CREATIVITY AND UNCERTAINTY

Both Related To Change

The future is uncertain — but its uncertainty is at the very heart of creativity.

Ilya Prigogine

To be creative is to have the ability to create, to cause something to exist; it is an art. To be uncertain is to not be sure, to be open to change. Therefore, it seems you need to be uncertain to be creative. Creativity requires change; change requires uncertainty. Uncertainty results in open-mindedness. I have been writing forever about change, creativity, uncertainty and open-mindedness.

James Adams, in his book, The Care and Feeding of Ideas: A Guide to Encouraging Creativity, 1986, says creativity and change are two sides of the same coin.

They are often linked, in that creativity is needed to respond successfully to change and creativity, in turn, results in change. Creativity and change both imply new directions. They are both associated with uncertainty.

Decision making is, of course, about uncertainty, creativity, open-mindedness — and about change. When deciding what to do, you are deciding about your future. Your future doesn’t exist and it is unpredictable, so it is uncertain; it needs to be created. You have two choices: create it or let someone else create it.

In 1991 I published my book, Creative Decision Making, Using Positive Uncertainty. It was later revised in 2003, with my wife Carol Gelatt as coauthor. Since then, author Sheena Iyengar went one step further in describing creative decision making. Science can assist us in becoming more skillful choosers, but at its core, choice remains an art, The Art of Choosing, 2010. I would add, a creative art.

This is why open-mindedness is an essential skill. An open mind is a beginner’s mind. A beginner’s mind is a mind that is willing to see everything as if for the first time. Zen saying. The beginner’s mind is what Zen practitioners use when describing the notion that learning requires an empty cup. When full of what you already know it is hard to acquire new knowledge. A beginner’s mind is trying to discover its ignorance, not to disguise it. This empty cup, beginner’s mind idea is like being child-like. Children don’t know a lot so they learn a lot. They have a beginner’s mind.

You might try thinking like a child. A child hasn’t yet learned rational, adult thinking. Almost all creative thinking techniques, brainstorming for example, involve the abandonment of rational, logical thinking.

An open, beginner’s mind allows us to be receptive to new intelligent thinking processes possibilities and prevents us from getting stuck in the rut of our own expertise, which often thinks it knows more than it does. Jon Kabat Zinn

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THE WISDOM OF MAYBE

 A Major Step Toward Learning

All of us outgrow some of our beliefs.  Katherine Schulz

 One of my favorite authors, Katherine Schulz, in her 2010 book Being Wrong, reports that most children grow up living in a yes and no world until about age five, when they learn the word maybe. She says this is the beginning of our ability to acknowledge, quantify and talk about uncertainty; and it marks a major step toward learning. Since then, adults have been creative and resourceful in expressing the concept of maybe: perhaps, probably, hypothetically, doubtful, debatable, sometimes, occasionally, conceivably, maybe, uncertain, possible, probable, feasible, likely, conceivable, thinkable, potentially. Of course I like uncertainty.

My writing has probably always been about acknowledging the reality of uncertainty and the powerful role of our beliefs. Therefore, if doubt is the act of challenging our beliefs, I consider this a major benefit. But maybe, doubt and uncertainty have other benefits. They…

  • Prevent the tyranny of certainty.
  • Lead to questions and inquiry.
  • Keep the mind open.
  • Promote vigilance, persistence and skepticism.
  • Are an essential part of being wise.
  • Facilitate learning.

The powerful role of our beliefs is cause for understanding our beliefs. If our beliefs are so powerful, we should know what they are. I believe it is fair to assume that most people don’t  know what they believe. Since beliefs become behavior, looking at one’s behavior is a good way to discover one’s beliefs.

Most of my writing about positive uncertainty is about beliefs. Believing is seeing and beliefs become prophecy. If you can imagine having only yes and no answers, you can see the virtue of maybe. Many times what we know leaves us with a lack of certainty, so we need perhaps, probably, conceivably, debatable, occasionally, etc. Of course I like uncertainty. Certainty does not lead to questions. Maybe, like uncertainty, is a step toward learning because it leads to questions.

