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A Whimsical Video Game That Boosts Your Creative Confidence By {re}Framing Writing As A Problem-Solving Puzzle …*

A Whimsical Video Game That Boosts Your Creative Confidence By {re}Framing Writing As A Problem-Solving Puzzle ...* | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

I’ve previously featured an intriguing take on a “chance meeting” between video games and philosophy —Greg Edward’s 8-Bit Philosophy series--but today’s project, Dejobaan Games‘s Elegy For A Dead World, looks specifically at what might result from combining writing with video games. Elegy is an experimental online game in which, “you explore long dead civilizations inspired by British Romance-Era poems, and write about them.”

In Elegy for a Dead World, you travel to distant planets and create stories about the people who once lived there.

Three portals have opened to uncharted worlds. Earth has sent a team of explorers to investigate them, but after an accident, you are the sole survivor. Your mission remains the same: survey these worlds and write the only accounts of them that outsiders will ever know.

The game is out now on Windows, Mac, and Linux on Steam.

What I particularly love about this game is its mission to help everyone write –

“We created Elegy so that everyone can write. As you explore, the game helps you create the narrative.”

All too often, people shy away from creative pursuits because of the skewed beliefs they hold about their own creativity. They’ve been told in school, by peers or adults that they are not creative, that they’re not good writers, painters or photographers. This fixed mindset take on creative pursuits is terribly limiting and is based on a core belief that creativity is a set, static and predetermined capacity that only some possess. Yet, writing, like all creative pursuits, is not about waiting to be struck by the muse. Sure, inspiration is important in the creative process but even that is something that can be cultivated. What Elegy does is reframe the act of writing from being accessible only to the very few who experience bouts of seemingly inexplicable inspiration, to a form of problem-solving game.

Each world offers multiple sets of prompts, each intended to inspire you to write a different story about it. Elegy might ask you to write a short story about an individual’s final days, a song about resignation, or a poem about war. In the more advanced levels, you’ll sometimes get new information halfway through your story which casts a new light on things and forces you to take your story in a different direction. We like to think of those as puzzles — writing yourself out of a corner, so to speak.

play, write & rethink . . . * 

 Hat tip: Experimental Game Turns Players into Poets and Writers

The Visual Case for a Growth Mindset – Striking Demonstration of How Intelligence Grows Just Like A Physical Muscle …*

The Visual Case for a Growth Mindset - Striking Demonstration of How Intelligence Grows Just Like A Physical Muscle ...*

“Your intelligence can actually be changed. What we’ve learned, what researchers have taught us, is that our brains are actually a lot like a muscle. We know that you can grow your muscles by going into the gym and doing exercise and straining your muscles. You don’t just work on things that are easy for your muscles to do, you do things that your muscles have to struggle with, that your muscles have to strain with and then they rebuild themselves and they come back stronger. By struggling, it’s a signal to your body to devote more resources to that part of the body. And we see that exact same thing with the brain. “

Growth mindset, as you likely know by now, is the belief that intelligence, personality, and any number of other cognitive or emotional capacities–think creativity, empathy, optimism, etc.– are not fixed but learnable, and growable with effort and practice over time.

The idea that emotional and cognitive capacities function much like physical muscles that become stronger and better developed through effort over time is a common analogy pervading the field of psychology. Numerous studies looking at a vast range of capacities support the idea that these strengths are indeed dynamic and learnable. If you want a good starting point to review some of the research, I highly recommend Carol Dweck‘s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. But if you want a quick and very powerful way to drive home for yourself the validity of a growth mindset, watch the video from Khan Academy embedded below.

“The big takeaway from this whole area of research is you absolutely can change your intelligence, that your brain is like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets. And that the best way to grow it, isn’t to do things that are easy for you, that might help a little bit, but what really helps your brain is when you struggle with things. And actually, research shows that you grow the most not when you get a question right, but when you get a question wrong. […] research tells us: when you get something wrong, when you challenge your brain, when you review why you got it wrong, when you really process that feedback, that’s when your brain grows the most and that if you keep doing that, you’re well on your way to having a stronger more able, and I guess you could say, smarter brain.”

reframe adversity as growth & flourish …* 

#MOMA100Days Project – A Bite-Sized Way to Play Creatively & Be Part of a Community That Celebrates Process …*

