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Does this describe you?

You have at least a million ideas per day (most of them pretty good!); you love to start projects, but often never finish them; you may or may not be good at tracking names/dates/details but you really HATE doing it; you can see dodectrahedrelly (at least 12 sides of an issue at once); you'd really be brilliant if you could "just get it together"?
If it does then you may have a Wild Mind.  What's a Wild Mind? Read on and find out.
Click Here for a short dramatization of life with a Wild Mind!
 

What's on this Page?

New Theory of Brain Organization
Sprinters at the Marathon: Challenges for Wild Minds
Strengths of a Wild Mind: Why I think we need our Wild Minds now more than ever
Strategy for Releasing our Wild Potential
Tips and Hints for Coping with Modern Western Culture
Dealing with the Wild Minds in your life

New Theory of Brain Organization

In recent years there has been evolving awareness that all minds are not created equally.  That in some cases - an estimated 5 - 20% of the United States population - brain function is radically different than that of the rest of the population.  This has been pathologized (see "Attention Deficit Disorder" defiinition) but in recent books by Thom Hartmann a more positive view has emerged. He puts forth the idea that while there may be a continuum of brain functioning from those that narrowly focus on one single task at a time ("Task Switching Deficit Disorder") to those that are multitasking at almost all times ("Awarness Distribution Distinction"), those with brains at either end of the spectrum probably having evolved for very different activities.  He suggests that Wild Minds may have evolved to provide success in Hunting(Foraging), while the complementary brain organization is more suited to Farming . You can also think of ADD as "Einstein's Disease".

Different life circumstances exist in aboriginal (pre-agricultural) societies which favor a vastly different way of being in the world than modern Western society encourages. Hartmann suggests that our society is largely set up by and for those he calls Farmers. The types of attention and response to stimuli needed to easily and successfully farm are very different from those needed to be successful in a non-agricultural Hunting or Foraging environment. "For success in the field, forest, or jungle, a Hunter must be easily distractible, constantly scanning his [sic., see: Forager] environment. He must be able to juggle many tasks or or pursue many possible prey at the same time. He must feel unafraid of taking risks, as risk is integral to the daily life or a Hunter. If, after starting after one animal, he sees a better opportunity, her must then quickly (impulsively) have the ability to make the decision to alter course and pursue the new prey. A sense of impending doom would keep him aware at all times of the possibility of predators, and on the alert against them. And he would thrive on the adrenaline high of the hunt, while finding boring tasks like cleaning his living area to be so tedious that he'd procrastinate when faced with them. His sense of time would be either very fast or very slow, and he'd be either excited or bored 'just by life at the moment'.... "Prehistoric Farmers, on the other hand, faced different challenges. To live successfully in an agricultural society 10,000 years ago, a Farmer endured long stretches of boredom and stayed in one place. It took months for crops to grow, and Farmers spent much of that time in tedious tasks such as picking bugs off plants or pulling weeds. They developed good auditory-processing skills by sitting with other Farmers and talking for hours to pass the time while the crops grew, or during the winters when the crops were in storage. Their communities were more social and interdependent. They couldn't afford to be easily distracted, restless, or impulsive: If and impatient farmer pulled the seedling out of the ground every few days to see how it was growing, it would die. And the Hunter's sense of doom was replaced by a calmer sense of quiet confidence that even though the soil hadn't moved in a week, those seeds were germinating and would eventually break through. A Farmer's sense of time had to be linear and even..." Thom Hartmann, in Focus Your Energy: Hunting for Success in Business with Attention Deficit Disorder. Farmers also must also take the long view: their decisions will not "bear fruit" for months or even years - so every decision must be fully thought through before implementation.

In short, Hunters are able to:

They behave like the proverbial grasshopper or hare.

While Farmers tend to:

They behave like the proverbial ant or tortoise.

Does this mean that you (or someone you know) have a disorder? Maybe. But maybe what you have is an adaptation to a different set of circumstances than are emphasized in your current environment. Many extremely successful people exhibit the characteristics common of Hunters/Foragers, and many notable historical figures were probably undiagnosed ADD "sufferers". Human society has derived great benefit from our creativity and relentless pursuit of novelty and innovation. There are many crucial social roles that Hunters/Foragers are particularly suited for. Hunters do, however, face some unique challenges in finding a comfortable place in our currently, predominantly Farmer society.

