William James has been quoted as saying, “Genius…means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an inhabitual way.”
In his beautiful little book, Words to Live By, Eknath Easwaren writes, “Attention is very much like a searchlight, and it should be mounted in such a way that it can be trained on any subject freely. When we are caught up in some compulsion, this searchlight has become stuck. After many years of being stuck like this, it is hard to believe that the light can turn. We think that the compulsion has become a permanent part of our personality. But gradually, we can learn to work our attention loose.” (p. 15)
I love these insights into what truly makes genius. When we are focused only on thinking in one way, looking only from one perspective, standing only in our own shoes, and considering life from within the confines of a particular belief system, our creative and innovative abilities become more and more stifled. We create the same things over and over, only have one basic set of opinions, and only know how to do things the same way we have done them in the past.
Yet if we are willing to turn the searchlight of our perspective, everything looks different. New awareness is available, new insights arise, new understanding unfolds, and creative juices begin flowing in new ways. Ritual and routine can, at their best, create grounding and structure. Yet the moment that they become mindlessly habitual without us being clearly conscious about what we are doing, how we are doing it, why we are doing it, and what is happening or unfolding as a result, they become traps.
Today, focus on turning the searchlight. Go stand in a different place. Put on someone else’s shoes and see the world or a circumstance from their perspective. Embody the energy of the circumstance and see what it has to tell you. See how many different perspectives you can find and approach your day “inhabitually.” Practice thinking and perceiving in new ways and watch your genius unfold.