3 min read.Updated: 01 Sep 2021, 10:41 AM ISTPavan Soni
In today’s digital age, two of the scarcest endowments we are left with are empathy and creativity
There is never a bad time to terminate some old habits and pick new ones, even if temporarily. The growing presence of technology around us and our growing dependence on it only indicates that going forward we will have to justify our presence more than ever. If it were about physical labour, memory power or sheer intelligence, machines have long overtaken us. Two of the scarcest endowments we are left with are empathy and creativity—empathy to understand the unstated and creativity to imagine the impossible. Neither creativity nor empathy is enough to bring about a lasting change. It is their combination that creates an impact. Remember, creativity without empathy is a false start, and empathy without creativity is a dead end.
Like any other skill, the abilities of being creative and empathetic can be enhanced. It calls for being mindful, disciplined and honest to the larger purpose.
As a parent, leader, spouse or an entrepreneur, you need to understand complex situations with ease and solve them elegantly and creatively, while taking others along with you. That’s something technology hasn’t learnt yet.
Here are some other ways by which you can stay ahead of others and machines, and create a richer life.
Press the play button
One of the best questions to ask someone to gauge a person’s creativity is “who all are you", in the sense, how many affiliations does the person have. Is she an amateur singer, or a piano player, or learning coding while doing a full-time job? Or, is she just doing a 9-to-5 job and nothing else?
The one able to pack life with multiple activities, done with a serious amount of intent, is by design more creative than one with a unidimensional life. Hobbies are great ways to expose oneself to different people, situations and challenges, and offer self-confidence, new perspectives and empathy.
In Originals: How Non-Conformists Move The World, Adam Grant argues that Nobel prize winners in physics, chemistry and medicine were at least 20% more likely to have serious artistic hobbies, like writing short stories, singing or playing musical instruments, as compared to their peers.
Joining hobby clubs is not just for the children but also for adults, and there is a plethora of options available across cities and towns. Any money and time spent picking up a new hobby offers a richer dividend than that spent on doing the familiar.
Try to ignore stuff
In today’s hyper-connected world, we are constantly distracted. Creativity calls for long periods of uninterrupted attention.
One is almost supposed to “sleep with the problem" to be able to crack it. Similarly, for generating empathy, one needs to engage with the context and the subject to be able to appreciate the unarticulated.
Since we all have finite cognitive capacities and emotional repertoire, the key is to cut down on stuff to be able to focus on fewer things at a time. Every once in a while you must press the delete button. Delete some long-standing and unquestioned habits that have lost relevance, and even relationships which are not adding much cerebral or emotional value. Remember, every tie costs. Learn to ignore information, situations or, even, individuals whom you can’t meaningfully learn from or influence.
Give listening a chance
The three skills we are losing rapidly as a generation are reading, writing and listening, and this has serious long-term consequences. Listening is core to empathy and creativity because you don’t just listen to the words but go deep and understand the meaning to be able to truly appreciate the intent.
Interestingly, whenever somebody thinks of communication skills, it’s the image of speaking and not of listening that conjures up in mind.
Here are three practices you can imbibe to become a better listener. Firstly, park your judgements to as much extent and for as long as possible. Our judgements, biases and patterns of thinking are essential to our survival and offer cognitive efficiencies. They are, however, highly detrimental in both changing our understanding about something or somebody and generating ingenious solutions for thorny problems.
Secondly, follow the rule of 1:5, which is that for every single word you speak listen to five and for every single minute you talk listen for five minutes. Lastly, resist the temptation to answer every question, or respond to every situation, or be the expert. It’s okay to let it be.
Basically, break the patterns that have served you well all this while. Human brain loves patterns and it is difficult to break those, as they often define who we are. But remember, you need to break the pattern before the pattern breaks you by making you fragile.
Pavan Soni is the founder of Inflexion Point, an innovation and strategy consultancy.
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