Está en la página 1de 10

This lecture is for private circulation only (for the students of Creative Thinking course).

Lecture # 1: Learning with Joy Introduction to Creative Thinking


Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting. - Edmund Burke As defined in Oxford Advanced learning dictionary, ideas and opinions about something are referred to as thinking. Thinking is the activity of using brain by considering a problem or a possibility or creating an idea. Thinking is using mind to consider something, to form connected ideas, to try to solve problems. The bedrock of all scientific developments and evolving social structures is thinking. Thinking is the essential skill for life. In general, a person reveals the need of thinking when trying to solve problems. A problem is a deviation from normal or a deviation from expected. For example, a technical snag in an automobile, the boat has a leak, a new drug for arthritis increases the risk of heart attack, and many more. Thinking for problem solving strategies is important but is not enough. Getting a work done is not a problem. There are problems when you are carrying out the task set to get the work done along the way.

Is any intended mental activity a problem? In my opinion we are thinking when we are awake and an intended mental activity is not always a problem. The notion that any intended mental activity is a problem is misleading and dangerous. The suggestion that the only sort of thinking is problem solving is misleading. It is dangerous because it excludes all the other sorts of thinking: design, creative, perceptual, meditative etc.

Most of the schools (engineering, business, medical) focus exclusively on problem solving. This excludes the design of strategies and the creativity needed for things such as new alliances, opportunities for technology upgradation, new findings, and new marketing concepts.

Critical thinking comes from the greek kritis (judge). Critical thinking is judgemental thinking and is not enough. No amount of critical thinking can produce new ideas. Where the new ideas come from? The emphasis on critical thinking blocks the path to possibilities, new ideas and progress. We need creative thinking. Design thinking based on perception is an essential ingredient in creative thinking. An automobile has brakes. Without brakes navigation of automobile without accident is impossible. Brakes are essential but not enough. The movement of an automobile is possible with an engine and a braking system. The only time brakes are enough would be if the automobile was rolling downhill on a very wide road. Critical thinking is enough if we are in a state of decline. If we want to make progress we need creative thinking. The role of engine could a metaphor for thinking mechanism. The 1

This lecture is for private circulation only (for the students of Creative Thinking course).

power generated is useful with a steering wheel and proper network of roads. Steering wheel indicates a deliberate intent and network of roads indicate connected ideas.

Many excellent minds capable of creative thinking and able to contribute to society are trapped and channelled into being excellent critical minds. Many such examples are available in media. Critical mode is used very often in media.

The major uses of creativity include simplicity. Introduction of keyboard to input computer program instead of punched cards revolutionised computer programming. Use of different transport modes have changed the way we move on the Earth. Telecommunications and internet have redefined social relations and interactions. Procedures and operations get more complicated over time. There is a natural tendency to ever more complexity; there is no natural tendency towards simplicity. Using creative thinking deliberately is one of the most important practical uses of creativity. The people who have simplified the life for masses have received grand success in terms of material prosperity and fame. e.g. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Toyota teams, Sony teams and many more ( Buddha for simplifying Upanishadic knowledge, Dnyaneshwar for simplifying Bhagvad Gita, Samarth Ramdas for writing Dasbodh in Marathi).

The danger of treating thinking as problem solving is that the focus of our attention is on problems and deficiencies. What is not a problem does not get our required thinking attention. The reality may be that some imperfect processes, which are not the current focus of attention, are giving rise to the problem. The notion that most of the human thinking is problem solving is very dangerous and is not true. Problem solving approach severely limits our attention to thinking and our use of thinking. This approach distracts our attention and energy from other areas that need energy and attention. Sometimes our energy gets frittered away by thinking on problems, but a solution may be just outside the focus of attention. (Write brothers example, benzene ring, joining 3X3 dots by 4 straight lines without lifting pen).

