Chance Favors The Prepared Mind

French microbiologist, Louis Pasteur forever altered history with the development of “the germ theory of disease”. This theory led to the process known as “pasteurization”. Pasteur was also instrumental in the development of the modern day vaccine and is identified as one of the three founding fathers of microbiology.

One of his most famous quotes, “Dans les champs de l’observation le hasard ne favorise que les esprits prepares”, or, “In the fields of observation chance favors only the prepared mind”, is one of my favorites. I find myself often repeating the latter part of the phrase as a mantra, of sorts. “Chance favors the prepared mind”, is a wonderful nugget of wisdom that reminds me that I must stay observant and open to creative opportunities and solutions.

Is there any tangible effect from this state of creative preparedness? I mean, is this just something we tell ourselves in order to feel optimistic about the future, or is there research backing up the theory of “prepared minds”.

The “Aha Moment” is one application of Pasteur’s theory. In the April 2006 edition of the Journal of Psychological Science, John Kounios of Drexel University, and Mark Jung-Beeman of Northwestern University published the findings of their research on creative thinking.

The team discovered a couple of things that i think are particularly illuminating.

– The brain actually functions differently during “Aha!”moments, compared to step by step solutions.

– “Mental preparation involving inward focus of attention promotes insight even prior to the presentation of a problem.”

Check that last statement out…prior to the presentation of a problem, and I would extend it to say not just problems.

Let that sink in for a moment. What they are saying is that the brain actually engages in “Aha” moment type preparedness before there is a reason to use it. Heavy duty insight right there…and here’s why.

Humans have a tendency toward jealousy, as in “Man, why did x get the promotion? It’s not fair!” This type of “you have it, so I can’t” thinking is not mentally preparing for opportunity, it is shutting opportunity out. You can’t possibly stay open to what comes your way if you are too busy feeling sorry for yourself.

By staying open to solutions and opportunities you are unaware of, you maximize the possibility of an aha moment and more broadly the theory of “Chance favors the prepared mind”. Pasteur encourages us to ready ourselves for greatness by taking the steps we know how to take in order to prepare. I suspect that many entrepreneurs live life in that way and may not even be aware of it.

Challenge yourself to be aware of your state of mind as you enter each day…stay open and expect great opportunities to come your way!

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