It is easy to loose your way in life when obligations of the world overtake the priorities you have for your time within it.
In the world of creativity, much like meditation, prayer, or the act of practicing some repetitive process to get to a place where one doesn’t have to think about it – it is a fluid appendage like your heartbeat or breathing, one will have to train the mind to move between the two basic ways of thinking. The open and closed mind thinking positions.
While you need both types of thinking, but going between the two can cause a lot of headache. I jokingly refer to it as you get to go on a rocket to outer space to "work" on priorities, but you have to go through that burning re-entry back to the normal world of obligations - aka "i am so busy!" yet, when one asks, "why are you so busy?" They don't really know why.
Closed thinking is more about a tunnel vision sort of hierarchical and rigid task based path where you don’t waste any time thinking about much more than getting something done.
Open mode thinking is much more spatial and relaxed. Ideally you have no time limit on it. You actually play with thoughts, ideas and things. It is simply harder to drop into this mode of thinking.
Each of our days has 24 hours in it, and usually most of the worlds obligations has us filling up as much of that day as possible being “busy” or appearing to work really hard. I am not sure where this mindset comes from. In my parent’s generation, if you were caught not doing something, it appeared you were not working. In corporations I spent time in, and watching friends working in them. I never understood why they were just looking busy whenever some higher up was there.
There was a joke a guy on the road told me once, “Mark, this joke reminds me of you. There was a company and one employee was working really hard, always moving around, and very busy. He used to get really upset because there was one guy in his office, hardly seeming to move that was always staring out of his window. Day after day this happened. Finally the employee got so mad he went to his boss and complained, “why am I working so hard and that guy gets to sit in an office and stare out a window?”
The boss put his one finger up to his mouth as to say “shhhhh. Please lower your voice.”
The boss looked at the employee and said, “the reason that guy can sit in the office all day and stare out the window is because he is the one that thinks up the ideas that allow us to make all our money.”
When I heard that joke, I laughed. Unless you have taken the time to work on being able to switch between open and closed thinking modes. The punch line will not resonate. You will think, “That guy staring out the window is lazy.”
The closed mode is what much of the world works within as a construct. You have tasks, you focus only on accomplishing those tasks and you tend to reward yourself or think it is a badge of honor when you do lots of these tasks in a set amount of time. It amazes me how many people in my dads generation worked their assess off for a company and when they retired, they got a watch or a cake and the door hit them in the butt on the way out. Many time I heard, “why did I work so hard for?”
Work is noble and good. But the definition of work is not about making money. That is the mistake many people seem to feel when they pick a career or path. Success is “I want to make a lot of money!”
The idea of buying happiness is pretty funny, but people buy into the idea each day. All money does is buy you freedom of choice, and the ability to extend your life a bit more buy having access to better quality. What it doesn’t guarantee is you will have a happy life.
Work is defined as “activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a result.”
Notice it doesn’t say, “make gobs of money.” The amount of lawyers I know that are miserable astounds me. The same is true of the doctors I know, but their complaint is different than the lawyers. “I love practicing medicine, but the business of it really isn’t very nice anymore.”
Each day I fight for the time to sit in silence and pray and meditate. People wonder why. I observe many people hoping out of bed and turning on some form of noise, or going to sleep with noise. I read a statistic that 70% of women wake up and the first thing they do is check emails or SMS messages (it might be higher than 70%)
For many, we do jobs to make a wage, feed the kids, save up to put them through college and make a tradeoff between family and ideal career choice. The reality is in many interesting jobs, there isn’t much money – but your heart is full.
So this time block of silence or quiet to calm your mind and get it to let go of all the stuff of the world and your life each day – brainstorm time – develops as a habit.
Don’t be alarmed if you try it and find you can’t make it 5 minutes the first few times before you are distracted with your old life and the path to open mind thinking. Also throw out the idea of waiting till you are motivated or in the perfect spot to “think.” In time you will develop the ability, much like an athlete to perform with all sorts of noise and distractions around you – yet – you have focus that doesn’t wane while you think and brainstorm.
If you are like a rock star and think you need alcohol, drugs, or other substances to be more creative – it is simply not true or in the long term beneficial - They are used to escape, not create.
The open mode is a space where you try to learn something new each day. Open mode is being ok that you don’t’ have an answer and will sleep on something. Open mode means you work on ideas and this interesting thing happens, better solutions come forth for you to create. The original idea is the spark or start, but usually, you come up with 30 better ways to do something.
The idea of open mode is you minimize or eliminate all distractions – this seems to terrify many people. The psychology of fear of being alone is just that, a strange fear that people think is there – the reality is that if you develop the ability to be happy alone – you will have no problem with open mind thinking.
You also will need to establish a time and space for your brainstorm. I found I have to get up early when most of the world is still asleep to work in this space. I also found that brainstorming first thing upon waking is when you get the best space for solutions to come forth. You don’t have the obligations of modern life vying for and clogging up your brain capacity.
The idea of being busy and creative are two very different things. My mom is busy cleaning. I still don’t know why some people have those habits, but much of the world does. I used to sit in coffee shops before the Internet to brainstorm, as they were fascinating spaces to observe people. Today, I don’t go there, instead the process of ordering beans in and the ceremony of hand grinding and doing hario pourovers for one good cup and having that space and table to work off – is the new brainstorm space.
In Colorado, should I get there and build the design i have worked up, I will be embarrassed that one can work in nature with the view that is there. "this is where i get to work? sure doesn't look anything like a cubicle."
So if you want to be busy all day. Odds are you aren’t reading this. If you want to be creative in any way, try changing your life a bit. Like anything, creativity is a bit of a learned art. But anyone can do it. You just have to be willing to change
Hopefully you are enjoying these rambles. I think the base idea of these posts is that when I was in Romania, I noticed well-educated kids who really were impressive with the knowledge of the classics and other educational material. The problem was after years with coucescou’s rule – they didn’t seem to know how to create or innovate very well. I always thought about making a course out of what I had to learn by trial, error, rote learning, reading, studying, etc.
I say this because today, with one computer, some software, 3d printing and all of the other technologies available – you would think the world would be more creative, not less.
Instead I am seeing a pattern like the mindless tweeting and twitting of social media. People are just retransmitting bits of information with minimal depth behind it.
Perhaps that is why I write long-winded crap here? Because I do know there are enough people out there that want more than 140 characters.
I will try to find more research on open versus closed mind thinking – if anyone has any links, please send them along. Have a great day. Grab a coffee or tea, sketch pad and pen and go somewhere to give yourself 15 minutes of time for your mind....see what it thinks!