Sprinters at the Marathon: Challenges for Wild Minds

The Farmer's world presents numerous challenges for us Hunter/Foragers. The predominant is boredom: lack of change and challenge. We are expected to sit quietly for long stretches and focus on long, verbal presentations, many of which we grasp the essential aspects of within a few minutes - the rest is details! Another challenge is how much stuff is available to us, and that we find interesting (at least for awhile) and worth "keeping" (we might find it interesting again later!). This makes many of our homes chaotic with stuff everywhere. This has (at least) two causes: we are bored by the low-stimulus environment Farming society gives us (compare the typical office with, say, a forest...) so we have lots of things around us to provide the complex stimulation we crave; and, we find mundane tasks like sorting through things and organizing them tedious and will put them off indefinitely! In a society where many people, perhaps the majority, do not experience life this way we are made to feel lazy, slovenly, and, ultimately, guilty.
 

Strengths of a Wild Mind: Why I think we need our Wild Minds now more than ever

Basically, Wild Minds capable of immense creativity and are virtually designed for seeking out new solutions and creating what has never been before - creativity is pratically a diagnostic criteria. There is an arguement that "ADD" is no more than "untreated" giftedness. If left to our natural tendancies we have an insatiable curiosity and an impetuiousness with regard to satisfying it and seeking the solution to problems. Our minds crave newness and change. Not only are the problems that human society faces becoming increasingly dire (we can destroy the planet several times over...) but also more and more fast paced (as we overcome the limitations of time and space by leaps and bounds). Those with Wild Minds are particularly well equipped to face these dual challenges. We have the creativity to seek ever new solutions and to create what has not yet been imagined; simultaneously we thrive in a stimulating, challenging environment. This, of course, presumes that we have been educated in such a way that we maximize our strengths and are not taught to try to continually process/act from our place of weakness.

Wiild Minds can be exceptional in emergency situations or those situations that require a rapid and accurate response, particularly if the situation involves compelling or serious consequences. Wild Minds have the ability to hyperfocus and pursue something that interests them to the exclusion of all else. The only hard part is capturing their interest!
 

Strategy for Releasing our Wild Potential

 I believe that most of our hereditary elites as well as nearly all of our leaders - in both business aen government - are actually "ADD" or "hunters". The same traits that are pathologized into "ADD" are exactly the same as those needed to succeed in business, or to be a good leader. At the same time, most of those in our prison system are diagnosable as "ADD". This leads to the odd paradox that most of our most successful people as well as most of the least successful people in our society are both "ADD". What's the difference? I believe it is the education that those two populations receive (of course, other factors enter into the equation: family dynamic, diet and nutrition, access to other resources, and many other aspects of society come into play) makes a significant difference in how they experience themselves, and their ability to develop their strengths. I believe that the schools our future leaders, by and large, attend, teach in a "hunter friendly" way and, thus, give our future leaders the early and consistent experience of success. On the other hand, I believe that most of the schools the unsuccessful population has access to uses methods and structures that force hunter chlidren to try to learn in ways that emphasise their weaknesses rather than building on their strengths. These children, often from a very young age, do not receive that consistent experience of success, and experience the frustration of always finding that what is "natural" for them is "wrong".

So the solution, in my opinion, is educational. We can no longer afford, as a society, to waste the increadible potential, creativity and leadership abilities of so much of our population. Economic competitiveness in the future, in my opinion, may very well depend on how well a nation or group is able to mobalize it's human capital. We can no longer afford to consign - through racial, social or other prejudices - such a vast potential to be thrown away. In some very real way, most of the people now locked up in our prisons represents a potential solution to a modern problem that we don't have, because the person who might have found it has not, for whatever reason, been given the tools and strategies that would allow them to be welcomed into wider social success. Or, put another way, they are living the solution to the wrong problem: the problem of finding a dignified, rewarding place for themselves in a society that is inherently hostile to them.

Of course, the same educational system yeilds a "middle group" as well. There are countless people with Wild Minds who are in neither the privledged elite nor the prison system. These minds, by and large, are also wasted. They face the same pressures as the prison population, they've just found a different path through them. By and large, they are no living up to their full creative potential, and therefore, society does not benefit from the best that all it's members has to offer.