Question everything. Learn something. Answer nothing. Euripides

 Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers. Voltaire

 

 

 

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TO UNDERSTAND YOURSELF

Start in Your “Mind’s Kitchen” 

There is an old joke about a man, who asks a stranger the way to Edinburgh, to which the stranger replies: “If I were going there, I wouldn’t start from here.”

Although none of you have ever asked me for directions, I can tell you that wherever you decide to go, you have to start from where you are.

When you start your self-awareness journey, most advice is not to focus on the destination. My advice is that it is important to focus on where you are now, which is where you are starting from.

It helps if you know where you are. This blog is about knowing where you are mentally; it is about self-awareness. Warning: There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.”  Benjamin Franklin

The quickest way to know yourself is to start with your “mind’s kitchen”. The “Mind’s Kitchen” metaphor might help you gain self-awareness. ( I borrowed this metaphor from Leonard Mlodinow in his book Subliminal, 2012). You can tell a lot about a restaurant’s recipes by sitting at a table and sampling the food, but to really know what is going on, you have to look inside the kitchen. For instance, what are the favored ingredients? Is there variety in what is used? Are the ingredients fresh or old and spoiled?

Human consciousness, the way you see things, is like the mind’s recipes. To really know what’s going on, you have to look inside the “mind’s kitchen,” where the mental processes that cause beliefs and behavior are prepared. My mind’s kitchen is full of recipes for the way I see and do things. And all of them are not known or up-to-date. This metaphoric view of my mind’s eye helps me look inside my mind to see where and how my thoughts originate. This mind’s kitchen metaphor might also help you.

To know one self, although hard to do, is important, maybe essential, because when you have a better understanding of yourself, you are able to experience yourself as a separate and unique individual. You are then empowered to make changes and to build on your areas of strength as well as identify areas where you would like to make improvements. Self-awareness not only requires knowing who you are; it also requires knowing why you are who you are.

Why you are who you are is also determined in your mind’s kitchen. This is where the recipes for you are created. Metaphorically you could say these recipes are your beliefs. Believing is seeing is doing. An easy way to understand the power of your beliefs is to think of them as recipes for your behavior. Recipe is defined as: a set of instructions; something which is likely to lead to a particular outcome. Doesn’t this sound like the description of a belief?  A belief is a set of instructions. To know yourself is to know your beliefs.

He who knows others is learned; he who knows himself is wise.  Lao-Tsze

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A GROWTH MINDSET

Mindsets Are Powerful Beliefs

Becoming is better than being, Carol Dweck

The bestselling book, Mindset, The New Psychology Of Success (2008) by Carol Dweck, is the basis of this blog. The definition of a mindset is: a person’s way of thinking and their opinions. A mindset sets the stage for everything you do. In her book she says there are two kinds of mindsets, a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

fixed mindset  defines all of your abilities as innate and you are born with all the abilities you will need in life. Those with a fixed mindset often feel like failures happen because something is lacking within themselves.

On the other hand, people with a growth mindset feel that they can learn anything or acquire any ability if they put in enough effort. These people don’t let setbacks stop them. The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset, Carol Dweck.

The question is, of course, can a person change his/her mindset (grow it)? This is a question I have written about for years. And the answer is troubling.

Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there Is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof, John Kenneth Galbraith.

It’s not so much that we’re afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it’s that place in between that we fear, Marilyn Ferguson.

If becoming is better than being, then growth is better than fixed. This means change. The problem is you can’t change what is happening outside you until you change what is going on inside you. When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves, Viktor Frankl. This requires self-insight, an awareness of one’s mindset.

Your mindset is a collection of beliefs, like your worldview. It is powerful because it determines the way you see things; and the way you see things determines the way you do things. Growth means growing.

When you’re green, you’re growing. When you’re ripe you’re not, Ray Kroc.

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DO YOU UNDERSTAND AND? (corrected)

Author’s note: So sorry for the previous post that left off the title and had formatting problems. All have been corrected.

A Racist  Doesn’t    

You think because you understand one you must understand two because one and one makes two. But you must also understand and, Sufi saying.

