Book page kitt decided around 21:06 on 29 May 2005 to publish this:
Twelve Ways to Think Differently
|The Idea: Twelve
methods that will exercise parts of your brain that rarely get it, and
make you more creative and better able to understand the world.
Our minds are like our bodies -- fail to exercise them and they atrophy and break down. We live in an age of specialization, where we are encouraged to narrow our interests and our activities, to focus and limit ourselves to doing things at which we are very competent. So parts of our brain get a lot of exercise and other parts very little. What's worse, this can actually narrow our comfort zone, the range of things we enjoy doing or thinking about and are competent in. Many of our cultural activities and artefacts: political debates, win/lose competitions, hierarchies, laws, religions, 'best practices', systematization, uniforms, and monolithic architecture and design -- all tend to reinforce 'one right answer' thinking that discourages and ultimately excludes and prevents us from thinking differently. Even the mental exercises we do as we get older are designed to stem the loss of analytical skills and memory rather than broadening our thinking or our thinking ability. We live in a world of stultifying sameness and uniformity: physically, ideologically, intellectually. There is little motivation, little day-to-day need, to exercise the parts and processes of our brain that rarely get a workout.
So how can we learn to broaden our thinking, to think differently? This is not just a matter of critical thinking, creative thinking, 'outside the box' thinking. It is about opening up our minds to the world and all its possibilities. This is one of the essences of the Four Practices of Open Space, (opening, inviting, making room, acting/realizing). But it is not at all easy. Our brain structures are actually formed as we grow, to reflect and accommodate the analytical and 'one right answer' thinking that constitutes most of what we are taught when we are young. Broadening our thinking therefore requires us to consciously will ourselves to think about things, and think in ways, that we are not comfortable or familiar with. It is counter-cultural, more of an unlearning than a learning process. It is kind of like the agony that runners who do not regularly do 'loosening up' exercises must go through to stretch the muscles that have tightened (shortened, atrophied) in response to the running routine.
From my own experience, some research and a couple of recent conversations, here are twelve mental 'stretching' techniques that can enable you to think differently. Before you consider them, you might want to ask yourself whether you need them. They are unlikely to make you happier, though they will probably make you more creative, and more understanding. Remember, I'm the guy who lives to foment dissatisfaction, so be forewarned. In no particular order, and with some likely overlap:
And then I thought about how for a long time scientists were puzzled by the fact that the sky is dark at night, even though there are billions of stars in the universe and there must be stars in every direction you look, so that the sky should be full of starlight because there is very little in the way to stop the light from reaching Earth. Then they worked out that the universe was expanding, that the stars were all rushing away from one another after the Big Bang, and the further the stars were away from us, the faster they were moving, some of them nearly as fast as the speed of light, which is why their light never reached us.
I like this fact. It is something you can work out in your own mind just by looking at the sky above your head at night and thinking without having to ask anyone. And when the universe has finished exploding, all the stars will slow down, like a ball that has been thrown into the air, and they will come to a halt and they will all begin to fall towards the centre of the universe again. And then there will be nothing to stop us from seeing all the stars in the world because they will all be moving towards us, gradually faster and faster, and we will know that the world is going to end soon because when we look up into the sky at night there will be no darkness, just the blazing light of billions and billions of stars, all falling.
Except that no one will see this because there will be no people left on Earth to see it. They will probably have become extinct by then. And even if there are people still in existence, they will not see it because the light will be so bright and hot that everyone will be burned to death, even if they live in tunnels.