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Creativity Life & Philosophy

The voices within

What is your inner dialogue? If it’s like most people, it’s chaotic and uncontrollable. Perhaps one of the reasons we tug away at our phones is because we’re too afraid to play with the chorus of our thoughts.

In his new book The Voices Within: The History and Science of How We Talk to Ourselves, author and Durham University psychology professor Charles Fernyhough writes about the tug of war we have with our internal expressions, and how we use creativity as an outlet to express these thoughts and frustrations.

A solitary mind is actually a chorus,” he writes. Tune into yours right now: What are you hearing? Who’s speaking, and when did the conversation begin? This is ambiguous territory. Measuring one’s own private soundtrack is hard enough.

If you’re a creative person, you’re undoubtedly a thinker and tinkerer. Vincent Van Gogh wrote letters to his brother as a way of getting out of his own head. In essence, he was writing to work things out for himself, what today could be called blogging; bouncing your thoughts and sharing your work in public. Ideas are social; we seek feedback in order to validate or challenge our train of thought.

Humans are thinking animals. That’s what separates us from the prison of biology. No matter how much we can outsource our brainpower to artificial intelligence, the inner chatter is what fuels our actions. We become what we think, whether we accept or deny the voices in our heads.

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Start, Stop, and Continue

Positive and negative feedback are both painful processes.

We’re mostly aware of what we do well and get bored of hearing about our contributions, especially if there’s no reward for it.

Meanwhile, negative reviews irritate us and offer suggestions in improvements without actually instructing us how. The next steps are always vague.

Instead of the uncomfortable annual reviews, how about telling us how we’re performing ever so often. The reviewer should break it down into what we should start doing, stop doing, and keep doing so we can keep working while tweaking our bad habits and enhancing our good ones.

The power of feedback is in its loop, not its scarcity. Smart people are both providers and listeners of honest execution.

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