By Robert Fritz
The mind can be like a very smart dog. When the dog is bored, it looks for something to busy itself, chewing the furniture, barking at cars, getting into the trash. The dog doesn't really mean to be bad, it is just trying to find something to do.
And your mind, left to its own devises, will try to busy itself too. It will obsess about problems, theorize about mysteries, speculate about what could have happened that didn't, ponder about how what did happen shouldn't have, and on and on it goes. Why does the mind do this?
The mind is seeking equilibrium, in other words, the resolution to all tension, the answer to all mysterious questions, and the ability to change disturbing facts. If you've ever woken up in the middle of the night consumed by worries, fears of the unknown, what you should have said rather than what you did say, how you might avoid this or that, your mind is bored and is looking for something interesting to do.
You haven't chosen to spend the night awake, yet on its own your mind is deciding to deliberate, consider, reflect, ruminate, and run itself ragged. Your nocturnal disruption is unwanted, uninvited, and unannounced. You find yourself in the middle of it, and you don't know how you've gotten there.
Most people do not think to discipline their minds. So the mind spends its time free-associating, flittering from one idea, image, thought, memory, picture, word, phrase, notion, to another. What else can it do with such little direction?
Some people try to discipline the mind by feeding it lies. They don't call it lies, though. They call it positive thinking. They think they can fool the mind into cooperation by telling it that good things will happen. Yet the mind has this bad habit of discerning reality even beyond the person's normal perception. It knows the fact, which is: we don't know what will happen in the future. To insist that we will succeed is seen by the mind as a trick, because the mind knows that the only time you can say for sure that something is possible is once it is done.
The mind is creative. But creativity that is not directed can lead to folly. And the notion that freeing the mind from judgment will evoke a wealth of new ideas, an idea promoted by many people in the "creativity" movement, but hardly ever used by consummate professional creators in the arts and sciences, simply teaches the mind that it's okay to be random, unfocused, and undisciplined. Imagine if we were to teach the dog to do whatever it wanted to do. We might be cleaning up after it everywhere in the house.
But we can give the mind the most productive and powerful job there is: structural tension. We decide on an outcome we want to create, and we are conscious of the current reality we have in relationship to that outcome. Some people think structural tension is a metaphor. It is anything but a metaphor, it is a structural dynamic. The mind wants to resolve tension so that it can establish equilibrium. Structural tension is the strategic creation of a useful state of non-equilibrium. Like an archer stretching the bow, aiming the arrow, structural tension positions us to better achieve our goals.
There are no tricks here. Just a clear idea of what we want to create, and an accurate view of what we have in reality. These two data points demand a certain precision. You need to manage your mind's attention. If you don't, your mind will wander around, gravitating to problems, circumstances, fear of the unknown, personal ideals of how you should behave, speculations, and freely changing the subject from what you actually want to create, and how you might best create it, to irrelevant foolishness it will take seriously.
Once you have established structural tension, your mind will help you create the process by which you can achieve your vision. What motivates this true creativity is the mind's quest for resolution of tension. What we have done is give it what it wants, and nice tension for it to work on.
©2009 Robert Fritz