We grow up and immediately our minds try to make sense of the chaotic and busy world around us.
We learn to speak, walk, eat, clean, and carry ourselves from those around us. If our environment promotes joy and curiosity, we learn through those means. Or if we’re constantly surrounded by fear and anger, we learn that those are the primary drivers of the world. Our world; the world we wake up to every day and fall asleep from every night.
Then when we enter school we are placed into an environment where that process of learning is pushed to an extreme. We are told that history teaches us most of everything we’ll ever need to know. Taught that there is a right answer for every question, and that if we want to succeed we must simply learn the answers. This plus this equals that. That is a fact and this is not. Fiction is versus non-fiction. Entertainment is a waste of time, study hard and whatever you do: don’t throw away your limited life on painting useless pictures or writing meaningless words.
The emphasis on how to live well—happily and healthy—becomes efficiency. Don’t waste any of your time, don’t rattle too many cages, don’t ask too many questions.
A result of this approach to education, when each of us are at our most vital stage of growth in life, is a lack of confidence; in our ability to approach new or strange situations with the certainty that we can survive. Or a lack of confidence that we can solve any problem, or change the future, or invent a different life for ourselves no matter the odds. We are led to believe that we must use the hand we’ve been given and to try and reshuffle the deck is futile. We are taught that life is as it’s always been, and that’s just the way the world works.
One of the biggest blocks to creative thinking many face today is the force-fed belief that the best life is an efficient and safe one. Or that the life you must life is the one you’ve always known.
Too afraid of failure, of the unknown, of stumbling, keeps so many of us from being able to see the world from a perspective even slightly outside of what we’ve always known. Is it any surprise the majority of people—at least here in the United States—never move away from their home town? Or really all that far from mommy?
Here’s the thing: the world is as big or as small as you want it to be.
You can keep your eyes narrowly focused on everything in front of you, believing that things cannot or will not change. Or you can look up once in a while, see that the world is vast, wildly exiting, full of possibilities, and that you—like so many who have come before you—can shape it, can change it. Steve Jobs was absolutely right when he said that the world was made up by people no smarter than you. How else do you think things got this way?
To enlarge our lives we must unlearn what we’ve been mislead into believing about the world around us and the way it works. We must bump up against our edges by traveling, conversing with strangers, taking things apart for the sake of putting them back together again, taking calculated risks, learning to build things, and constantly asking questions. We need to believe that we can do these things. We need to merely look out and see the countless others who have already done wondrous things simply by trying to do them.
We’d be well to remember that before the Earth was round it was widely believed to be flat. If you dared to go too close to the horizon, you’d fall right off the edge. If you had lived thousands of years ago you’d likely believed that! Just because we know the world isn’t flat today doesn’t mean we aren’t as blind to other false beliefs. But the only way to know what we are blindly believing is to go to the edge, to be an explorer within whatever boundaries—big or small—we want to exist in.
Your world is as big or as small as you want it to be.