Art and media consider emotion as the true essence of human beings. Literature and theatre is usually about emotions. In general, there is limited thinking and limited happiness. Happy films are difficult to make. Press cannot escape easily from the negative approach. Proposing solutions to existing problems requires more energy and one requires courage to attempt such a way. The option of anguish and violence is easy for movie makers. There is a false belief that anguish and tragedy are the real essence of life. All else is superficial. This may be true in terms of audience interest, but it is a powerful con trick that is not related to daily life. The tragedy element in most peoples life is very 2

This lecture is for private circulation only (for the students of Creative Thinking course).

small compared to the boredom element. Being depressed sinks you into more depression. You need to think your way out of depression and out of boredom this is the challenge of Creative Thinking (CT).

Creative thinking is about reflecting on strengths, setting ambitious goals, taking risks, stretching beyond comfort zones, and finding healthy mean between comfort and panic zones. Creative thinking is about finding happiness while growing as a person and professionally. Positive psychology is generally referred to as the scientific study of optimal human functioning. This was officially launched as a field of study in 1998 by Martin Seligman, president of the American Psychological Association. We shall draw heavily from the study of this field for our course.

There are no shortcuts to meaningful change. Creative thinking should imbibe the habit for working hard with enthusiasm. We must learn to avoid the boredom while working in the middle of difficulties. The aim of this course is to inculcate the habit of working happily in the middle of difficulties for a meaningful purpose. First we shall try to understand how to find a meaningful purpose for changing our way working through problems.

Albert Einstein said, In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. Reaching a goal will give us a temporary satisfaction. When you were admitted to this institute you experienced such a state. As soon as your journey began, sooner or later you have found that the happiness waned with time. The gruelling schedule for regular studies began. Those who were capable of retaining the performance seem to be happy. Why are others not capable of pursuing their studies diligently? This question always troubled me. I am trying to find an answer to this question. It is not only essential to put a good performance, but to succeed in future life the student should excel in his/her chosen area. Majority of the students lack enthusiasm for this. I am trying to induct such an attitude during this course.

The possibility that a student retains his/her performance and finds an area for his career increases if he/she continuously finds happiness in the work. What is happiness? The commonly used words to express happiness are joy, bliss, ecstasy, contentment, pleasure, delight, gladness, cheerfulness. All these emotions are short-lived and the experience of happiness cannot be contained in this set of words. In real life, sometimes we experience sadness at times but still enjoy overall happiness. None of these words capture this notion of happiness. We must learn to differentiate between the ephemeral (short-lived) emotions we are experiencing and the overall feeling. We can raise our awareness of happiness for a rewarding life by reflecting on the life-stories of successful people. We must seek for 3

This lecture is for private circulation only (for the students of Creative Thinking course).

the core principles underlying happiness. These principles are essential for general students to retain and improve the interest in their studies. Happiness is an unlimited resource and available to all. Instead of squandering energies to know the current level of happiness, we must focus on to reap the crop of the unlimited resource happiness. Becoming happy should be a lifelong pursuit for all.

Self discipline is very difficult to imbibe. Adopting new behaviours, breaking old habits, learning new tricks are harder than we usually consider, even if we know what is good for us. In the book the power of full engagements, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz say, Building rituals requires defining very precise behaviours and performing them at very specific times motivated by deeply held values. According to Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz instead of focusing on cultivating self-discipline as a means towards change, we need to introduce rituals. Beginning with a new ritual may be difficult, but maintaining it is usually easy. Top athletes have rituals because being a top performer is a deeply held value. (Are you considering your success in future as a deeply held value? If your answer is yes, you should try to build rituals to fulfil your dreams of success.) If we consider happiness as a deeply held value, we must form rituals around that. For students the way to happiness is by another deeply held value that is learning. All students should strive their level best to form rituals around constant learning. To get the required creative breaks for learning, rituals for enjoying life and keeping good health can be formed. Do not introduce more than two rituals at a time. Make sure that these turn into habits before introducing other rituals. Tony Schwartz says, Incremental change is better than ambitious failure... Success feeds on itself. Maintaining Time Quality Analysis should be the first ritual. The detailed instructions for maintaining Time Quality Analysis (TQA) table are given at the end of this lecture. You start entering the rituals you want to adopt in your TQA table. Once formed, habits are difficult to get rid of. By repeating rituals for 21 days you can transform a ritual into a habit. In Aristotles words, We are what we repeated do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

