But while neuroscience may have the explanation for our inner critic, and for what I experienced in my creative strategy session, it does not seem to have a fix. One does exist, however, and I'm fortunate to have learned it personally from spending time recently with Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer, who taught me a simple mindfulness trick which involves three quick and easy steps.
For an example let's use the young executive participating in my creative strategy session, who is facing a tough problem, but is feeling the stress of speaking up and offering an original idea.
Step one is for her to first realize that she had already made an unwarranted assumption when the solution popped into her head: that something bad will happen if she shares it with the team. In this case, that bad thing is rejection.
Step two would be for her to then come up with a few reasons why her idea might not be rejected: her team may have misunderstood or misinterpreted the problem, her team was suffering from groupthink, the idea simply hadn't dawned on anyone else yet, or they just plained loved her solution immediately.
From experience I can tell you that when you do this step, you will notice that whatever issue or situation you're facing immediately becomes less stressful, because you've just gone from "I know what's going to happen" to "maybe it will happen, maybe it won't." The fact of the matter is that you do not know what is going to happen, because you cannot predict the future with any certainty. No one can.
Step three would be for her to come up with a few reasons that, even if her solution is rejected, some good things will happen. Those reasons are very easy to find once you ask "what good things could result from rejection?" For example, even if the team rejects the idea as offered, it may spark a new and better solution. Or she might gain credibility as a creative thinker.