Some days, it seems like personal challenges and work obstacles just keep piling up, leaving even the most motivated person feeling uninspired or stuck. Are you in need of a new tactic to ease your frustrations or find a solution to a tough problem? Author and professor Dr. Loretta Breuning, PhD, tells us that she swears by something that may sound a little strange at first: Keeping a rubber ducky on her desk, and talking to it when she feels annoyed, afraid, or unsure what to do.
Telling stuff to a plastic toy might not make sense at first, but according to Dr. Bruening, the verbal brain — or the words you think, say, and use — is part of your overall thought process. “The world floods your senses with detail, and you make sense of it by fitting it into the neural pathways you have,” she explains. “You aren’t born with neural pathways; they build from experience. We’re all unique! Even more, you don’t consciously fit reality into your old pathways; the electricity in your brain flows like water in a storm, finding the paths of least resistance. This is why your conscious mind can make it hard to untangle your thoughts.”
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Even more, Dr. Bruening suggests that talking to a rubber ducky aloud can help you uncover new solutions when you feel stuck. Unlike when talking with a real person, you don’t have to worry about overexplaining, losing your thoughts to interruptions, or rationalizing your problem. “I learned this method from software engineers, who use it for tough debugging problems. It works because when you talk to the rubber ducky on your desk, you have to connect words to your thought patterns. This forces different regions in your brain to work together, and you’ll be able to come up with new ‘templates’ instead of relying on your old ones.”