If we can see ourselves connected, yet ignorant of most of the connections, then we have little choice but to be compassionate. Donald Michael

And, by definition, means together with, in addition to, as well as. Doesn’t this sound like connected? We know that one and one makes two because that is what we were taught; and we practiced to memorize it. Maybe we should practice and memorize that you and I, us and them, makes two. This would help us understand connectedness, and racism.

Failure to acknowledge this interconnectedness is, of course, the basis of racism. Racism is ignorant of interconnectedness; or chooses to ignore it. They don’t want to understand it. Racists don’t see ourselves connected, and are ignorant of most of the connections, so they aren’t compassionate. Connections and compassion are not part of a racist point of view.

Consider this: Everything is interconnected to everything else in an unbroken wholeness. What this means is that nothing is separate: mind and body, you and me, us and them, believing and seeing, inside and outside, black and white, left and right, liberal and conservative, etc. etc. etc. Separate means not connected; and — means connected.

I believe this interconnectedness is so important that it shouldn’t be ignored. Ignoring it makes it easy for racists to survive. Since we weren’t taught to memorize this interconnectedness, we didn’t all learn it. It is easy to ignore or deny interconnectedness, because it is hard to notice. We don’t all look alike, speak alike, dress alike, behave alike– or believe alike. Racism is based on belief. Herein lies the problem: beliefs are learned. Can a racist unlearn what they have been taught?

You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear

You’ve got to be taught from year to year

It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear

You’ve got to be carefully taught

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late

Before you are six or seven or eight

To hate all the people your relatives hate

You’ve got to be carefully taught 

Richard Rogers lyrics from the musical South Pacific

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POINT OF VIEW

  The Way You See Things

What is behind your eyes holds more power than what is in front of them. Gary Zukav

The way you see things depends on the way you look at things. This is like saying believing is seeing. Believing is seeing has been a major theme of my writing forever.    

Believing is seeing means: The eye sees in things what it looks for, and it looks for what is already in the mind. Scientific School of Police, Paris. What is already in the mind is a  set of personal beliefs. These personal beliefs determine the ideal, not the real. We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are, Anais Nin.

I think a point of view is another way of saying a worldview. A worldview is the overall perspective from which one sees and interpreters the world; a collection of beliefs about life and the universe. This collection of beliefs determines the way you see things.

Or point of view may also be a nice way of saying personal bias. (Actually, a worldview IS a personal bias; it is a personal way of seeing things). Over 100 personal cognitive biases have been identified. A cognitive bias is a systematic error in thinking that impacts one’s choices and judgmentsCognitive bias is a limitation in objective thinking that is caused by the tendency for the human brain to perceive information through a filter of personal experience and preferences. 

My Process of Illumination, POI 2007, was a process to enlighten, clarify, to make understandable, the way we see things (our personal point of view). Most people don’t ask themselves illuminating questions about the way they see things. Thirteen years later, the POI is still very much needed but not very much in demand. People seem to have a need to know, but a fear of knowing about themselves, as Abraham Maslow             would say. 

So if we don’t expect people to illuminate themselves, who will do it? Pointing out to someone their point of view, the way they see things, doesn’t work. First, because they really don’t know their point of view. And second, they really don’t want to know the way they see things. And third, we don’t really know their point of view.      

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. 

Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird

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ONCE UPON A TIME

There Was No Positive Uncertainty

 In medieval time there was no such thing as doubt, Unknown.

Positive uncertainty didn’t exist before 1989, when I introduced my positive uncertainty conceptual framework. In 2007 I started my Process of Illumination essays. I was promoting a collective worldview that is open and inclusive, one worldview at a time.

I think I can clearly admit the collective worldview hasn’t happened. I would like to say yet, but I need to accept reality. The reality is that the near future won’t bring a collective worldview that is open and inclusive. Some people, maybe many people, are open-minded and compassionate. But world-wide human behavior suggests this isn’t the reality of most. 