If we do not ritualize activities, whether working out in the gym, spending time with friends, or reading for pleasure, we often miss them. We may become reactive (to others demands on our time and energy). The fear of not being spontaneous and creative will take a backseat once we begin to feel/observe the benefits of rituals. In an overall structured life, we do not need to have each hour accounted for. This is amply illustrated in TQA table. We can integrate spontaneity as a ritual. The most creative individuals have rituals that they follow. Paradoxically, the routine frees them up to be creative and spontaneous.

Reconciling present and future is very important and crucial for building ones career. Tal Ben-Shahar has proposed the hamburger model for pursuing happiness. The four types of hamburger are (i) 4

This lecture is for private circulation only (for the students of Creative Thinking course).

present benefit, future detriment hedonist type (ii) future benefit, present detriment rat race type (iii) present detriment, future detriment nihilism (iv) present benefit, future benefit happiness type. Hedonists seek pleasure and avoid pain. They focus on enjoying present and ignoring the potential negative consequences of their actions. The rat racer subordinating the present to the future, suffers now for the purpose of some anticipated gain. The nihilist has lost the lust for life; someone who neither enjoys the present moment nor has a sense of future purpose. Happy people live secure in the knowledge that the activities that bring enjoyment in the present will also lead to a fulfilling future. These types are theoretical formulations and not actual people. To varying degrees, and in different combinations, we all have characteristics of rat racer, the hedonist, the nihilist, and the happy. For understanding the traits of different types the depiction resembles actual people. The sole purpose is to clarify the essential characteristics of each type for all the people. These definitely help all to maximize the happiness by possible changes.

The rat-racer type: As a young child Ramu is unconcerned with the future. He experiences the wonder and excitement of his day-to-day activities. As soon as he enters the school, the rat racer in him gets priority. Parents and teachers constantly remind him that the purpose of going to school is to get good grades for secure future. The fact that learning can be (ought to be) fun is overlooked in this process. He is not told that he should be happy in school while learning. Ramu becomes anxious and stressed, fears of performing poorly on tests. He waits for the holidays impatiently, when he will no longer have to think about work and grades. Ramu accepts the values of adults that grades are the measure of success. He dislikes school but continues to work hard. When he does well, his parents and teachers compliment him, and his classmates, who also have been indoctrinated, envy him. Ramu internalises this formula fully when he enters high school: sacrifice present enjoyment in order to be happy in the future. No gain without pain. Although he does not enjoy his schoolwork or the extracurricular activities, he devotes himself fully to them. He is driven by the need to amass titles and honours, and when the pressure becomes overwhelming he tells himself that he will begin to have fun when he gets into the college.

Ramu gets college of his choice. Now, he tells himself, he can finally be happy. This relief is shortlived. After a couple of months he is caught by the same sense of anxiety he had been feeling for years. He fears that he will not be able to compete with the best students in the college. The rat race continues four years in college; he works at building an impressive resume. He chooses courses carefully, enrolling in them not because they excite him but because they will look good on the transcript. Ramu does have a good time every now and then, especially after handing in a paper or an examination. The pleasant moments, which come from being relieved of a burden, are short-lived; his 5

This lecture is for private circulation only (for the students of Creative Thinking course).

work builds up again, and along with it, his anxiety. He gets a campus placement in his final year. Now, he thinks that he will be able to enjoy his life. Soon he realizes that his 70 plus hour work week is difficult to enjoy. He tells himself that he must sacrifice for the time being, just until he is established and secure in his career. Once in a while when he receives a raise, a promotion, or a large bonus he feels good. As the drudgery returns the sense of fulfilment disappears.