#MOMA100Days Project - A Bite-Sized Way to Play Creatively & Be Part of a Community That Celebrates Process ...* | rethinked.org  - Illustration by Elle Luna

Illustration by Elle Luna

“Anyone who is hungry to jump-start their creative practice, who is curious about being part of a community that celebrates process, and those who are busy with work and family commitments, but searching for a bite-sized way to play creatively.” – Elle Luna 

Does that sound like you? If so, you should consider participating in MOMA’s 100 Days project, which kicks off April 6th. The MOMA 100 Days project requires you to commit to performing a creative act of your choosing every day for 100 days. You then must photograph each of your creations and share them with the hashtag #MOMA100Days and another hashtag of your choosing so that your personal project can be viewed all in one place.

Here is how the endlessly fantastic Elle Luna describes the inspiration for the project to Tina Essmaker of The Great Discontent:

 A year ago, a group of us launched a social media version of a grad school project conceived by Michael Bierut, a prolific, talented designer, writer, and teacher. For years, he led graduate graphic design students at the Yale School of Art in a workshop that he called “The 100 Day Project.” The premise for Michael Bierut’s class was simple: each student chose one action to repeat every day for 100 days. For example, one student made a poster in under a minute every day for 100 days; another danced in public every day and made a video; another student, Rachel Berger, picked a paint chip out of a bag and responded to it in writing for 100 days.

Basically, if you can dream it, you can do it. The only premise? Participants have to do the same action every day for 100 days, and they have to document every instance of 100. Sounds totally cool, right? That’s what I thought when I first read about this project on Design Observer. Not only were the projects clever, but they also offered an opportunity to grow in one of the ways my friends and I were craving: discipline. The great surrender is the process; showing up day after day is the goal. For the 100-Day Project, it’s not about fetishizing finished products—it’s about the process.

A hundred days! I can recall the questions that raced through my mind before I decided to jump in: Can I handle it? Will I push through when my schedule is jammed? Will I share even when I can’t resolve a piece? Will I show up every day, even when it hurts—especially when it hurts? A group of us banded together and decided to share our projects on Instagram, tagging images with #the100dayproject. People of all ages joined in, and there was something very empowering about the accountability of doing the project alongside other people in a very public way via Instagram.

Source: Elle Luna: 100 DayProject + MoMA via The Great Discontent

What will you commit to creating for 100 days? Let us know …* 

#MOMA100Days Project - A Bite-Sized Way to Play Creatively & Be Part of a Community That Celebrates Process ...* | rethinked.org  - Illustration by Elle Luna

Illustration by Elle Luna

{ The Wisdom of the Simple Act } Activate Your Bias For Action Each Morning By Making Your Bed …*

As I noted in my post last Friday, I have decided to make 2015 a year of action. In that same post, I explored how Integrative Thinking can help create a strategic framework for focusing our actions and clarifying our playing field. Positive Psychology also has much to offer in terms of insights about doing–the importance of grit and cultivating a growth mindset, for example. Wanting to explore the three main tools of my rethinked*annex project, I started thinking about how I might harness Design Thinking to help me grow my bias for action muscle. I reflected on the design process and focused in on the common practice of looking at analogous situations when trying to properly frame and solve a challenge. Which is how I ended up watching a video of Naval Adm. William H. McRaven’s 2014 commencement speech at the University of Texas at Austin. In his speech, McRaven translates what he learned while completing training for the U.S. Navy SEALs to broader lessons for positively changing the world. I was intrigued by the first lesson, what McRaven calls the ‘wisdom of the simple task’–

“It was a simple task, mundane at best, but every morning, we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that we were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle-hardened SEALs. But the wisdom of the simple act has been proven to me many times over. If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. And by the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter–if you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made; that you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.” 

I’ve decided to test out the wisdom of the simple act for myself and have committed to making my bed every morning (yes, I’ll admit, I never make it otherwise–cue a recent article about the link between messiness and creativity). I made it this morning and did feel a small mental boost and eagerness to keep getting things done. Whether that’s from actually making my bed, or due to some sort of placebo effect because I anticipated that the act of making it would make me want to keep my action ‘cascade’ going, I do not know. I’ll see if I still find the act motivating in a month.

