After last week’s meltdown I feel I’m back on the sea-plane of unstoppability with #8 of Benjamin Hardy’s thirty behaviours:
Become More Playful and Imaginative
Hardy begins with this quote from Einstein :
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
and continues by saying life ‘is meant to be a joy, not a grind.’ While the philosophy graduate in me could easily argue that life isn’t meant to be anything at all, life just is, I certainly agree that now we have consciousness and are, thus, self directing, it would be crackers to settle for grind when joy is possible. But how does this lead to being unstoppable? Actually, what is it to be unstoppable?
I launched myself into this particular abyss two weeks ago without stopping (ho ho) to examine or define the term, so I think I should do that now. My dictionary defines it as being impossible to stop, which doesn’t really help much. Impossible to stop at what, I’m not thinking of doing a Forrest Gump? Perhaps it would be better to try and ascertain what Hardy means by being unstoppable. I haven’t thoroughly read all of his thirty behaviours, though having read the first ten or so, and skimmed the rest, I’m of the impression he means unstoppable at achieving one’s dreams or goals. That is, if you make these behaviours part of your life your goals will follow.
As I said in the first post on this subject my goals are to earn a living from my writing; to be the best possible wife to D, and to contribute to world eudaimonia. So, back to the question: how will becoming more playful and imaginative help me achieve them?
Ah, but this leads to more questions: what is it to be playful; what is it to be imaginative? To play, according to my dictionary, is ‘to engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.’ So it’s to do something for the fun of it, without worrying about outcomes. Yes?
I don’t think I could do more of this, my life really is predicated on doing things for enjoyment. Even the writing workshops I run are more fun than work, that they add a few coffers to my pot is almost a bonus.
Seven years ago I moved into the tiny house of a poor man ten years older than me. Last June I married him. Retired and living on the scant pension of someone who dedicated his working life to charitable concerns rather than climbing a career ladder, he will never be able to buy me a cottage in Perpignan or an Edmund de Waal pot. But waking up with him beside me is like having ice-cream for breakfast. He is my own private Perpignan. I married him for the joy of being with him.
Recently I’ve been watching a lot of lectures (Royal Institute, mostly) on quantum mechanics. Everything the lecturer says makes sense while I’m watching, but within minutes of the end I forget it all. I’ve probably watched about five or six by now, but still know nothing about quantum entanglement or super symmetry. It’s unlikely I’ll ever understand the Einstein-Rosen Bridge, or wormholes that grow as you pass through them so you can never get to the end, and I have no desire to become a particle physicist. Yet I still, in idle moments, look for more lectures to imbibe. I do so for the fun of it. I love the language – up quarks and down quarks, charm quarks, bottom quarks, leptons and sparticles – and I love the look of the equations written in chalk on a blackboard, even though they make no sense to me. I stumbled on the first lecture while attempting to learn something about space for a story. The story has long since been dumped, yet I return again and again to the lectures, looking for ever more to watch. The vague hope for a particular outcome has been usurped by the desire to wallow in this unintelligible language, and Kafkaesque imagery. Some may find it difficult to see how watching a lecture on Quantum non-locality could possibly be play, but to me having Philip Ball on my lap – a toy dog in one hand, a toy rabbit in the other – is akin to being a child again, lying tucked up in bed while my mother reads One Thousand and One Arabian Nights to my sisters, my brother, and me.
I’ll return to Hardy to help answer the question of what it is to be imaginative. He says: ‘Having imagination means you’re mentally and emotionally flexible,’ that you can ‘see beyond what is currently in front of you.’ And he expands thus: ‘Being imaginative about your future means you believe you can do and be things that others can’t see.’ I’ll attempt to unpack this a bit: to be imaginative about my future means I believe, a) I can earn a living from my writing, even though the figures – which are what others will see – show that’s pretty rare; b) I can be the best possible wife to D, regardless of the divorce rate and, c) I can contribute to world eudaimonia, which most people would view as being utopian, a term rarely used as a compliment. It also means I can see myself doing and being these things.*
He’s saying that in order to believe your goals are possible you have to be able to imagine what your life will look/feel/smell/taste/sound like when you reach them. And you certainly need to be able to imagine yourself in the process of achieving them. Step by step. It’s about creating new solutions to old problems. Testing. Tasting. Trying. And thinking of every setback as a chance to learn. He mentions Carol Dweck, and says she has produced some of the most important research in psychology over the past fifty years. So I googled her.
Her area of expertise is learning. She’s my new favourite person. Basically, she teaches how to teach based on the concept of ‘not yet.’ By which I mean, she exhorts educators, parents, and anyone who’s interested in learning and teaching to focus not on grades, conventional notions of intelligence, and the now. But to understand that learning is a process. If a kid doesn’t get the grades s/he, or more likely her/his parents, want, s/he should be praised for trying and told that by trying s/he is increasing her/his brain’s capacity. We should look on learning as a challenge, a problem to be solved by doing and making mistakes. We are all capable of making new neural connections and, thus, increasing our level of intelligence. This concept she calls a ‘growth mindset.’ If we have a growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed mindset – whereby we believe we have a fixed level of intelligence, so are either born clever or not so much – we look on failing as an opportunity to do better next time, an opportunity to solve the problem and grow. This takes imagination: a mind that’s open and active. But it starts with a simple belief.
I’m pretty sure no one will ever invite me to Cern to help analyse data from the LHC, but I’m equally sure that by watching lectures about quantum physics I will absorb the language. As a writer language, and how it’s used, is my thing. I love it. Maybe one day, long after I’ve moved on from physics to, say, geology, while staying in a bothy on Ulva, I’ll watch D going off for a day’s fishing, open my laptop and write a story about a sparticle and a neutrino dancing on an event horizon; I can already imagine it being accepted by the New Yorker!
*I’m still working on this part.
Header image also from Pinterest.