I’ve been ruminating recently about why I appear to see things and think differently compared to so many others. People are continually coming up to me saying “I hadn’t thought to look at it like that”, “that’s an idea I hadn’t thought of”, “I found what you said inspiring” and yet, to me, I’ve only uttered what seemed logical in the circumstances.
Why the difference? Is it possible to distil what it is and perhaps use it? Is the ability to think differently something that could be taught/learnt?
My ruminations have led me down this track though, I hasten to add, I haven’t yet formed a definitive conclusion nor say I’m right and I’m aware I am generalising – it’s just food for thought:
To think differently is to break the rules
When we pop out of the womb we are thrown into a world that is defined by a set of rules that others have come up with. We (and our parents) are told how children should be brought up. We are told that the education systems that are in place are the correct way to learn. Our working world is primarily defined by set out rules applicable to each industry and to get on we must abide by these rules in order to progress.
‘Normal’ is to behave in a certain way, grow up, get a job, find a partner, get married, have children to perpetuate the cycle, move up the housing ladder, get promoted at work, stay healthy by a predefined definition of healthy, grow old, die and, basically do nothing that rocks the ‘normal’ boat. If you think differently you are not “normal”.
We are subconsciously taught not to question, not to challenge, not to over-reach our position in society whilst at the same time being told hypocritically ‘you can achieve anything you set your mind to’ while not actively being encouraged to do so. [I concede that there are people who naturally and successfully flout this]. To think differently does require change and often change is painful.
Then, out of the blue, for some of us, our lives, our very existence on earth are threatened with early termination. It seems that at this life/death point clarity strikes.
At the second or the minutes when you believe you are going to die, all the rules, experiences, problems and worries we are conditioned to accept as part of our lives disappear. Everything seems to snap into focus. You are no longer concerned, stressed or worried by anything that was occurring before this precise point. You don’t think about a future or even if there might be one. All of your senses and neural activity are consumed by only that point of ending – your breath or struggle for breath, the light or darkness, the pain or lack of pain, the acceptance that this is your lot.
And then, by some miracle, you survive. You don’t die and there is going to be a future for you.
Freedom to think differently
However, and this is the crux, that feeling of clarity and being set free from ‘normal’ never leaves you. Whatever trials and tribulations you face afterwards your mental state is more creative and inventive than before because it wants to recapture that clarity. You question more, you explore more, you test things out irrespective of whether it will work or not. You want to get back to that simpler, clearer, less complex existence – just without the pain or death part. You almost have no choice but to think differently.
And can you teach or learn this without having to go through the facing death experience? I believe you can. There are enough people, like myself, who have been through it and are still around to tell the tale. Some will recount what happened to them and leave you to construct your own take away and some, again like myself, try to tease out new skills and new ways of thinking from our experiences and hand them over to others.
What you then do with them is completely up to you however, surely, the ideal is to be able to get to “I am looking at things differently”, “I had thought of that” and “I am inspiring myself”.