The importance of challenging the status quo

challenging the status quoWhen I was a toddler I was taught to fit in and do as I was told.

Nobody ever told me about challenging the status quo.

Rather, on the rare occasions someone mentioned it, the implicit message about the status quo was that it was something desirable.

Of course, from a practical point of view this makes sense, at least in part. In fact, if a child begins to question everything she is told she can turn her parent’s life, and her own, into a misery of never ending crises.

In fact, a small child, despite her apparent harmlessness, can refuse to do a lot of things and so disrupt the lives of her parents, her parent’s friends, and all the people the above mentioned parents may come in contact with.

Challenging the status quo is normal for a child

Shoes? Who needs shoes? Even if we’re in the middle of winter and it’s freezing outside, I want to ditch them and run barefoot.

Soup? Soup isn’t even a proper food. Besides, it’s too hot, or too cold, or simply too liquid. I want to make a sandwich with ham and Nutella. I want licorice. I want to watch the TV. What? I can’t eat it? Shame on you!

Time to sleep, you say? Well, I don’t feel like. Not in the least. I want to cry my eyes out at full blast instead. Why? Well, let’s say I’m teething, maybe. Or maybe not. I just feel like my vocal cords would benefit from some extra exercise.

You see, I want to grow a voice as powerful and thundering as Pavarotti’s was.

I bet we all have some experience of this. Either direct or indirect. Either as children ourselves or parents.

Fact is, most children like challenging the status quo. They want to understand the whys and whats and hows of the world around them. They use their head to think, without any need for overly expensive schools.

Status quo – a simple definition

Now, for those of you wondering what does status quo mean, we can translate it, looking it up in the Cambridge dictionary. In plain English, status quo means the present situation or condition.

Unreasonableness and progress

I’ve written in a previous post about how to be more creative, but this challenging the status quo is what differentiates the most creative people from those who are not so creative. In fact, often children are considered quite creative till a certain age, when they finally succumb to the overwhelming external pressures to fit in.

This makes me think of one of the many brilliant quotes from  George Bernard Shaw:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

As a result, if you feel you still strive to completely unfurl the sails of your creativity this may be because you still have to take this all-important step: you must decide to question anew all or at least most of your assumptions.

This makes sense. In fact, if we are pretty satisfied with the situation we find in and never stop to ponder about why things are in a certain way and not another, it’s quite difficult for our curiosity to kick in and lead us down new untrodden paths.

Some of you might be thinking it’s too late. That back in the day, you weren’t exactly a child prodigy. But getting back your natural propensity for creativity has nothing to do with your having been a sort of child prodigy.

Quite the contrary instead. In fact, more often than not, a child prodigy’s contribution in term of creative new ideas to her field of expertise is negligible.

Does the status quo make any sense?

You just have to remind yourself to ask all those basic and yet powerful questions you asked as a child.

Why is the sky blue? Where do people go when they die? How can I be sure I’m still really myself in the morning, when I wake up? When I dream, do I go somewhere else? Why is the water wet?

Sure, these questions look kind of stupid, maybe. But learning the answers to them isn’t stupid at all.

Because creative people aren’t just people able to see something apparently banal under a new light. Or able to connect the dots between vastly different domains of expertise.

Creative people are also better citizens. Citizens able to question abusive authority. Citizens also able to clearly see through any policy falsely imposed as necessary.

Because the defining trait of creative people lies in rejecting the usual and searching for a better option. A better option that almost invariably exists.

We just need to keep our eyes open. And keep on working on those stupid unreasonable questions.

Pictures: ATDSPHOTO – skeeze

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