However, the current worldwide event, the coronavirus, may be making a difference. This worldwide event is featuring uncertainty — probably like never before. Is it possible that uncertainty is becoming accepted as the new norm?  We don’t know when or if the coronavirus crisis will end. We don’t know the future of global warming. We don’t know if  working at home will become normal? In other words, we can’t predict the immediate future; so we know it is uncertain. Are we beginning to know and accept uncertainty?   

Would this acceptance of uncertainty, if it were true, make a difference? People believe to be true what they want to be true. This will probably continue to be the norm. However, ambiguity, uncertainty, and doubt will be hard to sell. How do we convince people that what they want to be true, may not be what they want to be true? Remember, be careful what you wish for. 

Once upon a time it was believed that the sun rotated around the earth and the earth was flat. And once it was believed that seeing is believing: you need to see something before you can accept that it really exists or occurs. Those beliefs have changed. Today the earth is not believed to be flat by most people. Today believing is seeing by most.

Today uncertainty exists, although everyone doesn’t embrace it. Will it become obsolete? Will it become the common? The fate of positive uncertainty is uncertain.  Beliefs about uncertainty have been with us forever. For example: 

To be uncertain is to be uncomfortable. To be certain is to be ridiculous,  Socrates.

Madness is the result not of uncertainty but of certainty.  Friedrich Nietzsche

The future is uncertain but this uncertainty is at the very heart of human creativity.

                                                                                         llya Prigogine

The longing for certainty … is in every human mind. But certainty is generally illusion.   .                                                                                      Oliver Wendell Holmes

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THE THERMOS BOTTLE

Another Metaphor

 The human mind is the source, and properly directed, the solution to all our problems. Dalai Lama

I can’t resist sharing this interesting story here to make my point about the mind. Three scientists were discussing: “What is the most wonderful invention in the world?  world?”

Astronomer: The radio telescope. With it the furthest reaches of the cosmos are open to human inspection, and the mysteries of the billions of galaxies beyond our natural sight are revealed.

Nuclear Physicist:: The particle accelerator. It reveals to us the fundamental intricacies upon which the entire universe is based.

Engineer: You are both wrong, it’s the thermos bottle. Why? Because it keeps hot things hot and cold things cold. When asked what is so wonderful about that, he replied… How does it know?

This story is an important metaphor or symbol for me because I believe the human mind is the most wonderful invention in the world. Why? Because science doesn’t even know how it knows. I believe there is no technological device, no matter how sophisticated, that can equal the power, flexibility, and user-friendliness as the human mind. We all possess the world’s finest multi-sensory learning devise right behind our eyes. All we have to do is believe it and use it.

Using the whole brain and the multi-mind may not be the whole story since we don’t yet fully understand human consciousness. In making our important decisions in the future we may need to consider involving our brain, mind, spirit, soul, heart, gut, and even the “seat of our pants.” I realize that the thermos bottle doesn’t need to know whether the contents is hot or cold. And maybe we don’t need to know how we know. And maybe we don’t need to know as much as we think we need to know.

Why do I focus on what is in your mind, my mind, our minds — our collective worldview? The mind is the source of creating a positive future because your beliefs about life and the universe, about the past, present and future and about what is positive and negative are in your mind. Today, for example, when the coronavirus crisis increases uncertainty, what is going on in our minds is our greatest asset. Properly directed, it is the solution to all our problems.

Properly directing your  mind involves your human consciousness where information, reason, beliefs, thoughts, perception, emotion, intuition, intention, imagination, memory, etc. take place and form your worldview. Be sure to use all of it. But one thing you need to understand about mind and consciousness is that we don’t yet fully understand mind and consciousness. So we are discussing something we don’t know how it knows.

The mind has a mind of its own, Old saying.

 

 

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A USER-FRIENDLY ILLUSION

Adopting a Computer Metaphor

 See Yourself as Your Greatest Technology, Marilyn Ferguson

Many years ago NASA was asked why they put humans in the spacecraft instead of robots. Their answer: “Humans are the lowest cost, light-weight, non-linear, all-purpose computer system that can be mass-produced by unskilled labor.”

And somewhere else I have read that there is no technological device, no matter how sophisticated, that can equal the power, flexibility, creativity and user friendliness of the human mind.  We all possess the world’s finest multi-sensory learning device right behind our eyes. All we have to do is believe it and use it. To see yourself as your greatest technology is to see your mind as your greatest resource.

