A leading neuroscientist who has spent decades studying creativity shares her research on where genius comes from, whether it is dependent on high IQ - and why it is so often accompanied by mental illness.
While many studies have focused on how mindfulness meditation affects newcomers to the practice, a new study out of the University of Pittsburgh examined the brains of long-time meditators specifically when they were not meditating.
Kenneth Mikkelsen's insight:
MRI scans show that after an eight-week course of mindfulness practice, the brain’s 'fight or flight' center, the amygdala, appears to shrink. This primal region of the brain, associated with fear and emotion, is involved in the initiation of the body’s response to stress. As the amygdala shrinks, the pre-frontal cortex – associated with higher order brain functions such as awareness, concentration and decision-making – becomes thicker.
Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi asks, "What makes a life worth living?" Noting that money cannot make us happy, he looks to those who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about a state of "flow.
Kenneth Mikkelsen's insight:
Time disappears. You forget yourself. You feel part of something larger.
Are you still searching for a job you love, so you will never have to work a day in your life? While an ego-driven career may result in success, staying true to yourself means listening to your calling.
You know, the whole thing about perfectionism. The perfectionism is very dangerous, because of course if your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything. Because doing anything results in– It’s actually kind of tragic because it means you sacrifice how gorgeous and perfect it is in your head for what it really is.
David McCandless turns complex data sets into beautiful, simple diagrams that tease out unseen patterns and connections. Good design, he suggests, is the best way to navigate information glut - and it may just change the way we see the world.
Have you ever felt terrible about missing a deadline, only to find yourself continuing to procrastinate further afterwards, despite the guilt? Next thing you know, you’ve blown a few more milestones, and even though you’re trying like hell to get things back on track, you just can’t seem to make it work. You constantly feel like you’re behind.
Before he began Apple, Steve Jobs spent seven months in India, something that is described in his biography by Walter Isaacson. In it, Jobs talks poetically about the difference between intellect and intuition.
“The people in the Indian countryside do not use their intellect like we do,” he said. “They use their intuition instead, and their intuition is far more developed than in the rest of the world. Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect in my opinion.”
Jobs was not a fan of India. If he identified intuition as the one Indian thing that he wanted to emulate, that is worth considering. There are a few Sanskrit words for intuition: pratibha being the most common one. Developing intuition, discernment (or viveka) and wisdom (vijnana) have been Indian preoccupations for centuries.
Different cultures are obsessed with different things at different stages in their evolution. Japan, for instance, is obsessed with refinement and perfectionism. Singapore is obsessed with systems. China, with scale. The US, with innovation. Ancient Indians were obsessed with self-cultivation; to figure out “how God thinks”, as Albert Einstein said.
In a quote attributed to Einstein, he said:
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
Notice that this scientist used the word sacred - proving that the rational and the intuitive are not as disconnected as we make them out to be.
Kenneth Mikkelsen's insight:
Excellent article from Live Mint/Wall Street Journal about how to hone your intuitive powers. A recommended read.
Documentary which takes viewers on a rollercoaster ride through the wonderful world of statistics to explore the remarkable power they have to change our understanding of the world, presented by superstar boffin Professor Hans Rosling, whose eye-opening, mind-expanding and funny online lectures have made him an international internet legend.
The benefits of mindfulness, or being fully conscious and aware of one’s actions and surroundings, have been well documented by psychological scientists. Advantages include decreased risk of burnout at work, improved mental health, and smarter decision-making, according to recent studies. Now, researchers are turning their attention to a potential new connection: mindfulness and creativity.
A new study from Harvard University reveals that the message parents mean to send children about the value of empathy is being drowned out by the message we actually send: that we value achievement and happiness above all else.
In today’s networked society we are at risk of becoming victims of information overload. Introspection and reflection have become lost arts as the temptation to ‘just finish this’ or ‘find out that’ is often too great to resist. But working harder is not necessarily working smarter. In fact slacking off and setting aside regular periods of ‘doing nothing’ may be the best thing we can do to induce states of mind that nurture our imagination and improve our mental health.
In a recent paper titled “Ode to Positive Constructive Daydreaming,” published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, writer Rebecca McMillan and NYU cognitive psychologist Scott Kaufman, author of Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, revisit Yale psychologist Jerome L. Singer's work to deliver new insights into how the first style of Singer’s mind-wandering, rather than robbing us of happiness, plays an essential, empowering role in daily life and creativity.
Much of modern creativity advice focuses on “getting your work out there” and networking with others.
In this talk, Sarah Lewis speaks to the importance of the private domain. Many of the greats, such as Susan Sontag, Albert Einstein, or Maya Angelou, made sure they carved out a special time and place for their craft. “Putting something out in the world,” says Lewis, “requires a temporary removal from it.”
Creativity author Michael Michalko examines the work ethic of artist Vincent van Gogh. He persistently labored on his craft every single day; creating over 2000 sketches and paintings within a decade. He understood that improving your skills through hard work furthered your ability more than having talent and not employing it.