Our brains are built to find shortcuts. These shortcuts minimize the processing power that we waste on routine things. However, they can also get us stuck in ruts. Rockstars and painters of the 70’s looked to mind-altering substances to refresh their creativity and see things in a new way. Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray Love was all about travel as the key to discovering new truths and finding clarity. However, I’m with Marcel Proust when he says “The real voyage of discovery consists of not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
There are so many ways that we can change our perspective every day… ways that won’t require illegal drugs or a passport. So, if you’re looking for a way to unlock your creative genius, foster creativity, learn new things, and understand yourself and others, give these a try:
Sit Somewhere New
We’re creatures of habit. But you’d probably be amazed at how often YOU are a creature of habit. Do you always sit in the same area in class? In church? You probably haunt the same areas over and over again at work, and sit at the same place at the table for meals every day.
Going somewhere new can open us up to new things, but even more extraordinary is when you see your ordinary life from a new perspective. And sometimes that’s as simple as sitting somewhere new. On purpose, choose a new seat. Even better, find a way to change the level at which you sit or stand. We get used to seeing things from our usual height, but try sitting on the ground instead! Or, put a significant enough cushion on a chair that you’re 5 inches above where you normally are. You’d be amazed how much of a difference even a few inches makes. I’m always amazed at how the world looks different when I’m wearing really tall heels.
Have you heard about the recent social experiment in the Washington DC metro? World-acclaimed violinist Joshua Bell played Bach on the platform for 45 minutes, much like any undistinguished street performer. Because he was in such a humble setting, all the commuters during that rush hour didn’t spare him a second glance. They didn’t notice that they were hearing music that cost $100 per seat in a theater. The only ones who stopped to listen were children, who were undeceived by the lack of trappings and recognized the beautiful music for what it was.
We usually rely on contextual clues to tell us whether something is valuable, important, or beautiful. But sometimes those contextual clues blind us to the truth of the thing itself. By removing the context of a situation, or changing it entirely, we can see old things in new ways. How can you do this in your own life?
Deprive yourself of one of your senses, especially the one you use the most in a certain situation. Prepare food with padded mittens or a plugged nose. Try walking at your local park with blackout sunglasses, or wait in a crowded station with sound-blocking headphones and no music.
Tunnel your vision. For example, if you want to paint or write about a certain vista, look at pieces of it through a tube.
Bring someone that you associate with one setting into another. So, if you have a friend from class, take them somewhere more familiar with your personal life. Or, even better, take a family member to a whole new setting from the home.
Pretend to Be Someone Else
It might seem like a silly child’s game at first, but pretending to be someone else can actually expand your capabilities in amazing ways. Half of the subjects in a study conducted at the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands were asked to answer a series of questions to the best of their ability while imagining the mindset of a “football hooligan.” The other subjects were asked to imagine the mindset of a college professor. Those imagining a college professor got 60% of the questions right, whereas those imagining a hooligan only got 41%.
This exercise isn’t only good for intelligence. It can also empower us to be more bold, talented, and charming. Imagine, in every situation, that you are the person you know who is the most able at that task that you have to do.
Spend Time with Kids
If you’re a mother who spends all day with her kids, your life is surely stressed, but you’re also blessed in a special way. To children, everything is brand new. When we see things through their eyes, we can get a whole new perspective on tired views and routines. So, if you’re not a stay-at-home parent, find ways to spend more time with kids in order to change your perspective. Offer to babysit your nieces and nephews, or take the neighbor kids out for ice cream. Volunteer as a tutor, or perform at a school or library. Not only will you be doing a service, but you’ll be able to get a glimpse of how a child sees the world.