“Keeping up with the Joneses” is actually an ancient notion. Humans are wired to compare ourselves to others and, as a result, we suffer a sense of restlessness about our lives. How do we know that the ancients wrestled with these same feelings of inadequacy? They had philosophies for conquering them. Back then, the greatest source of satisfaction and influence came from achieving spontaneity.
Cognitive scientist Edward Slingerland combines neuroscience and ancient Chinese philosophies in his latest book Trying Not to Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity. For Big Think Mentor, Slingerland shares insights into how Confucianism, Taoism, and other philosophies dealt with physiological responses that could lead to undesirable urges and behaviors. Achieving wisdom meant giving off an irresistible aura that made others want to be around you and take your lead.
“When you’re in a state of spontaneity,” explains Slingerland, “you give off this charisma that people find appealing. The early Chinese have a theological explanation, a religious explanation for this. But I think from a naturalistic scientific perspective it makes sense that human beings are attracted to people who are not showing signs of conscious effort.”
It’s evident in everyday life: sweating through a job interview, bumbling through a presentation, and coming on too strong during a first date, guaranteeing there won’t be a second one. Slingerland points to the painful example of the single person who tries too hard to meet his or her match, repelling everyone; when the person finally learns to let go and achieve greater spontaneity they enter a flow state and give off an irresistible energy, creating the classic problem of "when it rains, it pours."
In this five part workshop from Big Think Mentor, Slingerland walks you through the various philosophies and examples of how they apply to common situations, from managing a team to attracting desired prospects.
For a limited time only, Big Think is publishing a free trial of our popular mentor program. This excerpt from our exclusive interview series with Slingerland will be available through May 7, 2014 only. To learn more about Big Think Mentor and access workshops by leading thinkers, subscribe here.
Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.
- Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
- At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
- Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
We take fewer mental pictures per second.
- Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
- In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
- The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
It's not just a case of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
- A new study suggests children who endure trauma grow up to be adults with more empathy than others.
- The effect is not universal, however. Only one kind of empathy was greatly effected.
- The study may lead to further investigations into how people cope with trauma and lead to new ways to help victims bounce back.
It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?
- Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
- Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
- Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.