Ramu was a top student in college; he is very well established in his career; he and his wonderful family live in a large house in a good locality. He drives a luxury car; he has more money than he can spend. Ramu is unhappy. Yet others regard Ramu as a successful person. Parents see him as role model, telling their children that if they work hard, they can be like Ramu. He pities those children but cannot imagine what alternatives there are to the rat race. He does not know what to tell his children. Is being successful synonymous with being miserable?

Being a hard worker, or a high achiever is not synonymous with being a rat racer; there are supremely happy people who work long hours and dedicate themselves to their profession. What differentiates rat racers is their inability to enjoy what they are doing; their persistent belief that once they reach a certain destination, they will be happy. The reason why we see so many rat racers around is that our culture reinforces this belief. If we get an A at the end of the semester, we get gift from our parents; if we meet certain quotas on the job, we get bonus at the end of year. We learn to focus on the next goal rather than our present experience and chase on the next goal, the ever-elusive future. We are not rewarded for enjoying the journey itself but for the successful completion of the journey. Society rewards results, not processes; arrivals, not journeys.

Once we arrive at our destination and attain the desired goal, we mistake the respite (release from work) that we feel for happiness. The more difficult the task we carried out, the more powerful and pleasant is our experience of respite. When we mistake these moments of respite for happiness, we reinforce the illusion that simply reaching goals will make us happy. The experience of respite is negative happiness, because absence of work is the negation of stress and anxiety. The nature of respite is assumption of unpleasant experience. In reality learning can never be an unpleasant experience. The children rejoice while learning. It is the training in schools and colleges which induces this wrong notion about work. A person who is relieved of a splitting headache will feel happy that he is free of pain, but because that happiness had to be preceded by suffering, the absence of pain is but momentary respite from an essentially negative experience. The rat racer confuses respite with happiness; continues to chase after his goals, as though attaining them will be enough to make him happy. 6

This lecture is for private circulation only (for the students of Creative Thinking course).

Creative Pause:

Do you feel sometimes part of the rat race? Looking at your life dispassionately what suggestions would you give yourself to avoid rat race?

The Hedonist type: A hedonist avoids pain and seeks pleasure, satisfying desires and giving no or a little thought to future consequences. He is under the illusion that a fulfilling life is reducible to a succession of pleasures only. Something good in the moment is enough justification for doing it until the next desire replaces it. Friendships and romances are initiated with enthusiasm, as the novelty wears off, new relationships are sought. Potentially detrimental things are done if immediate gratification is available. If drugs produce a pleasant experience, the hedonist takes; if he finds work difficult, he avoids it. The hedonist errs in equating effort with pain and pleasure with happiness. Without a long term purpose, devoid of challenge, life ceases to feel meaningful to us. We cannot find happiness if we exclusively seek pleasure and avoid pain. Yet the ever present hedonist within each of us equates effort with pain and doing nothing with pleasure. In an experiment that illustrates this issue, psychologists paid college students to do nothing: while their physical needs were met, they were forbidden to work. Within four to eight hours, students became unhappy, even though they earned significantly more money than they could have in other jobs. They needed stimulation and challenge and chose to leave their well paying cushy job for work that was not only more demanding but also less financially rewarding. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the best moments usually occur when a persons body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. A struggle-free, hedonistic existence is not a prescription for happiness. It is worth noting the comments of John Gardner, We are designed for the climb, not for taking our ease, either in the valley or at the summit.

Creative Pause: Did you experience a single or a longer period when you lived as a hedonist?
What were the costs and benefits of living this way?

The Nihilism type: A nihilist is a person who has given up happiness, who has resigned to the belief that life has no meaning. A nihilist is chained to the past. People who have resigned themselves to their present unhappiness and expect the same sort of life in the future are fettered to the past failures. This is learned helplessness. When we fail to attain a desired outcome, we often extrapolate from that experience the belief that we have no control over our lives or over certain parts of life. Such thinking leads to despair.

This lecture is for private circulation only (for the students of Creative Thinking course).

Creative Pause: Do you recollect some time you felt like a nihilist? What strategies can be
evolved to come out of such feelings?