On a related note, in my search for finding ways to translate tools, mindsets and practices from analogous situations to my particular challenge–becoming better at executing–I’ve discovered Mark Divine. Divine is a retired U.S. Navy SEAL Commander and has built a number of businesses around translating the training and mindset of the SEALs to help civilians enhance and develop their leadership and performance levels. I’m currently reading his latest book, The Way of the Seal: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed, and I’ve signed up for the trial version of his Unbeatable Mind online training course. I’ll share more about Divine’s tools and ideas in a later post, for now, you can check out McRaven’s commencement speech below.

make your bed, & rethink …*

{ A News Source With A Bias For Inspiration …* } Not Impossible Now- Inspiring Content That Compels Action

{ A News Source With A Bias For Inspiration ...* } Not Impossible Now- Inspiring Content That Compels Action | rethinked.org

Screen Shot from Not Impossible Now Homepage

 

I hadn’t yet made it out of my bed this morning when I found out about the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Tragically, this is not an isolated event–every day brings more news of war, famine, disease, violence, corruption and hatred. This relentless deluge of horrific news each and every day is heartbreaking, outrageous and can often contribute to a sense of hopelessness. What can I, as an individual, do to affect change in the face of such wicked problems? Which challenge(s) do I focus on when there are so many that need to be addressed so urgently? Where and how do I start? It is sometimes easier to give in to the demotivation of so much bad news and let “action fatigue” take over.

Which is where Not Impossible Now comes in–By finding and telling compelling stories about real people in which old tech is repurposed and new tech is brought within reach, Not Impossible creates a cycle where collaboration inspires innovation, and our content compels you to action.

On Not Impossible Now you will be greeted with articles titled How A Lamp Powered By Gravity Can Improve the Health of MillionsNew App Helps Children With Autism Improve Eye Contact, Smart Skin Could Help People With Prosthetics Regain Sense of Touch,  Need a New Knee? Try 3D. It just keeps going with the awesome news about the innovative ways in which people are harnessing technology in the service of humanity and the positive impact they are creating.

While nobody can do everything, everybody can do something, so we crowdsource our solutions to real-world problems. Suddenly, yesterday’s pipe dreams are Not Impossible Now!

By helping one person we can all inspire others to do the same – it’s our “Help One Help Many” philosophy and it breaks down barriers, enabling greater access to all in need.

I absolutely love this idea, which, unsurprisingly, comes from the fabulous Not Impossible team. I’ve made it my homepage so that each day, before finding out about all the bad news, I can get a shot of inspiration and engage my bias for action.

Discover, be inspired & act …*

Carol Dweck on Helping Kids Move From the Tyranny of Now Into the Power of Yet …*

In this short TEDx talk, psychologist Carol Dweck gives an overview of her research on the power of mindset to facilitate or hinder children’s capacity to connect with and activate their potential. The ways in which children frame and cope with challenges and difficulties have enormous implications on their ability to thrive. Students with a fixed mindset are prisoners to the tyranny of the now, believing that each challenge is a reflection of a fixed level of a given capacity–be it intelligence, creativity or athleticism. Meanwhile, students with a growth mindset luxuriate in the power of yet, understanding that each new challenge is an opportunity to learn something new and to practice and refine skills. Dweck shares some tips and strategies for helping students move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset–praising process rather than intelligence to help students redefine things like effort and difficulty, for example.

watch & rethink …* 

“Design is never finished but constantly adapting to a world in flux” – How Do You Define Design?

"Design is never finished but constantly adapting to a world in flux" - How Do You Define Design?  | rethinked.org

“Design is making. Design is thinking with your hands. Design is arranging the world around us to ensure the functioning and well-being of our communities. Design is the inherent human capability of understanding a challenge and its context followed by the instinctive act of rapid, iterative trial and error until a solution is found. Design is having trust in your intuition to take non-linear creative leaps in order to beat habit. Design is never finished but constantly adapting to a world in flux.” –  Matthias Reichwald

I’m always interested in hearing how people define design and I quite liked the definition above, which I found yesterday while reading an article on Design Indaba. What do you think?

How do you define design? 

Source: What Design Thinking Can Do For Africa via Design Indaba

{ Generosity Is A Habit, Not An Achievement } Reflecting on Service to Others this Giving Tuesday …*

{ Generosity Is A Habit, Not An Achievement } Reflecting on Service to Others this Giving Tuesday ...* | rethinked.org

{ ARE YOU CELEBRATING GIVING TUESDAY?