Adopting a computer metaphor will be helpful here. The software of your computer sends a set of coded instructions to tell it what to look for and what to do; it programs your computer.  Your worldview (your collection of beliefs about life and the universe) is the software that provides operating instructions for your mind the same way your computer is programmed; Someone else programs your computer software; but you program your mind’s software. Your mind is the author of its own software.

We know the computer software needs to be kept up-to-date. Most people make sure their computer software is up-to-date but fail to pay attention to the possible obsolesce of their mind’s eye software. Do you update your beliefs during this corona crisis?

Tor Norretranders, in his 1998 book The User Illusion, says that the way we see things on our computer screen is a user illusion; it is the mental picture the user has of what actually exists. The deployment of icons as metaphors for familiar items on a desktop revolutionized the use of computers. For computer users, icons created the illusion of easy-to-work-with folders, trashcans, calculators, scissors, paste, printers and so forth. No such items actually exist in the computer. What the computer user sees is actually an easy to understand representation of what does exist, millions of sequences of 0’s and 1’s. This illusion makes the computer seem less complicated and intimidating — more user-friendly. Norretranders says that the user illusion is a superb metaphor for human consciousness.

Your mind, like the computer, creates an icon, an easy to understand representation of what exists. The way you see things is the user-friendly illusion you have of reality. This is often helpful, like the user illusion of the computer user. However David Nyberg warned us: “Human self-deception is one of the most impressive software programs ever devised.”

Seeing the sun rise and set is a user illusion (the sun doesn’t move). Throwing things away is a user illusion (there is no such thing as away). Only one of these illusions is harmful. Can you identify some other general or personal user illusions that are helpful or harmful?

Reality is an illusion. Only illusion is real.  Don Quixote

 

 

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SCIENCE AND RELIGION

As Worldviews

 Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.                                                    Richard P. Feynman, theoretical physicist, Nobel Prize, 1965.

In her book, A Call for Connections 1998, Gail Bernice Holland had this to say about science and religion. By nature, religion is subjective, a private enterprise based on personal beliefs. By design, science is objective, a public enterprise based on control experiments. This is a blog about science and religion, not science vs. religion.

 Science is defined as: the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. Religion is defined as: belief in a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe. Religion is based on faith: belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidenc. Science is based on hypotheses, seeking evidence through experiment,

 Science and religion were both invented by humans — in that sense they are both worldviews. Science and religion did not exist before human consciousness created them; we must not forget this. Since they were invented we have learned a lot about the world, the universe, the planet earth and the human brain, mind and body. What we have learned should have made a difference in our current science and religious worldviews. Is science or religion any different since they were invented?

Religion presents an exclusive view. Each religious faith is exclusive. Religious believers must disbelieve many religions, and believe in just one. Science presents a partial view, the physical. Science cannot tell us much about the mental, human thinking world. Human consciousness is considered “the hard problem of science”.

If science presents a partial view of the world and if religion presents an exclusive view of the world, science plus religion, as they are, cannot provide us with an open and inclusive collective worldview. These two worldviews, which profoundly influence our lives, will both need to be expanded if we are to create a better future. And if we invented these worldviews with our human consciousness, we can modify them, and even reinvent them — if we choose to. Human inventions should not be unchangeable.

The history of both science and religion is not a history of open-mindedness and inclusiveness. Religion is clearly closed-minded and exclusive. Science is open-minded but not inclusive. Instead of asking if scientific or religious beliefs are reasonable, rational, provable, or true, I believe we should ask if they are open and inclusive.

I believe we need an understanding of the hard-to-define relationship with the mystery of life. Maybe that is what spirituality is. Spirituality isn’t easy to define, primarily because it is an inner personal pathway that most of us would describe differently. We need a religion that is not so exclusive, and we need a science that understands human consciousness.

                       Sometimes I think we are alone. Sometimes I think we’re not.                                                                                                      In either case, the thought is quite staggering,  Buckminster Fuller.

 

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