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Why you need a fresh perspective and how to get one

5 minute read

By Micah Yongo

“The key to creative recycling is to look at a discarded item with fresh eyes and try to find its hidden potential.”

These are the words of Val Hunt, an artist, although not your everyday kind. For the last 20 years she’s been producing bespoke pieces and wearable items from out of discarded rubbish, using everything from scraps of old clothing to beer cans to create award-winning installations that have toured the world, reaching as far away as Japan and America.

Her collections have become permanent additions at several art galleries and her work is displayed at numerous group exhibitions each year. In short, she has quite literally turned recycling into an art form.

What’s interesting is how she identifies the key to her talent; namely — perspective. To her, the possibilities for the materials she uses are not defined by their quality, but rather her view of them, her willingness to look at them with “fresh eyes”.

Which gets you thinking.

The power of perspective

In 1961, essayist and author Anaïs Nin wrote an autobiographical novel titled Seduction of the Minotaur, in which she included the following:

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

She was quoting from the words of Rabbi Samuel ben Nahman, as recorded in a Talmudic tractate, but the saying is one that’s found currency in psychology circles.

In 1890, The Popular Science Monthly included an article by GTW Patrick titled The psychology of prejudice, in which he wrote:

“We see the world not as it is, but as moulded by the individual peculiarities of our minds.”

It’s a phenomenon academics today refer to as cognitive bias – a catch-all term to describe the various ways our judgement can be skewed or limited by habitual ways of thinking. Or, as the psychologists call it , heuristics, i.e., unconscious mental shortcuts that our brains use to provide swift estimates about uncertain circumstances (Baumeister & Bushman, 2010, p141).

In short, we make assumptions  – based on past learning and experiences – without knowing it, and these assumptions often stop us from recognising what’s true and progressing toward new possibilities.

Val Hunt’s suggestion is that it’s her ability to bypass her own prejudices and assumptions, to see the world as new, that provides the key to her creativity.

This means her art is more than decorative – it’s a challenge; one that asks the question, what if we could see things as they truly are? Not just discarded materials, but also experiences, people, our potential, and even our approach to work.

New aims, fresh habits

We've been taught to believe we must work harder and longer to get the best from ourselves, yet science shows this isn't true.

We don't achieve better results or even get more done by working harder and longer, but rather through working smarter.

But what exactly does this 'smart' approach look like? How and why does it work?

To learn the answers you'll need to take a fresh look with an open mind at how you work. After all, it's only by stepping beyond old habits that you'll be able to accomplish new aims.

So, what habits might you be holding on to that you'd be better letting go of?

What ways of working do you have that may be holding you back?

Learning to ask and answer these kinds of questions is a big part of building the enriching and productive work-life you need.

That's what this edition of the Academy is all about.

What Next?