Seeing Things Anew

“Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought.” – Jonathan Swift

This reminds me of an oft-quoted line: when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Both are excellent reminders that our perceptions and ways of seeing things are habits (that we take on). Our brain makes sense of the world by assuming things, by deciding what something is and filing that away for later reference. When we encounter that ‘thing’ again, we don’t parse it yet again, we first see if it matches a pattern in our memory, if it does (sufficiently . . . ), then we think we know what it is. This quick, and automatic, process serves us much of the time. But not always.

When we encounter a door, with a knob, we know what to do. When the door has a flat plate on its edge, or a handle, or a horizontal bar, we know what to do. This is how this perceptual short-cuts serves us.

What about about new situations though, that merely resemble past memories? What then? We are bound to — if we’re on “auto-pilot” — assume we understand the person, or the situation, when we really do not. This is where our mental short-cuts don’t serve us. This is where we need increased awareness and willingness to look at things with an open mind.

Where can you look at things with new eyes, with an open mind? What can you look upon and see what others have not?

Scroll to Top