Today is “Giving Tuesday,” which is an attempt to create a new tradition of generosity through a global day of giving back after the consumption frenzy of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

It’s a simple idea. Just find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to come together to give something more. 

What I find most promising about Giving Tuesday is the opportunity it creates for us to reflect on generosity in our lives and which will, hopefully, prompt us to translate this awareness into ongoing action.

{ WHAT ARE SOME CONCRETE EXAMPLES OF ACTIONS DEMONSTRATING YOUR SERVICE TO OTHERS ?

Several months ago while piloting a tool that we are creating to help knowmads be more reflective about their experiences and learning, I was asked to give concrete examples of actions demonstrating my service to others. I’m ashamed to admit that I could not think of a single action to write down. This moment has stayed with me because it clashed rather brutally with this idea I have of myself as a fairly generous person.

{ GENEROSITY IS A HABIT NOT AN ACHIEVEMENT

The thing is, I have volunteered–in orphanages, women’s shelters, soup kitchens and language learning centers; I donate money to the various causes my friends are engaged in. This should all add up to something; I mean it all makes me generous–right? Well, no, not really. When I tried to identify examples of concrete ACTIONS that demonstrated my service to others, I realized the last time I had actually given anything in a way that I might qualify as “service to others” –as in given of my time in a consistent and meaningful manner over a significant length of time–was seven years ago, when in 2007, I volunteered twice a week at a women’s shelter. But generosity is a habit, not an achievement. I can’t trade on the service I performed nearly a decade ago to label myself as generous. It’s a bit like those awkward encounters you sometimes have with people you meet at parties who describe themselves as writers or artists but who never write or paint anything. Being generous, like being a writer or an artist, is about doing the work, putting in the hours, week after week, months after months, year after year. If you’re not giving, you’re not generous.

{ HOW MIGHT I MAKE SERVICE TO OTHERS A REGULAR HABIT? 

So today, in honor of Giving Tuesday, I’ve donated to an inspiring grassroots project which I recently read about and that, at the time, I told myself I would like to donate to “someday” —Survivors Ink. The project helps survivors of human trafficking who have been branded by their traffickers to reclaim their lives and bodies by providing funds to cover up the markings on their body. I hope you will check it out, spread the word, and maybe consider donating yourself.

I am also pledging three days of my work time to service (thank you, rethinked …*) as well as two full weekends. If you know of a good non-profit or grassroots project that could benefit from my help, please email me at elsa@rethinked.org.

Beyond a one time financial donation and pledging a week of my time, I want to make generosity and service to others a regular habit in my life. Rethinked.org regulars, you know what’s coming … a design thinking challenge–How might I make service to others a regular habit in my every day? Get in touch [ again, elsa@rethinked.org ] if you would like to collaborate on this challenge.

reflect, rethink & give …* 

{ Creativity & Happiness } An Overview of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience …*

{ Creativity & Happiness } An Overview of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience ...* | rethinked.org

Screen Shot from Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi’s 2004 TED talk – Flow: The Secret to Happiness

 

As I’m nearing the end of the Positive Psychology cycle of the rethinked*annex project, I have decided to include two additional ideas–flow and growth mindset–before moving on to the next and final cycle. Because the meaningful happy life is so deeply dependent on the successful and recurring deployment of one’s signature strengths in as many of life’s arenas as possible, I have decided to turn to Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi‘s concept of flow for some additional guidance on how to nurture and cultivate my pursuit of what Seligman terms, “the gratifications.” And because the nurturing and deployment of strengths and skills can be so radically improved by the cultivation of a growth mindset, I have decided to reread Carol Dweck‘s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. I’ll share a couple more interventions to experiment with based on these two ideas in the coming weeks.

For now, I invite you to watch Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi’s TED Talk – Flow, the secret to happiness, in which he gives some context to his research around the core question of “what makes life worth living?” and gives an overview of the flow experience.

What If Instead of Prioritizing the Relief of Suffering We Also Focused On the Understanding & Building of Happiness?

