Functional fixation: Creativity and imagination

Who I am
Joe Dispenza

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Many times we puzzle ourselves trying to find an unlikely solution when in reality the answer is right under our eyes. The problem is that we do not see it, we are not able to readjust all the pieces of the mosaic in the right way. In psychology this is known as "functional fixation".

Functional fixation is when we are so used to imagining the use of an object or situation in a certain way and we cannot get out of that precise pattern. For example, if you wonder how a spoon could be used, probably the first answer that comes to mind is to eat. And it's true, because that's what you do every day with this tool.

Only when you try a little harder can you glimpse other possibilities beyond the meaning you have given them for years. This means finding creative solutions that can help us get out of traditional ways of thinking and established meanings, allowing our imagination and fantasy to do the rest.

To evaluate your functional fixation, I invite you to try to solve the problem below:

You have two steel rings and your goal is to join them. To do this, you have a huge candle, a matchbox and a knife. What are you doing?

Well, the key point is to remember that inside the candle there is a string (the wick). Using the knife you can break the candle and extract this rope with which to tie the two rings. Of course, finding this solution is difficult because as soon as we hear the words "matches" and "candle", we automatically think of lighting the candle with matches.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to escape the functional approach, and that is to break the problem down into different parts. For example, in the problem mentioned above, it would have been enough to realize that the candle is made up of wax and wick. At this point, you probably would have had the intuition.

Now, perhaps, you are wondering if this strategy for creating original solutions also applies to practical everyday life and not just to problems with rings and candles. The answer is yes. No matter what problem you face, you should always break this one up into lots of other little ones
problems, because it will be easier to solve because it will be easier to identify the relationships between the different parts.

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