the first time might think they needed to stand on it to use it.

We don’t even know what we don’t know until we encounter it. In case you think I’m poking fun at Asians, let me assure you that the joke works the other way around, too. I remember a friend of mine who went to Japan several months before I got there writing to me that at first she had found it awkward to have to take her pants off every time she used a Japanese squat toilet but that she’d become quite adept at it. I had a good laugh once I got to Japan and learned that this degree of undressing wasn’t necessary, but that’s another story.

Here’s the thing: we don’t see the world as it really is, we see it the way we are, which is often severely limited. It’s one of the reasons why it can seem so hard to solve our problems, because we tend to go around in an endless loop of considering the only solutions we already know.

As Einstein pointed out, “No problem can be solved by the same level of consciousness that created it.”

If we want to escape our self-created hamster wheel and stop going around in circles, we need to find something new.

The common way of doing this is to scramble and search outside ourselves for answers. However, the best way is just the opposite. It’s to calm yourself down and just get quiet. That could mean sitting down and breathing deeply with your eyes closed, or it could mean getting out of your head by going off and doing something else, like going for a walk or to the movies.

Haven’t you ever noticed how the best ideas come to you when you’re not thinking about them? I get lots of great ideas when taking a shower or driving my car.

Because believe it or not, thinking is a highly overrated activity. The more you ponder things with intensity, the more they elude you. That’s why it’s hard to “fix” things and “solve” your problems. When you loosen your mental grip, sometimes the problems just dissolve. Or you find a better way to deal with them.

It’s the way of ease and grace rather than effort and frustration.

You might want to experiment with it this week. If something’s bothering you, instead of wracking your brain over it, give your mind a rest and go do something fun.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with this if you want to comment below.