In previous lessons, we used tools from William JJ Gordon’s book, Synectics, for thinking creatively to improve. Specifically, we addressed how to think differently by making what’s familiar, strange. Doing this helped us think creatively so we could take new actions to challenge the status quo.

In this lesson we’ll take an opposite approach. Instead of making the familiar strange, we’ll investigate how to make the strange familiar. This approach uses our analytical intelligence. We figure out the fundamentals of the problem, make some concrete assumptions, and frame the problem within the context of what we already know. This forces the strangeness into familiar patterns so we can begin seeking solutions.

We begin by picking something strange; a problem we want to solve. We know that harder climbs we want to achieve are stressful, yet we resist stress. This problem is strange because it seems obvious that we should accept stress if we know harder climbs are stressful.

We begin making the strange familiar by identifying what’s fundamental about the problem: we naturally move toward comfort and move away from stress. It’s a natural, universal law; we’re moved toward what’s easiest. Next, we make some concrete assumptions about the problem that help us identify familiar patterns and frame them within the context of what we already know.

We assume that we identify the path of least resistance when we think about our climbing plan; we seek the most efficient way to climb. This seems like a familiar pattern. However, when we engage stressful climbing, we tend to be inefficient. We tend to rush through stressful climbing as we climb toward the next rest stance. We may be climbing along the path of least resistance, but we’re over-gripping, breathing shallowly, and tense.

We gain some familiarity with the problem through this analyzing process. It reveals that our motivation impacts how we execute our climbing plans; we rush. From this insight, we can begin solving the problem by investigating ways to change or shift our motivation.

One method we could use to solve the problem is shifting how we’re motivated. Instead of being motivated by comfort we shift toward being motivated by stress. Let’s consider how this would manifest itself in climbing. If we’re motivated by stress, then we wouldn’t look for the most efficient way to climb. We’d seek to make sequences as hard as possible so they’re more stressful. So, being motivated by stress doesn’t solve our problem. It gets us engaged in stressful climbs, which initiates action, but then we seek the hardest way to climb once we’re engaged.

Instead, we could solve the problem by continuing to be motivated by comfort, but change how we seek comfort. Instead of seeking comfort only at rest stances, we could seek comfort while we’re climbing between them. We focus on being as comfortable as possible in the midst of stressful climbing. Doing this helps us find efficient ways to move, seeking comfort by focusing on breathing, relaxing, and moving efficiently. This solves the problem. We accept the stress of harder climbing, rather than resist it.

The problem manifested itself because we had an end result motivation: getting to the next rest stance. Shifting our motivation from end results to processes solved the problem, while still staying aligned with the natural law of seeking comfort. We made something strange familiar by analyzing it. This framed the problem within the context of what we already knew and helped us find the solution of shifting our motivation to processes.

We can gain additional insights when we look at this problem within a larger context. We tend to be motivated toward being comfortable in all aspects of our lives. If we don’t have goals, then we’ll constantly seek what’s easiest now, drifting through life with no direction. Setting goals gives our lives direction. They help motivate us toward achieving them. But, if we’re not aware, we can resist stress that’s associated with achieving goals. We can rush toward achievement, forgetting to be present for the struggle. By shifting our motivation toward processes, we seek comfort in the present stress, not only at the future achievement. This helps us enjoy the learning and growth that comes from stress. Goals help us know where we’re going; shifting our motivation toward processes helps us enjoy the struggle along the way.

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