In Goal-Free Living I discuss a powerful technique for increasing your creativity: standing in someone else’s shoes. The idea being, that when you “make believe” you are someone else, you begin to see the world through their eyes. You become that other person. At a recent speech, one young woman in attendance – someone who recently graduated from high school — shared a personal story that illustrates the incredible power of this approach.
She told the story of a time when she needed to take an important math test. Math was never one of her strong subjects, so she was concerned. Overly concerned. In the time leading up to the test, she became increasingly stressed with the goal of doing well. This is not surprising. We put incredible pressure on students to perform well on these tests. The stress was overwhelming. Halfway through the exam, she walked out. She could not handle the pressure.
One week before I met her, she was given the opportunity to take the test again. This time, instead of being overly worried, she decided to turn the exam into a game — a very goal-free approach. She walked into the examination room making believe she was Condoleezza Rice, the United States Secretary of State — a very successful and highly educated woman. Standing in her shoes, she had incredible confidence. Dr. Rice wouldn’t worry, right? So she didn’t worry. The result of playing this game? She received a 90% — something beyond her wildest expectations.
When we get overly focused on the goal, we create stress. By turning everything we do into a game – something kids do naturally – we create success without the effort.