In times of trouble, does the understanding and alleviating of suffering trump the understanding and building of happiness? I think not. People who are impoverished, depressed, or suicidal care about much more than just the relief of their suffering. These persons care–sometimes desperately–about virtue, about purpose, about integrity, and about meaning.” -Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness

I am currently in the discovery phase of the Positive Psychology cycle of my rethinked*annex project–reading the books and getting a deeper sense of the discipline. There is a lot of information to unpack, so this is the first of several posts in the coming week about what exactly Positive Psychology is, how it came to be, and what type of impact it might provide. I am deeply excited by the potential of an empirical science that attempts to help us thrive and live meaningful, joyful and fulfilling lives. Positive Psychology was made even more special once I discovered that it started as a wonderful “what if?” and as a challenge to the status quo. In his book, Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman walks his readers through his thought process leading up to his founding Positive Psychology as an official field of study in 1998. Noting that “psychology has badly neglected the positive side of life” and that, “For every one hundred journal articles on sadness, there is just one on happiness,” he decided to do something about it.

{ QUESTIONING THE STATUS QUO } 

THE PROBLEM – 

For the last half century psychology has been consumed with a single topic only–mental illness–and has done fairly well with it. Psychologists can now measure such once fuzzy concepts as depression, schizophrenia, and alcoholism with considerable precision. We now know a good deal about how these troubles develop across the life span, and about their genetics, their biochemistry, and their psychological causes. Best of all, we have learned how to relieve these disorders. By my last count, fourteen out of the several dozen major illnesses could be effectively treated (and two of them cured) with medication and specific forms of psychotherapy. But this progress has come at a high cost. Relieving the states that make life miserable, it seems has made building the states that make life worth living less of a priority. But people want more than just to correct their weaknesses. They want lives imbued with meaning, and not just to fidget until they die. Lying awake at night, you probably ponder, as I have, how to go from plus two to plus seven in your life, not just how to go from minus five to minus three and feel a little less miserable day by day. 

THE SOLUTION – 

My most grandiose aim […] is to correct the imbalance by propelling the field of psychology into supplementing its hard-won knowledge about suffering and mental illness with a great deal more knowledge about positive emotion, as well as about personal strengths and virtues.

{ DEFINITION } 

So what exactly is positive psychology? Seligman defines it thus:

Positive psychology has three pillars: First is the study of positive emotions. Second is the study of the positive traits, foremost among them the strengths and virtues, but also the “abilities” such as intelligence and athleticism. Third is the study of the positive institutions, such as democracy, strong families and free inquiry that support the virtues, which in turn support the positive emotions.

I will unpack and get into more details about how Seligman classifies positive emotions, positive traits and positive institutions in next week’s post.

{ REFLACTION } 

This week, I am beginning Tal Ben-Shahar’s Even Happier: A Gratitude Journal For Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, which is the companion workbook/playbook to Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment and which is a way to put into practice some of the findings and insights from Positive Psychology:

Engaging in reflection and action –what I have called “ReflAction”–brings theory to life. I have adopted the practice of reflaction in my academic classes and public workshops, and I recommend that all teachers and students in any field who are concerned with real learning do the same. 

What a splendid term reflaction is, and it so brilliantly captures what I am attempting to do through the rethinked*annex project. The playbook is divided into 52 chapters, one for each week, and grouped around various themes (see my picture of the table of contents below.) This week’s theme is “Being Grateful.”

Ben-Shahar starts by giving a brief overview of the findings of Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough’s studies on gratitude, which demonstrated that “putting aside a minute or two every day to express gratitude for one’s life has far-reaching consequences:”

Compared with the control group, the grateful group not only became more appreciative of life in general but also enjoyed higher levels of well-being and positive emotions: they felt happier, more determined, more energetic, and more optimistic. They were also more generous and more likely to offer support to others. Finally, those who expressed gratitude also slept better, exercised more, and experienced fewer symptoms of physical illness. 

He then recommends a daily gratitude exercise to be completed every day:

Each day this week, write down at least five things for which you are grateful. The key when doing this exercise is to remain mindful, not to take this exercise for granted. One way of remaining mindful is by visualizing or reexperiencing whatever it is that you are writing down. For example, as you write down “parents,” see them in your imagination; if you write down “conversation with partner,” try to reexperience the same feelings you had while conversing with your partner. 

What If Instead of Prioritizing the Relief of Suffering We Also Focused On the Understanding & Building of Happiness? | rethinked.org

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