Do your expectations inhibit your view of the world? Dropping your expectations helps you see anew and free your imagination.
You should learn to erase your brain on occasion.
The brain’s ability to imagine the future is astonishing—an ability critical to human evolution
and to daily life. Our collection of stored information—episodic and semantic memory—enables
us to make quick assumptions about what we see, hear, touch, taste and feel. Without access to
memory, we would be stymied at every turn: “Remind me again what that red light means?”
We spend our childhoods learning the “correct” interpretations of the sights and sounds of our
world. That’s one way in which children seem precociously imaginative. They are trying to
assemble the information adults take for granted. Their associations are often wildly removed
from the expectations adults acquire through logic and experience.
Our expectations allow quick, necessary interpretations. But, over reliance on quick assumptions
impedes creativity. We often see only what we expect to see; we hear only what we expect to
Try an experiment: after being in a room for a while, listen carefully. What do you now hear that
you hadn’t previously recognized. Were you aware of the heating or cooling sounds? Had you
heard the soft hum of the fluorescent lights? A refrigerator motor? A computer fan?
Those sounds continue. But, we don’t “hear” them, because we don’t listen for them. It’s as if
we have a filter in our subconscious that doesn’t notify the conscious mind of the sound. The
subconscious decides that the sounds are neither life-threatening nor relevant to our current
Similarly, we approach problems based on our expectations. We learn information because it
confirms our biases. We listen selectively when others speak. One lecture to a class of 30 will
generate 30 different comprehensions.
Imagine if you could take 30 people and enable them to see the world anew, as if, like children,
they see a recycling truck or a lilac for the first time.
For years I worked with school children as an artist-in- residence. At first, I had no idea how to
teach songwriting and the requisite creativity. One cold Iowa morning, I stalled for time by
asking the students to rub their hands together and then place their hands, fingertip to fingertip,
like a two-handed visor at the top of their foreheads. I did the same. We all looked silly.
I counted to three and we brought our hands down slowly over our foreheads to erase our brains.
(I forewarned them not erase the memory of their name or route home from school.) We began
the practice of daily brain erasure to allow ideas to emerge from our minds free from
You should try it. Put your hands on your forehead or you may move directly to the advanced
inside-the- brain windshield washer technique. Clear out your assumptions about what you think
you know, and what you expect to see, hear and learn. Enjoy the world as if you’ve never seen it