The mind of a child is a place where reality and fantasy are intertwined in a never-ending dance with the world of the fantastic taking the lead.
The word fantasy is used to describe pure and free uninhibited imagination. Many would simply say that this day dreaming, whimsical state of mind is due to "over active imagination".
While they would be mostly correct in their assumptions, the way in which they’ve come to perceive "over active imaginations" is wrong.
The Inner Workings of A Structured Mind
Something I've discovered along my journey of research and understanding, is that perception is a decision that even as adults, we are unaware of making.
Our perception of the world around us has become structured to fit the views and opinions of those around us. We are taught to color inside of the lines, think a certain and structured way about the aspects and details of ourselves and of others.
We’ve been in a way, programmed, to devote our time and energy to living a life inside of a box governed by many rules that ultimately come to shape how we perceive the world in which we exist.
When we really think about it, one would arrive at the conclusion that we as adults don't actually control our own thoughts and decisions.
It's the hive of society that does our thinking for us. Since children come into this world free of such structure, they don't immediately play by those same rules.
The reason we as adults view an "over active imagination" as a negative is because we we're taught to do so in order to fit into a category of behavior and way of thinking that society considers normal, understandable and predictable.
The question that arises is that if we are all born different and unique, this meaning I am me, and you are you, how can any of us actually be considered "normal".
The answer is we really can't. Not at first anyway.
The only way a normal state of mind can be established in society is to severely limit or cease the thing that spawns unlimited free individual thought. This "thing" that we are making the unconscious choice to restrict and oppress that separates us from the herd is our creativity.
Creativity and Intelligence
Creativity is what gives us the ability to adapt. To “think outside the box”. It's the mark of true intelligence.
Creativity is what allows for adaption, innovation, problem solving, understanding, empathy and so much more in relation to the positive growth of an individual.
Take that away and you just have a world where individualism is bred out in childhood and everyone strives to be the same or "normal" instead of being themselves. Something like a colony or hive mentality.
Since children are at the age where they haven't been indoctrinated within the construct of society long enough to conform to this hive mentality, they are free to be their most expressed and truest selves.
That is until we as parents embed into them our very structured perception of what the world, society and they themselves should be.
Before we force our children into the world we live in, they exist in a world where everything is new. A world where anything is possible and if something doesn't seem possible, they exist in a world where with some imagination and action, it can be.
At the request of NASA's Deputy Director; Dr. Georgeland and colleagues developed a highly specialized test for NASA to administer inside in order to identify the most creative employees.
The reason they needed to identify their most creative employees is so that they could be placed on teams tasked with the challenge of solving NASA's toughest problems.
After seeing such positive results from this simple little test, they decided to apply this test to children to see if they could understand and determine where actual creativity comes from. They selected around 1600 children around the age of five years old and began administering the test.
This special test focused on the ability to look at a problem and come up with new innovative ideas and solutions. The results were incredible. Over 98% of the children tested were determined to be creative geniuses.
Astounded by the results, they decided to turn the test into a longitudinal study and re-tested those same children five years later.
This time around, the results were crushing. Only 30% of those same students still registered as creative geniuses. They extended the test another 5 years and re-tested the young teenagers once more.
This time only 12% of the teens registered as creative geniuses. The results of these test became so depressing that the teachers who administered the test opted their students out of the study.
That once vibrant and wide spread spark of genius creativity had been slowly suffocated into a not so common gift. This study shows a very clear correlation between the student’s grade levels, their exposure to the structure of a school curriculum and societal conformity.
A Lesson from Our Neighbors
Across the UK, elementary level educational institutions are scrapping rigid curriculum's and are instead focusing on creating conformity and stress-free environments for early education and development.
They focus instead on encouraging and challenging the children to be their most creative. Finland has taken the spotlight for it’s semi structure-less early education programs. Already Norway is seeing an influx of highly positive results. It might be time for the U.S. to learn a thing or two from our European neighbors.
A World of Pure Imagination
Try to imagine what we could do together as a society if we could all carry that same amount of powerful creativity or "over active imagination” into adulthood and couple it with the knowledge we gain as we mature.
We would be able to understand and apply the knowledge of math, science, literature, and the other arts in an entirely new and different way.
Now imagine if we applied that imagination and experience toward the progress of society.
Can you imagine what kind of world we could create? Genius creativity has become a detrimental commodity around the world as the search for these conformity free, structurally uninhibited wonder minds grows in intensity as the nations of the world seek out fresh innovation to offer unconventional solutions for a growing spectrum of unyielding problems.
Thanks to Dr. Georgeland and colleagues, we may finally be able to see that the solution we seek is much closer to home than we could have ever thought.
“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.”
~Edward de Bono
The reason I chose to include the quote above is because it’s truth and relevance to this particular subject couldn’t be any more apt.
As parents, it’s crucial that we begin to recognize the ways in which we are unconsciously dimming the light that enables our children to be the amazing gifts they are to not only us, but to entire the world.
We casually take for granted our children’s creativity as we push them to peruse the behaviors of societal normality, structure and the same mental conformity that buried the gifts we ourselves once possessed.
Instead of encouraging our children to be "normal", we should be encouraging them to be their already wonderfully exceptional selves.
Energy flows where the focus goes. If we focus on moving out of the way of their individual growth, we might be able to allow them to create something that will take our breath away.
Try to be patient and supportive of your child’s expression of self, and try providing them with a variety of creative outlets.
Allow them to be who they are. You never know, you might be dealing with a young creative genius. Let’s encourage our children’s greatness. We are the ones who create our own limits.
Maybe it’s time to venture beyond the limits that we’ve created.