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Wildflower Garden Jigsaw Puzzles, Stories

Wildflower Garden Jigsaw Puzzles. Ravensburger

Truth is, anger is counterproductive to puzzle solving

Wildflower Garden Jigsaw Puzzles for family.Truth is, anger is counterproductive to puzzle solving. And to problem solving in general. This is not just me talking. This is the current wisdom in psychology. Several studies indicate we are better able to solve problems when we are in a good mood. Positive emotions enhance our creativity. Anger, on the other hand, dampens our ability to make mental leaps. Plus, getting angry makes me feel like hell and ruins my day. Recently, I was watching a webinar from a child psychologist. The topic was something like a parents guide to surviving quarantine and I figured I could use all the help I could get.

Wildflower Garden

Wildflower Garden, Gibsons

During the webinar, the psychologist gave the following advice: Don't get furious. Get curious. I don't think a phrase is automatically true just because it rhymes. For instance, if the glove doesn't fit, you don't have to acquit. But this particular rhyming phrase seems both wise and true. The psychologist was suggesting that, if your kid is throwing a tantrum because, say, she painted her balsa wood boat the wrong color, don't get furious at her. Get curious.

Get curious as to why it makes her so upset. Get curious as to whether there's a deeper underlying issue. Get curious about what concrete steps we can take to solve this problem and prevent it in the future.

It's a hard mantra to employ. Kids often act like little psychopaths whose only job is to infuriate us. But I think it's a deep insight. And not just in parenting. Why not try to approach almost all life problems and societal problems with the same idea, from politics to health to romance to friendship?

This is the puzzle mindset. We should look at a problem and figure out potential solutions instead of just wallowing in rage and doubling down on our biases. I didn't come up with this idea, of course. It's a theme that has popped up over and over in my reading and conversations this year. The idea is expressed using different metaphors.

Stephen Warnes, Crossing Ribble

Stephen Warnes, Crossing The Ribble, Gibsons

The author and podcaster Julia Galef talks about the scout mindset versus the soldier mindset. Scouts explore the intellectual terrain looking for truth, for information that counters their biases, for evidence one way or the other. Soldiers, on the other hand, are looking to win the intellectual battle by any means necessary. They are looking to confirm their biases using motivated reasoning.

Meanwhile, the popular website LessWrong published a viral post a few years ago about mistake theory and conflict theory. These are two ways of seeing the world. Conflict theorists see society through the lens of a zero-sum struggle between classes or ethnicities or political parties. Mistake theorists see society through a non-zero-sum lens. They argue many of society's problems are the result of mistaken practices and beliefs, and we can fix them with the proper tools and approach. While both are valuable lenses, I think placing more emphasis on mistake theory would do us good.

Steve Crisp, Work of Art

Steve Crisp, Work of Art, Gibsons

Psychologist Adam Grant uses a different schema in his bestseller Think Again. He categorizes thinkers into scientists, preachers, prosecutors, and politicians. Only one of them, the scientist, is open to changing her mind; the others are using motivated reasoning. Finally, I interviewed David Bornstein, the cofounder of Solutions Journalism Network a group that advocates for more articles exploring solutions to social ills instead of just pointing them out. He says we need to think more like engineers and less like lawyers, because engineers look for solutions, while lawyers look for evidence that reinforces their side.

All these metaphors have in common the idea of trying to turn down the volume on motivated reasoning and anger, while turning up the volume on curiosity and the search for solutions.

Snoozing on Ted

Snoozing on the Ted, Gibsons

It's a daily battle, but I have decided to attempt to be more curious and less furious in every part of my life, from puzzles to politics to raising my kids. It could be a small problem, like what ingredients should I stock up on for the coming week. Or it could be a big one, like an argument over politics. If I'm talking to someone with different politics, I try not to think of it as a battle of words but rather as a puzzle: What is the root of the disagreement? And is there anything we can do to resolve it?

It's a powerful way to frame problems. Even just inserting the word puzzle can make a difference. If I hear about the climate crisis, I want to curl up in a fetal position in the corner. But if I'm asked about the climate puzzle, I want to try to solve it. That, to me, is the only way out of our current mess.
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