The rat racer, the hedonist, and the nihilist are all, in their own way, guilty of a fallacy; an inaccurate reading of reality, of the true nature of happiness and what it takes to lead a fulfilling life. The rat racer suffers from the arrival fallacy the false belief that reaching a valued destination can sustain happiness. The hedonist suffers from the floating moment fallacy the false belief that happiness can be sustained by an ongoing experience of momentary pleasures that are detached from a future purpose. Nihilism is also a fallacy, a misleading of reality the false belief that no matter what one does, one cannot attain happiness. This last fallacy stems from the inability to see a synthesis between arrivals and floating moments, some third option that may provide a way out of ones unhappy predicament.

The happiness type: We generally commit a mistake by asking a wrong question, Should I be happy now or in the future? The right question to ask is, How can I be happy now and in the future? Present and future benefit may sometimes conflict because some situations demand that we forgo one for the other. It is possible to enjoy both for much of the time. Students who truly love learning derive present benefit from the pleasure they take in discovering new ideas and future benefit from the ways in which those ideas will prepare them for their careers. In romantic relationships, some couples enjoy their time together and help each other grow and develop. Those who work at something they love be in business, engineering, medicine, or art can progress in their career while enjoying the journey.

To expect constant happiness is to set ourselves for failures and disappointments. It is not possible to derive present and future benefit from everything we are doing. It is a common experience of all successful people that to forgo present benefit for greater future gain is unavoidable. Studying for the examinations, saving for the future, being an intern and working long hours is often unpleasant but can help us to attain long term happiness. The key is to keep in mind, even as one forgoes some present gain for the sake of the future gain, that the objective is to spend as much time as possible engaged in activities that provide both present and future benefit.

Living the hedonist life every now and then has its benefits as well. If there are no long term disadvantages, focusing solely on the present can rejuvenate us. In moderation, the relaxation, the mindlessness, the fun that come from gossiping with friends, hanging around on streets, watching television, eating at a fast food outlet with friends and family make us happier. 8

This lecture is for private circulation only (for the students of Creative Thinking course).

Creative Pause: List a few periods in your life when you enjoyed present and future benefit.
Is it possible to stretch these periods by creative thinking?

Attaining lasting happiness requires that we enjoy the journey on our way toward our objectives in life. Choosing the proper objectives early in life definitely give advantages. In todays digital age there are enormous opportunities to benefit. If we do not like the present work, one can always upgrade in his/her area of liking and switch to those areas for lasting happiness. Happiness is not about making it to the peak of the mountain nor is it about climbing aimlessly around the mountain; happiness is the experience of climbing towards the peak.

Creative Pause: Meditate. Find a quiet spot. Sit in a comfortable position with your back and
neck straight. Keep eyes closed. Enter a state of calm by breathing properly. Focus on positive emotions by sitting in this relaxed position. This will empower you to bring happiness by thinking on words calm, joy, peace. Make meditation a ritual. When you are not able to concentrate on studies, you may meditate for few minutes by taking deep breaths and experience the surge of positive emotions. You can do this at any place with practice. This is the ritual of creative thinking. This surge of positive emotions will improve your time quality ensuring future benefit and enjoyment of the present time.

Rituals for Engineering a career using Achievement Potential


Some thoughts: Law of diminishing intent: The longer you wait to implement a new idea or strategy, the less enthusiasm you will have for it. This mind which goes here, there and everywhere, has to be brought back slowly and steadily by intellect that is coupled with a special kind of courage called Dhriti. Then the mind is made to meditate on the innermost atma; and all other thoughts must be neglected and forgotten for the time being. Dhriti is a kind of courage that comes to the intellect after intense study, thinking and discussion on scriptures. 9

This lecture is for private circulation only (for the students of Creative Thinking course).

Anything that makes you weak physically, intellectually and spiritually, reject as poison; there is no life in it, it cannot be true. These mysticisms, in spite of some grains of truth in them, are generally weakening. - Swami Vivekananda. Date: January 25, 2012.

10