The scope of your mind defines the latitude of your thoughts. The scope of your mind determines the effortlessness of your creative output.
But how vast is the scope of your mind? And how can you be sure that you are not unconsciously limiting yours?
You might be at a disadvantage. Our educational systems and the demands of the job market reward just the opposite of mental scope. The onus is on finding quick solutions, making incremental improvements with a preference for incrementalism. The general attitude is: as long as it looks familiar and lessens immediate pressures it is good.
This is the credo of mediocrity: good because it’s good enough, or if a bad solution is the only solution it’s a good solution.
We can’t deny the mixed messages.
It’s not just about thinking in the box versus thinking outside of it. Anyone can think outside of the box, there are formulas, again boxes, for that.
The collection of internalized boundaries you impose upon the freedom of your thoughts sets the scope of your mind. In general, these boundaries are made of generalization, the thinking styles we limit ourselves to, and the compulsive emotional needs such as that for certainty however tenuous.
Some symptoms of restricted scope are more obvious than others. Among the more obvious is the consideration of ideas only in so far as they fit the few conclusions and schema on a person’s mind. Or the inability to withstand extended periods of uncertainty which is relieved by filling the gap as quickly as possible with the next best semi-plausible rationalization.
Operating with a small mental scope makes us impose the constraints of our mental maps upon the things we observe. Ultimately making what we observe merely a variation of what we expect. The need for certainty stimulates an urge to satisfy itself at all costs which usually leads to blatant self-delusion.
The need to immediately extract utility from an idea, or to match it with the demands of external pressures, settles the mind into a claustrophobic groove that seeks emotional pleasure at the cost of creative intellect.
A feeble emotional constitution leads to a boxed intellect because the thoughts are unconsciously driven by the desire to prevent emotional uncertainty. The emotional component of creativity is rarely considered, yet it’s the most critical factor. Your emotions precede your thoughts, even if it doesn’t feel that way. And the degree to which you are unaware of that is the degree to which they will motivate your reasoning.
The size of your mental scope defines the depth of your explorations. We might have deadlines or ideal outcomes on our mind, but these must be suspended for epiphanous insights to emerge. There is a difference between scanning for familiarity among ideas and thinking with originality.
And naming every incremental improvement innovation is exactly the kind of delusion I’m speaking of.
While we can all make the decision not to let our thinking be restricted by conventions and to loosen the rigid expectations we place on the parameters of our conclusions, what is necessary is something else.
To increase our mental scope we have to develop intellectual courage. But its development is not confined to the intellect. Intellectual courage, by its definition, seeks to dismantle the integrity of the intellect to strengthen it beyond itself. The end result is of course a bigger intellect, to again, dismantle.
And the best way to do that is by aiming your efforts at the source of intellectual cowardice: your emotional well-being. By learning how to withstand periods of intellectual, which is really emotional, discomfort and uncertainty and learning to find comfort there, you are making the expansion of scope a default tendency.
The natural tendency we find is the opposite. A stifling fear of the unknown borne by an even bigger fear to be wrong, and an aversion to mental intensity. Not effort, intensity.
In every moment of your life, you’re scanning the world for conclusions with your repertoire of justifications. In every instance of your thoughts, even right now, you are thinking along lines and within boundaries you tacitly obey. When was the last time you questioned and subsumed them?
The simple awareness of your mental boundaries will quite naturally challenge your scope to expand naturally.
And once you can find the emotional playfulness to find comfort in uncertainty and persevere under it, you will make the expansion of your mental scope as unconscious a habit as your breath.