By Alex Mathers
When was the last time you labeled something without understanding it?
Judged something as one thing when you didn’t know what it meant?
I know I’ve done it.
Given that we can never fully understand anything, in theory, we do it all the time.
I label; we all label. It is a human need to label things because it allows us to communicate vague concepts and it helps us make decisions.
Understood. Labelling has its uses.
A lot of us, however, do work that requires us to see things from different perspectives — to make new connections; to be creative.
Labelling puts things into boxes and kills creativity.
The ability to express ourselves fluidly and with colour comes from the recognition that things have multiple meanings — to see that there is ‘no spoon’ — no label.
If I want to stand out and have better ideas, I know I need to go against my default mode — which is to judge quickly.
Too often we think we know it all.
To nurture an open, and therefore more creative mind — one that is capable of cultivating compelling ideas, I am working on observing more.
When I was at school, I was often found on the periphery, watching others with fascination. But after I while, I was criticised, labeled boring, odd, and quiet.
For a long time, I rejected the act of observing, associating it with the shame I felt. But I have since rediscovered its importance.
I try to do it more, but it is a challenge to have it feature as a mindset all day long.
The next best thing is to set aside time to observe: people walking and talking; the birds, the weather; plant life, and the way the light changes (and not behind a screen!).
Notice when you judge quickly. When you do, gently replace with observing.
An extra benefit is that if you are self-conscious, observation takes you out of your head. It is calming.
I suppose this is all a form of meditation, but you are acknowledging the richness of the world around you and allowing it to teach you.
Doing this attaches a subtle stigma. You are weird if you observe because it’s what most people rarely do.
But as James Broughton said, “follow your own weird.” There is power in observation.
To see the world for what it is.
This is the truest source of wisdom.