Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Socializing And Goofing Around Are Natural Manifestations Of Thinking

"The Thinker," Auguste Rodin

We've all experienced the phenomenon of genius in the stairwell, that flash of brilliance that comes to us when it's a little too late. It's that moment when we realize what we should have said in the job interview. It's when the perfect zinger comes to us after we've already hung up the phone. It's that flash of genius that we experience when we're no longer focused on the matter at hand. 

One of the odd things about thinking is that very often the worst way to come up with a solution is to focus on the problem. It's why it's sometimes best to just go for a walk or take a shower. It's why we need to clear our minds or take a break. We tend to think of thinking as something we do consciously, in the spirit and posture of Auguste Rodin's The Thinker that I've used to illustrate this post. But in reality, most thinking, or rather deep thinking, doesn't usually work that way. We tend not to be at our best when we're furrowing our brows over things, but rather when our minds are in a relaxed or distracted state. Indeed, like with genius in the stairwell, our best ideas are often, when we tell ourselves the truth, the product of our unconscious minds.

When presented with a problem or challenge that our conscious mind cannot easily solve, we have two choices. 

The first is to invite other people to discuss it with us. Neuroscientists tell us that the "window of consciousness," that time during which we can hold a thought or work out a problem, tends to be open on average for roughly seven seconds. The exception is when we are in dialog. In dialog we can sometimes keep the window open for hours on end.

Our second option when dealing with a problem or challenge is to do something else, anything else, just so long as it has nothing to do with the task at hand. Another way to say that is to go play: do anything that relaxes and distracts the mind in order to free our unconscious mind to do the work of genius in the stairwell.

Again, the most difficult way to solve a problem or address a challenge is to sit down and break our brains over it.

The problem is that this is exactly what normal schools expect children to do: spend large chunks of their days in silent, solitary pondering in the misguided and unsupported belief that this is how thinking happens. Indeed, the behaviors that are most likely to get young children in trouble with their teachers are socializing and goofing around, which are, contrary to our school-ish myths, natural manifestations of thinking. And thinking, I hope, is our goal.

Children are born knowing how to learn. That's why, when left to their own devices, they talk and play.


Registration for this course was meant to close on Saturday, but due to the holiday weekend many of you requested a couple more days, so we've extended enrollment until Thursday (9/7). In other words, it's not too late! If you're interested in learning more about how the language we use with children impacts not just our relationships with them, but also their entire learning environment, please consider registering for my 6-week course The Technology of Speaking With Children So They Can Think. Join the 2023 cohort as we examine how the language we use with children creates reality. We will explore how the way we speak with children becomes an environment in which cooperation and peacefulness are the norm, where children take the initiative, solve their own problems, and, most importantly, think for themselves. Click here for more information and to register.

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