A class of students waited for their professor to distribute an exam. As each student turned over their papers, they saw there were no questions on the sheet. It was blank except for a black dot in the centre. The professor told them, “I want you to write about what you see there. You have fifteen minutes.”
None of the students started writing straight away. Most of them sat staring at the page. Eventually all began wand wrote at some length.
At the end of the time, the exams were collected, and every single student had described the black dot’s position on the page. After reading all the answers, the professor was silent for a minute. He told them he would not be grading this paper, “I just wanted to give you all something to think about. No one wrote about the white part of the paper. Everyone focused on the black dot.”
How good is this story? Don’t we all have a white piece of paper to observe and enjoy yet we so often get focused on our black dot(s). If we assume the black dot is a challenge, half the time they are so small when compared to everything else we have to be grateful in our lives. Yet where do we focus most of our attention and energy?
“Focus on the solutions not the problems, energy flows where the attention goes.”
If our best practiced habit is to automatically focus on the problem, we leave little energy to find a solution. The students could have written about the shape of the page, the features and benefits of the blank page in relation to the black dot, the simplicity and opportunities of the page, the lack of anything else on the page visually de-cluttering it, how the black dot was only one aspect of the page … and the list goes on. The students saw 1 option or solution, and yet it has taken less than 30 seconds to list 5 other choices from an outsider.
Every problem has more than one solution but, our minds need to be open AND receptive to receive them.
I guess we trust what is familiar because it’s comfortable and we feel a sense of security even if it is this familiarity that causes the problems in the first place. As long as we continue to do what we’ve always done, we will continue to get what we have always gotten.
New things are not familiar, they are uncomfortable and often require an amount of chaos and trial and error before finding a way that works. Sometimes it takes a few ‘failures’ (I hate that word – it should be banned from language), before finding the strategy that works.
Thomas Edison said when inventing the light bulb, “I have not failed, I have found 10,000 ways that will not work”.
Sometimes we must trust that we don’t know HOW … we just know we will!
Anyway, I often write things in my posts and read them later and wonder what people must think. I wonder how many roll their eyes and say ‘yeh yeh, nice post, easy for you to say! You don’t know my black dot(s)!’ And you know what? You would be right! I don’t.
I have never claimed to be an expert on anything. I don’t write to imply I have the golden goose. I write for those that are open to hearing another perspective or to help start a conversation. I write because it often reminds me of what I need to learn and get better at. And I write because Ben wanted people to see the world differently, he wanted people to feel hope and uplifted regardless of their current circumstances. He wanted to change the world and make it a better place. I write these posts because if I can make a difference to just one person each time, then Ben and I have succeeded in our quest for today.
Oh, and if I can find a reason to look at things in a positive way and dig out solutions from the depths of the deepest darkest place, THEN YOU CAN TOO!
It was the third day of school in Prep, the year before Grade 1. My son was 5 years old.
Ben: I had the BEST day today! Better than all the other days!
Me: Oh, why?
Ben: There was a stick insect on the basketball hoop! AND A CATERPILLAR!!