On Solving Problems

Some time back there appeared an article in WOMAN’S DAY MAGAZINE by Hollis Alpert called “In Defense of Excitement.” My fine, winsome and winning secretary, name of Harriett, found it for me.

It points out that we get excited sometimes, and our advisors tell us to keep calm, implying that we could think better, or at least more reasonably, if we did. And along comes an authority on the subject who says just the opposite is true, bless his heart. “Cool, calm, collected people do not necessarily make the best problem solvers,” says Dr. Sidney J. Blatt of Michael Reese Research Institute. Dr. Blatt tested 100 persons on an electric device that poses problems while at the same time recording physiological changes in the problem solver. And the people who just sat there calmly, showing no agitation, no increase in heart rate, got nowhere fast; whereas folks like us, whose hearts thudded with excitement (from a normal pulse rate of 72, some climbed to 136 times a minute), were quick with the answers. Perhaps, if Albert Einstein had merely counted to ten every time he got excited, he wouldn’t have had the Theory of Relativity.

I’d like to congratulate Dr. Blatt. I’ve always believed we operate better when we’re excited about something. There’s something wrong, in my humble opinion, with people who don’t get emotionally involved in things.

How many great books, paintings, musical compositions (or just about anything else worthwhile) would we have if the people who produced them had remained calm, cool and aloof. The best teachers are those who are excited and emotionally involved in their subjects. And it’s the same with businessmen, scientists, parents – you name it.

Excitement is a normal and natural thing. It is meant to help us. When our heart beats faster, it’s pumping more blood so that we can do a bigger and better job. When excitement pumps adrenalin into our system, there’s a reason for it. We have more power, more ability to meet a crisis.

Getting back to the problem-solving thing, and speaking, of course, as a layman, I would think that the faster the heartbeat, the better the brain would operate, since it would have a faster flow of blood and oxygen caused by more rapid breathing.

I’m sure that when young graduating doctors are given the Equanimities lecture (to keep them from showing fear or excitement in front of their patients), it certainly is not intended to keep them from being excited about the subject of medicine.

Who would get married if it weren’t for the emotional and excited involvement? And this could be carried a few steps further. The happiest people on earth are those who are emotionally involved in what they’re doing. This calm, cool collected bit is all right for cows, camels and turtles, but it will never product a great sermon, symphony, play, business, piece of architecture, painting, marriage, or the miracle of a child.

In my book, when you lose the excitement and heightened feeling of emotion in what you’re doing, you’d best look around for something else. In fact, this is a good way to determine if what you’re doing is the right thing for you.

Excitement is to the mind what heat is to the manufacturing of steel – it gives it strength, flexibility, and adaptability. It helps us find new and challenging ways of fulfilling ourselves as human beings.

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