The fact is, schools were set up such that they "conditioned" children for the jobs that were most likely going to be available to them: boring, repetitive or, at the very least, conscously sensorily deprived work situations. The kids who couldn't cope with the sensory deprived and boreing school situation were "weeded out" of the job pool, by their lack of scolastic success. So schools served as a sort of pre-interview screening process for the bulk of the employment opportunities available. The social cost of what we, as a society, should or could do with those who "washed out" was not, in my opinion, adequately taken into account!

But jobs are different now. The work situations may be similar, but the pace of technological inovation has made the work that needs to be done vastly different than it was in the recent past. At least for an important segment of our economy. In addition, there is developing a cultural sentiment that is less and less content with the old "authoritarian" model of business, which is demonstrating itself less capable to respond with the flexibility that the new climate of dramatic, rapid change demands. New managment systems are arising that are much more friendly to Wild Minds. The very inovation and insistance on relavance and results that are halmarks of the Wild Mind are becoming essential to business competitiveness as well.

The qualities that an educational system that allows Wild Minds to flourish include:
self-paced
relevant
sophisticated: "real"
multi-sensory
flexible enough to "go with the flow" when a student is hyperfocusing and able to take in information at an increadible pace

The two main keys that distinguish what works for Wild Minds and what doesn't can be summed up as: motivation and stimulation. What saved me, academically, I now believe was Mr. Harvey's class. The main gift he gave me was the understanding that what I learned was up to me. He was able to reawaken that state of wonder in the world around me that I'd had as small child - that had been driven out of me with my exposure to "traditional" educational systems. We need to enable kids to find the relavance of what they are being taught to their lives in as immediate and tangible way possible. They need to find the motivation to hyperfocus on the information they need, and, thus, learn it rapidly and efficiently. And the best environment in which to engage their abilities is one which is stimulating in a multisensory way. If their environment is boring, they will seek the stimulation they need either inside their own minds/imaginations or by acting in such a way that their environment is less boring - usually to the anoyance or actual physical peril of those around them!
 

Tips and Hints for Coping with Modern Western Culture

 All that being said, we still find outselves in a world that is largely set up and structured by and for farmers. In order to cope with situations that require farmer strengths the following are offered:

Motivation
First, of course, you have to *want* to accomplish something at a basic level. If you *really* don't feel like doing something, find some consequence that you *do* care about (like not getting paid - or losing what your paycheck gives you) and think of that to motivate yourself. Fear works. Get that "flight or fight" adrelinin working for you and hyperfocus.

Use Deadlines
Once you've established some basic motivation, you can use deadlines to your advantage. Use deadlines to help motivate yourself to get projects done.  Break whatever you need to get done into some sort of logical chunks. Aim for chunks that can be acomplished in half a day's good hyperfocus burst, or at most a day or two. The idea is to make the project not so "impossible" that you feel hopless to even start. Writing sections of a report, getting your ideas down on paper to flesh out later, collecting resources, are all possible "chunks". Then take your list of chunks and starting when the whole thing is due and working back, set sub-deadlines for yourself. Allow yourself "rest time" or some slack in the schedule - but not so much time that you don't believe in the immediace of any one deadline. Then put each chunk in your calendar and act toward it as if that were the formal "due date" for that "project". Use your hyperfocus to your advantage. (If your up against the deadline already, they figure out what blocks of time you actually have and figure out what you *have* to get done in that time. Then still work on it chunk by chunk: "I'm going to try to get this done in the next hour" - ignoring the rest while you work on the chunk in front of you.)

Calendars
I've carried the smallest "pocket" loose leaf calendar that Day Timer's offers (now called the "jotter" size) for years now. It's small enough to easily fit in my pocket (they used to sell a binder that had rings that were only 3/8 inches wide - they advertised it as a "shirt pocket" size, and it was! I use a 1/2 inch ring now, though which still fits in the pocket of most of the pants I wear, or in a belt pouch.) I carry it everywhere. The loose leaf style allows me to carry a continuously rotating section of the year that is most relevant (usually this week and one or two weeks following) to me at any time. It also allows me to keep sections for notes, phone numbers, reference pages, etc. It's *very* useful to have a spot to jot down all those brilliant ideas I have daily! I use the 2-page per day style and put things I am to do on future days right on the "to do" list for that day. I only have to think about it once - just put it on the day I have to think about it again, and I can put it out of my mind until the calendar reminds me automatically. It helps me divide up projects into a series of deadlines - so I can get me fear/adrenalin going at sub-points rather than just a the "one long push" when a big project is due.

