Minds Set Free — A Bigger Picture

We’re all in the same boat. Born with the capacity to learn, but not knowing how, much less what, to learn.

We build on the information, knowledge, and understanding passed along by those who came before us. And call it progress … even when it isn’t. But this description is pretty vague. Let’s dig in a bit.

Imagine having to think up, formulate, test out, and formalize, the rules of mathematics right from the get-go. This kind of re-inventing of the wheel by every single child is hard to wrap the head around, isn't it?

Working out the rules and methods of math and science has already been done for us. Both are still evolving. Additions go into the collective thought-pot. And a very big pot it’s become. But the basics needed for everyday living are picked up by most, one way or another.

That we can just “cut-in-line” and use these ready-made tools is really neat. But not all of our antecedents’ ideas were quite so well thought out. And more than a few of these “flops” are still with us today.

The Shape of Things That Could Have Been

It’s typical for people to drive cars to get around in many areas of the world.

But imagine if the people who came up with cars in the first place had somehow been able to visit in the here and now. Once they witnessed the outcomes of the inventions they we’re set on producing, how would they then view their ideas? The daily human carnage on the highways? The wide-spread and ever-worsening environmental damage? The incredible consumption levels of non-renewable resources?

The time-travelling inventors might have stopped dead in their tracks. It’s also possible far, far better transportation methods would have come to be.

But that didn’t happen, and the car, along with all of it’s unsustainable downsides, is firmly entrenched.

So how do we get out of this mess of a rut?

Thinking Bigger Starts Small

The pain in your foot tells you you’ve stepped on something hard. There’s no sense in clearing the path of rocks if the rock is in your shoe. Naturally, you check for this first.

Dependence on cars may seem too big of a rock in the road to tackle, but this is secondary. The unnoticed equivalent of rocks in the decision-making process have to be picked out and chucked first.

I can decide to toss my candy-wrapper in the ditch.

I can decide to put it in my pocket until I can dispose of it properly.

I can imagine what kind of candy-wrapper disaster there would be if over seven billion people just tossed them on the ground.

As ridiculously over-simplified as this example sounds, the math works. And at the effort-level, it also works. I burn the same calories whether I decide to toss, or to hang on to, the candy-wrapper.

Even though the reality-check is in the numbers, it’s typical to view the ideas of one individual as too small to have any effect. But now imagine if any one individual discusses an idea with as few as two other people, then they each discuss the idea with two more people. It’s obvious if this pattern continues, the original idea will be in the minds of many, many people in pretty short order.

Sure, lots of people will have already come up with similar ideas, but this adds strength. A few will have improvements to add, too. The spread continues.

And remember — new people are born every minute of every day. They’ll “cut-in-line” as we have, but for some concepts, it’s essential to learn from scratch. There’s far more to be gained with repeats than with silence.

Motivation — Our Right to Decide for Ourselves

But how do we get people to do this? We don’t. We’re each free to make our own decisions. We’re also free to act on, and speak of, the ideas we come up with by remembering to look at the bigger picture.

We make decisions as individuals. By sharing the ideas behind the decision-making, we each encourage and add to a cumulative outcome.

It isn’t as though this way of thinking and sharing information just appeared. It’s been pointed out many times, using all kinds of examples:

One less light bulb per person. One less candy-wrapper on the ground. One liter less gas used per day per person. One more bicycle, bus or walking trip per person. Multiplied by even fifty per cent of any country’s population — countries well off enough to have use beyond need, of course — makes for quick conservation.

If it’s this easy, why don’t things change faster than they have? Have a look at what’s missing. The usual chit-chat just doesn't get the potential of the exponential growth across. And the most important part — that each individual’s decision is essential to success — doesn't even make it into the picture.

For simple decisions, understanding the process, rather than just hearing about possible outcomes, enlarges the view enough to maintain the required momentum.

But what about more complicated situations in need of better outcomes?

Not So Sure

What we aren’t accustomed to doing or thinking about, is often assumed to be difficult. But, if I’m unfamiliar, how can I decide whether I’m up against difficulty, simplicity, practicality, complexity, chaos, or any other condition? Here the decision is plain: until I know better what I’m dealing with, I skip deciding altogether.

The idea that it would be too difficult to replace cars is fairly common. It isn't known at this point how the car might eventually be replaced with viable transport, or what it would take to make it happen. The unknown is written off as too difficult, before anyone has a clue whether it is or it isn't. And the same faulty decision-making process throws a spanner into fixing many other ruts we've acquired via past decisions.

But this is sure:

The more individuals thinking about alternatives in a big picture way, the more likely highly viable alternatives will come to mind. And it only takes one person seeing enough of the bigger picture to kick-start the exploration of any one, or many, potential alternatives.

Not So Fast — An Essential Investment for a Better Future

The tools of math and science are needed to quantify and qualify potential alternatives. Used exactingly, they allow us to determine the actual viability and sustainability of alternatives.

The lousy outcomes reached by not taking the time to thoroughly examine new ideas before flying straight to the launch pad are piling up. None of us need their constant interference with human progress and environmental integrity.

And next generations deserve the opportunity to progress without the hindrances created by small-picture decision-making.

Every individual counts. One carefully thought out idea from one person, like the proverbial candle, can light-up many more without being diminished in any way.

Everything needed to recognize and reach the best of outcomes are in good supply.

It’s not a matter of mind-sets. It’s a matter of minds set free.

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Like to read more? Colleen Ryer blogs about evolving ideas and more @ gomindshine.com