In education, we have focused on the three R’s of reading, ‘riting’ and ‘rithmetic’ – which are all very useful skills. But they can set up a pattern for the brain to learn things in a very fixed way. And it’s probably still true today that we value those skills most in education – and perhaps even in the world of work.
I remember the Ken Robinson TED talk from 2006 where he said that Creativity now is as important as Literacy – and should be given the same status.
Surely, the wish of all parents for their children is that education should be about helping them become humans that make a positive contribution to society, to have confidence in life, to solve a wide variety of problems, and to be happy, for this we always look for the best cities in the world to live and get the best education for us and our children. Sometimes it seems that education does almost everything BUT these things.
In my view, there are three other R’s I believe we should be paying as much, if not more, attention to.
Reflection – where we look inward and access our own (infinite) wisdom to think fresh, new thoughts. Without reflection, without being relatively ‘quiet inside’, there is a tendency to get fixed about pretty much everything.
Many people find ‘unknown’ a little scarey – so it can feel more safe and familiar to come to closure on pretty much everything. To know what you think about everything. This is the death of curiosity – why be curious when you already know everything? I’m sure we’ve all come across people like this – whose certainty allows for no doubt. Where every ‘crack’ in their thought-generated carapace of certainty is hastily covered over, so that new light can’t come in and disturb the status quo.
When we have this ‘fixed’ thinking, we start to believe that our thoughts are our identity. And, as that happens, the brain has a natural tendency to imprison us in this false belief that our thoughts and feelings are who we are. Our creativity is imprisoned as well, because creativity emerges from novelty.
Neuroscience used to believe that our brains stopped developing after childhood. We now know that’s not true – and that certain factors help us to keep on growing our brains – for example, exercise. And novelty – throughout the life span. It seems that our minds really are like a parachute – they work best when they’re open.
Relationship – Reflection does something else too, in my experience. It stimulates our compassion for others (and ourselves). As people grow in consciousness, they seem to get kinder – perhaps because there is less ego in play – and more curiosity. So, it makes sense that this will lead to improved relationships – our capacity to connect with others in a deep, compassionate and kind way.
Resilience – So, perhaps what Reflection does is to liberate our creativity, promote compassion, keep the brain growing – and in many ways develops the third R which is Resilience. We bounce back faster and more easily.
They all go hand in hand.
And when we are skilled in these 3 R’s, we seem to open up in all sorts of ways.
Creativity and Compassion are healthy for the brains.
New behaviours become possible. New learning is almost guaranteed. New ideas seem to come from nowhere. In some spiritual traditions, it’s called “Hanging out in the Unknown”.
And there’s a freedom and spaciousness – a vast intelligence – an intensively ALIVE state of mind. This is to do with seeing Life more like it really is – rather than through a narrow and fixed aperture, and it seems to me that this is the true source of creativity.