The Seven Deadly Sins that Prevent Creative Thinking
SIN ONE. WE DO NOT BELIEVE WE ARE CREATIVEPeople do not believe they are creative. We have been taught that we are the product of our genes, our parents, our family history, our personal history, our I.Q., and our education. Consequently, we have been conditioned to have a fixed mindset about creativity and believe only a select few are born creative and the rest not. Because we believe we are not creative, we spend our lives observing only those things in our experiences that confirm this belief. We spend our lives knowing and living within the limitations we believe we have. We listen to our “inner” voice that keeps telling us not to pretend to be something we’re not.
SIN TWO. WE BELIEVE THE MYTHS ABOUT CREATIVITY
We believe many of the myths about creativity that have been promulgated over the years. We’re told creativity is rare, mysterious, magical and comes from a universal unconsciousness, a sudden spark of “Aha!” or the divine. We believe we cannot learn how to be creative. We believe creative types are depressed, crazy, unbalanced, special, different, abnormal, blessed, and trouble makers. Normal educated people cannot be creative and should not embarrass themselves by trying. Anything that has not been done before, cannot be done.
We even believe that the right brain is the source of creativity. This is not even slightly true. The brain hemisphere distinction is based largely on clinical studies of about 40 “split-brain” patients–people whose brains were severed surgically in order to treat seizures or other neurological problems. The initial studies of such patients, conducted in the 1960s, seemed to show significant functional differences between the left and right cerebral hemispheres. In the 1980s, however, scientists began to reinterpret the data. The problem is split-brain patients all have abnormal brains to begin with. As a practical matter, the right-hemisphere myth is nonsense because virtually no one has a split brain. The two halves of our brain are connected by an immense structure called the corpus callosum, and the hemispheres also communicate through the sense organs.
Remember an atom is an atom and cannot be anything else, and neither can you. You cannot learn how to be a creative thinker any more than an atom can learn how to become a banana.
SIN THREE. WE FEAR FAILURE
The most important thing for many people is to never make a mistake or fail. The fixed mind-set regards failure as a personal insult, and when they fail they withdraw, lie and try to avoid future challenges or risks.
At one time in America people believed that all a person was entitled to was a natural birth. Everything else was up to the person, and a person’s pride and passion came from overcoming the adversities in life. Failure was seen as an opportunity rather than insult. Once Thomas Edison’s assistant asked him why he didn’t give up on the light bulb. After all, he failed 5,000 times. Edison’s responded by saying he didn’t know what his assistant meant by the word “failed,” because Edison believed he discovered 5000 things that don’t work. This was the era when creative thinking flourished in America. People like Edison, Tesla, and Westinghouse did not know they could not think unconventionally and so they did.
After World War II, “Inevitability theories” flourished about how everyone’s life was shaped by genetic or environmental factors that were beyond their control. There began a promiscuity of the teaching of helplessness that has dimmed the human spirit and has created a “culture of helplessness.” It is this culture of helplessness that has cultivated the mindset that fears failure.
This fixed mindset of fear is grounded in the belief that talent is genetic-you’re born an artist, writer, or entrepreneur. Consequently, many of us never try anything we haven’t tried before. We attempt only those things where we have the past experience and knowledge and know we can succeed. Our culture of helplessness encourages us to believe that there are reasons why some things have never been done.
SIN FOUR. WE FAIL TO ACT
We believe we are not creative, we believe the myths about creativity and because we fear failure we do not act. We avoid taking action. If we don’t act, we can’t fail. If we are forced to take action, we do not do anything until we have a perfect plan which will take into account any and everything that can happen. We make sure the plan details all the human and material resources you need. We will seek the guidance and direction of every expert and authority we are able to approach. If any authority figure or expert expresses even the slightest doubt, we will not take the risk of failure and abandon the plan.
All art is a reaction to the first line drawn. If no line is drawn there will be no art. Similarly, if you don’t take action when you need new ideas in your personal and business lives and do nothing, nothing bad can happen and nothing is the result. In our culture of helplessness, nothing is better than even the slightest chance of failure, because failure means we are worthless.
SIN FIVE. WE FAIL TO PRODUCE IDEAS
We are taught to be critical, judgmental, negative and reproductive thinkers. In our “culture of helplessness,” we take pride in dissecting ideas and thoughts of others and demonstrating their flaws. The more negative we can be, the more intelligent we appear to others. In meetings, the person who is master of destroying ideas becomes the most dominant one. The first thought we have when confronted with a new idea is “Okay, now what’s wrong with it?”
When forced to come up with ideas, we come up with a few. These are the ideas we always come up with because these are the old ideas that are closest to our consciousness. Then we spend our time looking for what’s wrong and for reasons why the ideas can’t work? Our judgmental mind will censor anything that is new, ambiguous or novel. We respond to new ideas the way our immune system responds to a deadly virus. Our inner voice will advise us to “Not look stupid,” “Give up. You don’t have the background or expertise,” “it’s not relevant,” “If it was any good, it would already have been done before” “This will never be approved,” “where’s the proof? “This is not logical,” “Don’t be silly,” and so on. Anything that is not verifiable by our past experiences and beliefs is not possible.
Remember, to always get the ideas you have always got, keep doing what you have always done over and over. Never look for different ways of thinking.
SIN SIX. WE FAIL TO LOOK AT THINGS IN DIFFERENT WAYS
One of the many ways in which people attempt to make thinking easier is to solve the first impression of the problem that they encounter. This enables them to approach the problem with predetermined concepts and they end up seeing what they expect to see based on their past experiences. Once you accept the initial perspective, you close off all other lines of thought. Certain kinds of ideas will occur to you, but only those kind and no others. Settling with the first perspective helps us avoid ambiguity. People believe they are thinking logically when they simplify thinking by avoiding ambiguity. Aristolean logic teaches it is either A or not-A, it cannot be both. The sky is either blue or not blue. It cannot be a billion different shades of blue. You are either right or wrong. You cannot be both right and wrong. There are no gray areas or in-betweens. The world is black or white.
People who are taught to follow a certain thinking process such as the scientific method must never entertain different ways of looking at the problem or different ways of thinking about it. Keep doing what you are doing. The more times you think the same way, the better you become at producing orderly and predictable ideas. Always avoid trying anything new.
SIN SEVEN. FAILURE TO ACCEPT PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
It is not our fault we are not creative. It’s the teachers who are responsible and our parents, the churches, our genetics, the government, lack of time, lack of resources, lack of an inspiring environment, lack of suitable technology, lack of encouragement, too much sugar, lack of financial rewards, the organization, the bosses, lack of entitlements, lack of knowledge about creative thinking strategies, lack of any guarantee of success, and, after all, most of us are left-brained in this culture.
You can’t expect people to be something they’re not. In our “culture of helplessness,” we have learned that we cannot change our attitude, behavior, or the way we think.