On becoming an artist

587f5da779b28ba04910ec3cca64c92bEven if I want to, the time is not always available for reading as much as I`d like to, so I still haven`t finished this little pearl, but I`ve read enough to warmly recommend it to others. The author is psychologist Ellen J. Langer, and the theme is how to live you`r life fully by using mindfulness in everyday life. I`ve studied mindfulness with interest, but sometimes feel that even if I know the

principles, it can be hard to explain how to use it in practice. This book doesn`t beat around the bush, it states simply that we have to abandon our adherence to rules so that we don`t risk becoming lead in the wrong direction. On page 13, for example, she uses an experiment to illustrate the point: One group is told that a new object IS a dog`s chew toy, and the other that it MIGHT be a dog`s chew toy. Then the real experiment began: The group was told that unfortunately there was something wrong with the form, but they didn`t have more paper to print out new variants. It should stand least instead of most. The group with the instruction that it MIGHT be a dog`s chew were more likely to try the object out, to see if it could be used as an eraser. This shows elegantly how it`s possible to be more creative if you turn off the notion of how something should be.

3ff1a1c50659a3a3645fae8861639a29She also presents a solution to how we might turn off our tendency to look at things a certain way. If we always try to do something new in every situation, we are forced to move our focus out of our heads and into the world. This is known as the difference between top-down and bottom-up. Maybe that`s why children find it so exciting with new things, because the feeling of making connections between the dots, gives us satisfaction. She talks about the Balinese people, who are good at living their lives. They do things because they want to, and not because of some end-result. The dangerous thing when we do something out of routine, is that we turn off our minds, and that becomes boring. When we do something new, it feels better, and we can in fact make a lot of things new, by just adding details in some way.

The author gives a lot of examples from her own life as an artist, and from experiments, to show that just doing something because we expect a certain outcome, makes it less fun. She also say that people notice at once when we try to be something we`re not, that it doesn`t work to “be” like someone else. People respond to authenticity, that`s why you can suddenly find a lecturer interesting even if you thought the subject was boring.

She recommends trying to do everyday things, like eating lunch, talking with people or learning something, in a different way, every time. With instructions to ourselves like: This time I will just do something slightly different, and see if others notice. This instruction makes us more “on”, we are IN the world, not just operating like robots. She gives an example of people playing in an orchestra, who are given two different instructions: One group shall practice how they normally do, and one group that they had to find small ways to make the piece a little more new to them. Afterwards they were given questionnaires, and the result was that the group who tried to practice and put something slightly different in their routine, found it much more enjoyable. Moreover, people listening to the same piece of music, found the “mindful” group more engaging.

The rest of the book is about the same theme, and she also shows how we easily get caught in a rut that we follow without thinking. Some of the things stopping us, is being afraid of not being good enough. The problem is that we use a standard made from a group of people, but that doesn`t mean that you are “wrong” if you don`t do it that way. Little children don`t care if the sun with some pencil lines going out, doesn`t look like the sun, because the fun things is to TRY to paint it.

There are generally a lot of lovely examples in the book, that demonstrate that we will get more free and feel more alive when we realize we are allowed to do as we like, whatever that might be. First then will we have the chance to become unique and feel fulfilled


2 thoughts on “On becoming an artist

    On becoming an artist | MirrorGirl said:
    April 10, 2013 at 10:58

    […] On becoming an artist […]

    Still not giving in | Free psychology said:
    July 5, 2013 at 11:26

    […] On becoming an artist […]

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