Divergent Thinking And Finding Your Voice
How to eliminate fear and achieve authentic expression
Cop Rock was one of the biggest TV-failures ever made. Marked with a bold and irreverent spirit it was one of the rare cases that combined a musical within a TV-show, all capped under the dark ambiance of a cop drama. Little words need to go to the fact that nothing similar had ever been attempted before. And being the first one to do so, exposed it to the world, in the most negative way one can fathom. It was heavily ridiculed and mocked like no other and within a few mere episodes, it got canceled sealing its fate forever. Now it is a classic showcase of how an over-ambitious project can flip over to disaster and become one of the biggest failures in TV history.
Many things can be said about the various mistakes that took place along its way, but few people realize that the attitude that allows these mistakes to happen are the same attitudes that allow a masterpiece to come forth...
Robert Iger, head of ABC entertainment back then, said:
"Of all the lessons I learned in that year running prime time, the need to be comfortable with failure was the most profound. Not with lack of effort but with the unavoidable truth that if you want innovation you need to give permission to fail."
How many times do we fall in the trap of cutting ourselves off by the fear or replicating past mistakes or being judged? We shoot ourselves in the foot thinking that this is the standard way to protect our fragile ego and safeguard our reputation when in reality we miss out on the opportunity to create something withstanding and express ourselves in its full uniqueness.
"We tried something big and it didn't work, I'd much rather take big risks and sometimes fail than not take risks at all." -- Robert Iger
In all endeavors, there is what is called the creative block, derailing your efforts. There is not a single time I have sat down to write a piece or article, that I haven't encounter the 'blank page' syndrome or the feeling of an empty mind. "What is the point of doing this?" or "You haven't even recited enough resources to make your point". The banter just keeps going on and on...But all these voices are there to restrict your individual voice and alter it to resemble what everybody else is doing. Who in his right mind would be willing to try out something new and risk the unlimited criticism that goes along with it?
Our society is made in a way to eliminate uniqueness and squeeze it into convergent patterns that the group will accept and absorb the easiest. The external judgmental attitudes become our inner critics and bombard us with doubts as we strive to structure our expression. But here is where the problem lies. These voices interfere with the instincts that guide us to certain paths and show us the proper way of passing our message. Many times our self is giving us the right idea on the plate waiting for us to grasp it, but we refuse the gift and return it back with a "No thank you" note on it. We refuse to acknowledge this voice under the pretense of not rocking the boat letting these ideas slip away as we bow into group-thinking.
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.” --Elisabeth Gilbert
Gilbert described a beautiful idea in her book Big Magic, that I have found to be invaluable. Ideas have a life of their own, they get born and move around knocking on people's doors, asking them to be acknowledged and appreciated. As if they 've been looking to been seen and get witnessed by someone.
"I've developed a set of beliefs about how it works that is entirely and unapologetically based upon magical thinking. And when I refer to magic here, I mean it literally. Like in the Hogwarts sense. I am referring to the supernatural, the mystical, the inexplicable, the surreal, the divine, the transcendence, the otherwordly. Because the truth is, I believe that creativity is a force of enchantment -- Not entirely human in its origins." --Elisabeth Gilbert
And you have only a limited amount of time to catch on to them while you can before they fly away to someone else. And how many times you have felt this inner sparkle that is asking you to give voice somehow, and you have neglected it as non-sensical or non-pragmatic. Most of the time we close the door to them no matter how hard they are knocking to us.
Achieving The State Of Relaxed Alertness
Most people have experienced days that their social skills are a little bit more elevated. Maybe they are somewhat more attuned to the environment, their jokes hit the point somewhat more accurately and they find themselves to be synchronized in harmony with their surroundings in a very inexplicable way. That is the state of the relaxed alertness that constitutes the basic component of creativity. And it is this dualistic nature of it that is so confusing to most people who try to exert pressure and sheer dominance into manipulating it.
One can only remember the story of Archimedes and how he managed to find a way to detect whether a crown was made out of pure gold or it was mixed with other less valuable substances. Working obsessively over the problem for days and nights he only came up with his famous solution once he relaxed a bit under the guidance of his wife that advised him to take a rest with a nice hot bath. And as he entered the bathtub his mind made a brilliant combination that solved the problem, pushing him to run into the streets yelling Eureka! Eureka!
So what is this nature of the Relaxed alertness constructed of exactly? How does it really work and more importantly how can someone replicate it on will, bringing balance in his emotional state?
Most of the time we neglect the fact that the social dynamics assert pressure on us and present a threat that consumes a good chunk of our cognitive abilities. "What will they think if I speak up and proved to be wrong?", "What if they don't like my ideas?". These questions most of the time go undetected in our mental loops restricting our thinking patterns to be more compatible with the rest of our environment.
It's not rare for great thinkers to resort to some sort of solitude throughout their lives. Most of them have regarded it to be a crucial component of original thinking and is important to understand the reasons for it. Solitude reduces the amount of convergent thinking that happens naturally in your mind when you are in the presence of others. Not dealing with possible objections and opposition sets you free to mark your own way and find your unique voice without interference.
“Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius.”-- Edward Gibbon
It is by no accident that people like Bil Gates, takes weekly escapes into cabin woods once a year, as they provide the necessary clarity to clear any redundant noise coming to you and see the world through your own eyes. These 'think weeks' are nothing but pure catharsis of the spirit.
The Lack Of Threat
Relaxed alertness is manifested with alpha waves in the brain. These are the waves that come forth when you sit in your room listening to your favorite music or have a nice reading session with an intriguing book. It's the state that you are fully engaged with the world, devoting your full attention and interest to it. Yet there is a crucial component that makes this chemical reaction possible, without which it would be impossible to reach it. It is the lack of threat. There is no worry about what others are gonna think about you or how you are going to be perceived. You are fully connected to whatever is thrown to you with an open mind that allows you to interact with your environment in an authentic and creative way. It's the situation that allows the full 'You' to be expressed as-is when no threat is lurking around ready to get you.
Not having to worry about others unblocks big chunks of energy that would be otherwise wasted into these patterns.
Now contrast this mental state with the scenario of being at the office working on delivering some sort of task or project. At first sight, you could say the two situations are not that different as they both depict you engaged in something that asks for your abilities. Yet the difference is that in the second case you have others in the game as well, and this is where the difference lies. Suddenly you not only have to worry about the quality of your efforts enjoying the process but about possible negative feedback about your work. You have to deal with the thoughts of how their particular personalities are gonna match with it and how your worst critics are gonna try to find the opportunity to judge you and find mistakes. If you think you are an independent person that pays no attention to other's opinions think again because all these processes are automatic and mostly unconscious. You carry their views as baggage in your back, fearing of what may come back and bite you at any given moment.
These fears leave a particular fingertip in your brain and are manifested through what is called the 'beta waves'. It's the functioning of you being a little bit more alerted and attentive of your environment than being sitting on your own in between the four walls.
Divergent Thinking And How Society Is Drowning It
So to put it in another way, creative thinking and its accompanied alpha waves happen in situations of full optimism. It's when you are in the company of the friends that you know since you were a child and you have nothing more to prove to them about your worth and its all accepted and appreciated for what they are. Its when you set aside any fearful thoughts about the future and you open up fully and wholesomely in the present moment. Taking it all in, feeling the air caressing your face and the sun warming your skin. It's only in the moment that you give yourself all out without holding back that you can experience the peaks of your creative juices. It takes courage and trust that everything is gonna turn out fine even if there is turbulence along the way.
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