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What an insight is, at its core, is a thought you’ve never had before. Fresh thoughts aren’t necessarily insights, but insights are fresh thoughts.

However, because every fresh thought isn’t an insight, it’s useful to stop here for a moment and recognise that insight is a distinction. A distinction is a label in language given to something that creates occurring, while a definition is a language label given to something which defines boundaries, or limits – lets you know what’s in and what’s out. Put another way, an insight changes the way you see or experience the world: it changes reality. Our working description of insight, is:-

“a penetration into the nature of things or events that allows you to see more deeply into the heart of the matter.”

One reason why insight is best thought of as a distinction is that it can be uncovered or discovered anywhere. There is no particular or special domain for it. You can have an insight about the role of colours in your life or the ingredients for puff pastry or the existence of God/origins of the universe. That is why insight work can be as valuable to a manufacturer of tyres as to someone attempting to engage the electorate or convince us of life after death.

Above all, insight is an experience, often called an ‘A-ha’ Moment! It’s a funny thing but often we are not very aware of our experiences, our minds easily get cluttered with other distractions. It is common, for example, while engaged in any project to suddenly realise that you have gone off course while distracted by something on your mind.

I want to invite you to accompany me on a series of exercises designed to highlight some of the things and activities that create insights.

Our first exercise demonstrates the power of distinctions in creating occurring – and thus how insights shape the world!

Study the marks below for a moment or two. Then download the sheet and with your own pen or marker circle all the examples of ‘two’s’ you can see on the paper.

Twos-Distinguishing-Exercise

Below is one I’ve started to get you going. You should be able to make at least 20 cricles, some will cross over others. Just keep going for 5 minutes!

Twos-partly-filled-in

The next thing to do – once you’ve circled as many examples of ‘two’s’ as you can – is to look up from your paper and around you, notice all the examples of ‘two’s’ you can now see in the real world. Were they there before you did your circling? Yes, of course they were – but you didn’t have them distinguished. That’s what insight does, it gives you the power to make new distinctions and they make the world different.

This exercise very simply demonstrates how looking through a distinction changes reality – allowing you to notice things in a way that you had not, before. Next time you are wondering whether you have an insight or just some new information, look at the world through this potential insight. Has it changed? I will talk more about how to calibrate your insights – and the nature of reality that they change in later posts.

A pdf of this post can be downloaded here:

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As a psychologist, psychotherapist and research practitioner of 40 years, I've had the benefit of the experiences of more than 100,000 people around the world. They've talked about their daily lives, hopes, fears, ambitions and needs. These experiences have helped me to contribute to innovations from Beds in Business and the Fast Track for airlines to television drama and online communities. Specialties:Large groups, facilitation, application of psychological theories to commercial issues