Day Timers also has a downloadable version of their computer calendar program (it expires after 60 days). It's the best computer calendar progam I've yet tried, but I don't currently use it regualrly myself, because the computer they've given me at work is too old to run it properly. The program does, however, allow you to print out Day Timer pages in any size and format you want (within, by and large, the Day Timer formats you could pre-printed). I bought some "jotter" size paper from Day Timer - for less than the cost of a year's worth of pre-printed pages - and have run off a whole years worth of pages for my pocket binder on my ink jet printer. I now prefer them to the pre-printed ones and look forward to the day when I can run the Day Timer program on my desk at work and have a trully integrated computer/pocket system.

Leave notes for yourself
Most of you probably already thought of this one, but I put it here just in case. I know this sounds crude, but when I *really* have to remember something I write it on a big piece of paper then leave the paper where I'll have to trip over it if I go any where. This works if I have to remember something first thing the next morning - I put the note on the floor on the way out of the bedroom, or on top of the slippers I put on first thing. At work, I put the note between my chair and the door. I also call my voice mail at work (or the machine at home) and leave myself messages to remind myself of whatever it is I need to remember. If all else fails, I used to write stuff on my hands, but now I just put in on the appropriate spot in my Day Timer.

Medication
If you are really stuck in a farmer-job, or otherwise *really* feel the need to make your brain function more like a farmer's, then some people have reported success with medication. Ritilan is the standard, but there are many kinds available now. Not all doctors are aware of the needs of ADD people - some still believe that ADD kids "grow out of it" and that there's no such thing as a adult with ADD! Look for a local ADD support group or join one of the internet mailing lists to get help in finding someone who will work with you to make sure you get a prescription that works best for you.

The best arguement I've heard is that some, espically ADHD, kids can develop more appropriate social and other skills if given medication for a few years in early grade-school. The experience of haveing more "farmer-like" function for that crucial period seems to give them the ability to *understand* other's around them better (the basis for empathy, after all, is putting *yourself* in other's shoes - this process is impeded *dramatically* if your very brain function is vastly different than those you are trying to understand...) and to develop the skills needed to cope with the current educational environment.

People also talk about "self-medicating" in both positive and negative aspects. On the negative side, alcoholism is sometimes atributed by an ADD person's desperate attempt to manage stimulus flow and/or be more comfortable with their extreme boredom. On the more positive side, people have used coffee - and even nicotine! - as a way to cope with the need to perform in a more farmer-like way in the short-term, and/or to avoid the need for medical intervention/prescription. This avoids the side-effects of the potent medications that are prescribed, but, of course, entails all the negative side-effects of the "over the counter" or "legal" stimulants that are used.
 

Dealing with the Wild Minds in your life

Just a couple words here about how to handle someone you encounter that you think might hae a Wild Mind. This applies whether you think you're a hunter yourself or if you think you're more like a farmer. First thing, don't necessarily tell them your suspicions! Most people don't take too well to being told they have anything that could remotely be called a "disorder". Second, don't take their lack of focus on you personally. Their attention will swing back, try to make yourself interesting - and be ready to be hyperfocused upon - gentle reminders can also help sometimes.Also, compassion for the particular nature of the Wild Mind helps - don't expect them to remember things you tell them on the fly - ask them to write it down, or work with whatever system they've developed to cope with this challenge. If they haven't got a system that you can recognise in place, try suggesting that they develop one. See the tips above for stuff that might help. But be sure to approach all this from as helpful, compassionate and constructive attitude as you can muster - everyone with a hunter-like approach has likely been well bruised in precisely these areas long before you meet them!
 
These pages were last updated on 29 November 1997. You are the visitor to this page since 29 May 98.

© 1997 Robin A. NíDána

Send any comments or questions about this page to: robinnid@netbox.com