CLOUD is an interactive sculpture created from 6000 incandescent light bulbs by Canadian artists Caitlind r.c. Brown & Wayne Garrett. Imagine if everyone could share thoughts, ideas in a similar way!
One of the tricks that I have used over the past decade to cultivate wonder and authentic happiness in my world is to filter and purify my thoughts. Put simply, these days, I think like everybody is listening. I explain things in my own mind, the way I would explain them to someone who was listening, I catch myself if I’m thinking in a not so helpful way and reframe it to ensure that if someone caught me too, they would understand why and what I was thinking too. This doesn’t mean that I don’t catch myself thinking controversial or biased things, quite the contrary, but the point here is that I catch them, I pay attention, I get curious and try to understand why that thought popped into my head and whether this is a fleeting thought influenced by an external propaganda, or a deeper belief that is worth exploring to understand, unpack and reframe or sometimes delete all together.
Once the debate captain at high school, I love a good debate. I love that moment when all the different points of views are discussed leading each person to an individual opinion of their own. I love influencing thought, driving an agenda and creating positive outcomes. As you grow up, you realise that not everyone is driving a positive agenda or outcome and that everyone is out trying to influence people to ‘think like them’. It’s like one big brainwashing party and everyone is in it for the win. When I first worked this out, I was deeply troubled. Who was influencing my thinking and did they have good intentions? I was motivated to ensure I stayed in the steering wheel as the captain of my brain.
In my early 20s I had started to meet a lot of people that were influencing my thinking and in some cases polluting my brain feed. If my brain had a sort of Facebook news feed, their status updates were relentless, intense, opinionated, confusing, frustrating, painful, annoying and sometimes rude. I wanted to take control of the stream of consciousness entering my mind. I wanted to be able to sort their thoughts from my own, I wanted a clear understanding of what I really thought about certain subjects. So I started reading a lot of wonderful books to create new streams of thought and in turn stumbled upon an entirely new way of thinking all together. A fluid, constructive and positive stream of consciousness that enabled me to keep a resilient, wondrous, productive and kind attitude and mindset.
I’m not going to tell you what to think or how to think. I will share with you some awesome books that have certainly influenced my thinking… I have found in the past decade that when we get curious and read across seemingly disparate fields, we connect dots in new ways and new neural pathways and ways of thinking emerge. This is the premise of Wired for Wonder, the event that I co-created in 2012 and this is the premise of my own journey to upgrade my thinking and ensure I was aware of my own ‘newsfeed’ and what I was creating versus what I was just hitting ‘share’ on without digesting or understanding first.
Here are a few of the books that influenced my thinking:
The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t is a book by Stanford professor Robert I. Sutton, based on a popular essay he wrote for the Harvard Business Review.*
Tricky People: by Andrew Fuller profiles the whole range of ‘difficult’ types we’ve all encountered at times in social or business situations: back-stabbers, white-anters, blamers, whingers, bullies, tyrants, controllers, charmers, know-it-alls, perfectionists, competitors and the seriously self-obsessed. It offers imaginative yet practical ways to deal with these dangerous and frustrating creatures and identify the slippery techniques they employ to get their way. Buried cleverly within all the humour is an in-depth look at how difficult people manage us for their own ends – and how to overturn that. It helps us understand relationship patterns, office politics, our own shortcomings in our dealings with others, and what a difficult person might be able to teach us.*
Positivity: Drawing on more than twenty years of scientific research into positive emotions, world renowned researcher Dr Barbara Fredrickson shows us that attaining positivity is not about striving to be an annoyingly and unnaturally cheerful ‘Pollyanna’. Rather, it is about putting into practice the ‘3-to-1 ratio’ of positive to negative emotions, the crucial tipping point that will enable you to embark on an ‘upward spiral’ towards a healthier, more vibrant, and flourishing life.*
You can’t afford the luxury of a negative thought: Don’t delay happiness! John-Roger and Peter McWilliams are the experts experts at helping people to see the lighter, brighter side to life, learn the way to positive living.*
Thinking fast and slow: by Daniel Kahneman, The central thesis is a dichotomy between two modes of thought: “System 1” is fast, instinctive and emotional; “System 2” is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The book delineates cognitive biases associated with each type of thinking, starting with Kahneman’s own research on loss aversion. From framing choices to people’s tendency to replace a difficult question with one which is easy-to-answer; the book highlights several decades of academic research to suggest that people place too much confidence in human judgement.*
As a teenager, I remember talking to my Dad explaining my thoughts or opinions, I’d add at the end “Do you know what I mean??” to which he would reply “Do you?” – a great prompt to actually query my own thinking. If you’re not clear then how can anyone else be? Sure you can use people to bounce ideas off to create a more fully formed idea or opinion, but what if there isn’t anyone around when you need to form that idea? What if there isn’t anyone to debate? This is where creating a curious mindset where you are comfortable questioning yourself, your own thoughts and opinions can allow you to open your mind to new possibilities and new ways of thinking.
So, just for today, I want you to think like everyone is listening. Catch yourself thinking, what do you actually think about? How often are you coasting versus consciously engaged in the world? Did you catch yourself thinking anything strange? Go there, get curious, ask yourself why, don’t be afraid! Just get curious! With curiosity as your guide, you can engage knowing that your thoughts are not concrete, they are fluid and while you used to think one thing, it is perfectly wondrous to update that thinking and think something new another day.
The Trump situation is super interesting and one I am not ready to weigh in on. I have spoken to people who voted for him, who wish they hadn’t and I have spoken to people who did not vote for him who are quite happy with how things are progressing. Showing your hand shouldn’t be the be all and end all when it comes to thinking. Politics are certainly no exception! You are a human, you are entitled to change your mind! Don’t be afraid of saying “You know what, I used to think X but now I think Y” – more information came to hand, I got curious and understood I had some personal bias in place when I originally shared my thoughts, or “I am not ready to share an opinion on this, I have these thoughts running through my news feed, I’m just not sure what I actually think yet!” Or “I changed my mind”… just for today, would that be so hard to say?
Let me know how you go experimenting with an open source brain feed for the day.
*Google Books / Wikipedia summaries