In class last week, we did an exercise in which we each brought an object in, placed it anywhere around the room, and then we had to walk around the room and give different names to each object. For example, I brought in my Polaroid camera, and you’d have to walk up to it, point at it, and say, “This is a piece of toast,” or “This is a doorknob.” The more random and unrelated the better.
Quick psychology lesson: This exercise was supposed to tell us that we automatically get fixated on what objects are supposed to do, which is called, “functional fixedness.” Basically we only think of an object as the way we believe it’s normally used. For example, we see coffee and think of it as a delicious caffeinated beverage, when we could also use it as a medium for art (ever seen those sketches that use coffee as paint? Amazing).
So to continue the psych lesson: In my textbook reading and in today’s class, we discussed convergent and divergent thinking. Convergent thinking is systematic and logical, step-by-step, much like making a recipe or solving an algebra problem the way your teacher taught you. Divergent thinking, on the other hand, is more spontaneous. It takes unexpected twists and turns, stopping along the way and redirecting like a train that enters the station and decides to go a different route.
What does this have to do with my life? Well, for starters, I renamed the jar of glitter that sits on my desk. It’s no longer called “Glitter,” as the label formerly stated. I tore off that label and slapped a different one on that reads, “Stress Tears.”
I worry too much and stress myself out even more than I worry. I think a lot of people do these days, or at least in my college bubble. But stress can be a good thing, and I have to remember that there isn’t always just one solution to everything. When I stress out, it’s usually because I’m no confident in my ability to solve the problem at hand. But the truth is that I’ve never faced a problem that I truly can’t solve (with the notable exception of parking tickets), because I can think divergently. So the glitter (stress tear) jar now sits on my desk as a reminder that when I cry stress tears, I’m really crying glitter, because I can take my fear and worry and turn both into something that sparkles.
There you have it. A jar of glitter is no longer a jar of glitter (functional fixedness) and my problems are no longer problems, but situations that have more than one solution– and I’m more than capable of coming up with a glittery one (divergent thinking).
Now we’ll see if I can use divergent thinking to get out of the 3 parking tickets I just received for forgetting to move my car.