I was recently listening to an episode of Smart People Podcast where host Chris Stemp interviewed Jennifer Mueller to discuss creativity. One of the ideas that Mueller shared was that there is never truly a best way to do something, and that we can be creative to look beyond what has been tried in the past and find new ideas, approaches, and solutions. Her views align with thoughts from Colin Wright’s book, Come Back Frayed where he writes, “There’s no simple answer to the questions of bests, or even betters. Each and ever stand taken on this subject is loaded with context and subtext and pretext. If a firm position is taken there is also pretense, because deciding that one’s own point of view trumps anyone else’s is, well, pretentious.”
Wright focuses on the ways we adopt and become set in our perspectives of the world around us. When we decide that our vantage point is the only correct perspective for interpreting the world, we limit ourselves and what we see as possible. From our point of view something may be clear, but we may miss very important aspects of what is truly taking place. Our perspective will always be influenced by our experiences of both big and small life events. Anything as small as a smile from a stranger to events as large as promotions or marriage shape the background understanding we have of the world, influencing the perspectives we take. Recognizing that our experiences are unique allows us to understand ways in which others think of the world differently, and may see different realities and possibilities. The key is to avoid bunkering down in our own point of view and surrounding ourselves with people with similar views.
When we do make an effort to expand beyond our own point of view we allow ourselves to be creative in new ways. We expand our perspective and create new connections when we recognize that our best way may not be another person’s best way to approach a given situation. From our vantage point something may be clear, but taking a step beyond ourselves to view the world from new perspectives will help us see that our best way is just one option. The more this skill is cultivated the more we can develop creativity in our lives to find not just the single best way to live, to work, or to eat, and we can find interesting ways in which our reality interacts with others based on each choice that we make.
I decided to purchase Richard Wiseman’s book, 59 Seconds
, after I listened to him have a conversation on one of my favorite podcasts, Smart People Podcast
. On the show Wiseman discussed luck and neuroscience, and I was fascinated throughout the entire episode. Afterwards, I knew I wanted to buy one of Wiseman’s books, especially since there was a piece of advice from the show that I was able to implement immediately. Wiseman talked about creating a “luck diary” to increase your awareness and focus on the lucky and positive parts of your life, and he discussed the benefits that could come with the increased awareness and positivity. Once I dove into 59 Seconds
I came across a section about gratitude, and I saw a more in depth explanation of the importance of my small luck diary.
Regarding a study on gratitude Wiseman wrote, “those expressing gratitude ended up happier, much more optimistic about the future, and physically healthier – and they even exercised more.” The idea of the study was to ask people to journal for a few minutes each week on various topics. One group wrote about things that annoyed them, another group journaled about events and things that happened in the day, and the third group reflected on things they were grateful for. The human brain learns to adapt to its environment and to stop noticing the things that are always around. Wiseman argues that this loss of conscious awareness occurs even with our own happiness leaving us without a sense of appreciation for the opportunities, luck, and positive events around us as they begin to feel common place and normal. Journaling about luck brings those positive moments back to the forefront of our minds, and helps us remember and be aware of the positives.
I don’t know that my luck journal has made me happier, healthier, or helped me exercise more, but I do enjoy the reflective nature of the process. I enjoy sitting on my bed each night and thinking about what I am grateful for or what lucky things happened during my day. Often times I had forgotten about how much went on in my day until I finally sit down and focus to remember each little event that I could describe as a lucky moment. I enjoy remembering the luck and the positive moments, but I also enjoy working my memory and sifting through all that happened in a day.
Vera Countess von Lehndorff wrote a letter to James Harmon for his book, Take My Advice, and in her letter she discusses goals, ambitions, talents, and our journey. She encourages us to have courageous goals, but she also brings in a bit of self awareness with out goal setting. “You want to be the greatest? You want to just feed your ego? That’s not so great.” This quote is her response to lofty goals and visions of success.
When I read over this quote I think about the goals that I have had throughout life, and how many of them are less about me, and are in one way or another more about fulfilling other people’s expectations and looking impressive. These types of goals promise us a land where we will feel high and mighty because we will gain the respect and admiration of others as a result of our greatness. However, these goals may not always be aligned with our true purpose or talents, and pursuing them relentlessly could cost us our peace of mind, happiness, and relationships.
For me, building habits of self awareness and learning how to look inwards to examine my goals has helped me understand where my goals originated. When I began to examine my goals I found I pursued some because society had determined that they were lofty and valuable. When I return to von Lehndorff’s quote I can see the ways in which pushing towards goals that simply feed an ego are more damaging than positive for the individual and the world. Losing sight of other people to pursue a goal that will build your ego will direct you to a place where people may be impressed by your title or your material possessions, but you may risk jeopardizing true friendships along the way. If you set out on a goal that only serves your ego, you also risk missing the chance to provide something meaningful and unique to the world. I am currently reading The Go-Giver by Bob Berg, and Berg would agree with this point of view. He would argue that you can provide value and find success by chasing goals that only serve yourself, but that in order to reach a level of stratospheric success you must focus more on the value you provide to others. This means that you must forget about your own ego and find goals that serve others as much as yourself.
Ultimately, I believe the problem with chasing a goal fueled by ego is the likelihood that you will burn out. You run the chance of pushing yourself into situations that serve your ego rather than your purpose, and you miss out on actively working towards goals that excite you and fuel a passion. In the end, aiming for greatness takes you away from happiness because your ego is built by your accomplishments and outside recognition. If you abandon ego and learn to operate without requiring the praise and admiration of others, you can find a level of greatness where you understand that you are great independently of outside recognition and ego serving applause.