Taraka, the demon king, was Lord Indra’s most dangerous enemy. Only a son from Lord Shiva could kill the demon. But Shiva had no desire to father a child.
Indra commissioned his apsaras (nymphs) and Kamadeva to seduce Shiva. But all they succeeded in doing was angering Shiva. He opened his third eye and reduced Kamadeva to ash.
Then Lord Vishnu reached out to the Goddess. She didn’t approach Shiva as a damsel, but as a devotee named Kamakshi. Impressed by Her devotion, Shiva married Her and they produced Kartikeya, who went on to kill Taraka.
Indra’s short-sightedness limited his vision. He believed that only way to get any male to do his “bidding” was to seduce him through his legion of apsaras. And it’s rare that someone is short-sighted about just one thing (even if they’re gods). Indra beliefs that landed him in trouble over and over again.
Lord Vishnu didn’t see the world through a single lens. In fact, He was (is) exceptional at adapting to circumstances, discovering novel solutions, and bringing out the best in people.
That’s why Vishnu sits above Indra in the hierarchy. It’s why he’s a God while Indra is a god.
The ability to see things differently helps us generate ideas that are novel and useful. It helps us identify opportunities in problems, simplify complicated things, and do much more. This isn’t just useful at the workplace, but in our personal lives as well.
No wonder it’s a sought-after metacognitive skill.
Yet, many people harbor a common misconception that this ability is limited to exceptional, gifted, destiny-kissed people.
You possess it too, though adhering to the status quo for far too long might have suppressed it to. All you need to do is to rekindle this ability.
Here are steps you can take to set the wheels of creativity in motion and getting better at connecting dots and seeing things differently.
1. Do what you love.
“Passion won’t protect you against setbacks, but it will ensure that no failure is ever final.” — Bill Strickland
The debate between loving what you do and doing what you love has raged since forever.
Conventional wisdom teaches us to love what we do and remain content. But our hearts keep tugging in the direction of doing what we love.
Following the age-old advice of loving what you do will keep you safe to an extent. But it won’t keep you happy or make you resilient in the face of adversity.
Doing what you love will make you keep going when the novelty wears off. It’ll make you persevere when you feel like giving up. You’ll enjoy the journey rather than living a mundane life in hope that the destination is worth it.
Identify one thing you feel you were “made for,” and spend thirty minutes each day doing it. Work on it behind closed doors if you don’t want the world to see it. Go to bed thinking you’ve done something wonderful.
This will make you feel happier and in better control of your life. And research shows that positive moods enhance creative insights.
2. Open up to new experiences.
The big five personality traits — Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism (or OCEAN)—dictate how we respond to situations.
Among them, openness—our fondness to learn new things and enjoy new experiences—best predicts our ability to think divergently.
Exposing ourselves to new experiences helps us connect the dots in two ways.
First, our brain breaks down the thoughts we absorb and puts them on shelves. When new information flows in, the brain runs an internal search to see whether it fits with previously stored information. When it finds a match, the previous memories combine with the new one(s).
Such “examples from history” combine with “presence of mind,” where the brain is relaxed to lead to flashes of insight. Such a flash led Bernard Sadow to invent the rolling suitcase when he saw a worker rolling a heavy machine on a wheeled skid at the airport while Sadow was hauling his luggage.
Second, new experiences create a diversion, which is integral to the process of generating insights. You take a break from the problem to work on something else. At some point, the diversion itself gets interrupted by an “Aha!” moment that introduces the solution.
Meet different people. Watch TED videos of unrelated fields. Learn new skills. When you get stuck, take a break to do something else that stretches your mind.
You’ll be surprised with the number of creative solutions that pop up in your head out of nowhere.
3. Do less.
“Much of what we do is a waste of time. If we ignored or stopped doing them, our lives would be simpler and results would vastly improve.” — Jim Collins
It’s important to expose ourselves to new experiences. But if we’re not careful, we could fall into the trap of doing much of what’s not useful.
A field needs fertilizers and rest to produce good harvest. Likewise, our minds need good mental food and rest to harvest useful and novel ideas.
This is why we need to shift our perspective from being busy to being productive. The former is about doing more at the expense of making no progress. The latter is about doing more of what matters and making meaningful progress.
Make a don’t-do list that helps you reduce (or eliminate) tasks that don’t contribute to your goals.
Working with intent is the biggest differentiator between a mediocre life and a good (or a great) one. The way to build this intent is to go in the opposite direction of doing more: to cut back.
4. Stop worrying about others.
“Never waste time on things you can’t change or the opinions other people have of you.” — Carmine Gallo
The biggest deterrent to creativity is our fear of failure, which stems from the fact that we care about our image more than our our achievements.
When we make a mistake or don’t succeed at a task, we work hard to justify ourselves in hope that our image doesn’t take a beating.
Eventually, we believe our excuses and make them a deep part of us. We offer rational advice to others on overcoming challenges. But when we get similar advice, we offer “valid” reasons for not being able to achieve it.
Worrying about your image tunnels your view and turns you into just brick in the wall.
But you’re not. You’re unique. You can make a difference. You can be anything you want.
So ask questions. Discover answers. Don’t let being wrong faze you. You’ll eventually be right. Then the people criticizing you will declare how they never stopped believing in you.
“By looking at only one place, you miss everything in all the other places! Look everywhere to see everything!” — Mehmet Murat ildan
Life is terribly boring if you look at it through a single lens. But seen through multiple perspectives, it’s filled with wonder and beauty. And each of us is blessed with the creativity to discover this beauty.
Seeing things differently doesn’t take much. Just rekindle your childlike curiosity. Do more of what you love, open yourself to new experiences, and stop worrying about your image.