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Schwartz on Eliminating Jails

March 9, 2012

Excerpted from The Magic of Thinking Big (1959) by Dr. David Schwartz:

Creative thinking is simply finding new, improved ways to do anything. The rewards of all types of success – success in the home, at work, in the community – hinge on finding ways to do things better. Now, let’s see what we can do to develop and strengthen our creative thinking ability.

Step One: Believe It Can Be Done. Here is a basic truth: To do anything, we must first believe it can be done. Believing something can be done sets the mind in motion to find a way to do it.

To illustrate this point of creative thinking in training sessions, I often use this example: I ask the group, “How many of you feel it is possible to eliminate jails within the next 30 years?”

Invariably the group looks bewildered, not quite sure they heard right and thinking they are listening to a real fuzzy-wuzzy. So, after a pause I repeat, “How many of you feel it is possible to eliminate jails within the next 30 years?”

Once assured I’m not joking someone always blasts me with something like, “You mean to say you want to turn all those murderers, thieves, and rapists loose? Don’t you realize what this would mean? Why, none of us would be safe. We have to have jails.”

Then the others cut loose.

“All order would break down if we didn’t have jails.”

“If anything, we need more jails.”

“Did you read in this morning’s paper about that murder?”

And the group goes on, telling me all sorts of good reasons why we must have jails. One fellow even suggested we’ve got to have jails so the police and prison guards can have jobs.

After about ten minutes of letting the group “prove” why we can’t eliminate the need for jails, I say to them, “Now let me mention here that this question of eliminating jails is used to make a point.

“Each of you has come up with reasons why we can’t eliminate the need for jails. Will you do me a favor? Will you try extra hard for a few minutes to believe we can eliminate jails?”

Joining in the spirit of the experiment, the group says, in effect, “Oh, well, but just for kicks.” Then I ask, “Now assuming we can eliminate jails, how could we begin?”

Suggestions come slowly at first. Someone hesitantly says something like: “Well, you might cut down crime if you established more youth centers.”

Before long, the group, which ten minutes ago was solidly against the idea, now begins to work up real enthusiasm.

“Work to eliminate poverty. Most crime stems from the low-income levels.”

“Conduct research to spot potential criminals before they commit a crime.”

“Develop surgical procedures to cure some kinds of criminals.”

“Educate law-enforcement personnel in positive methods of reform.”

These are just samples af the 78 specific ideas I’ve tabulated which could help accomplish the goal of eliminating jails.

WHEN YOU BELIEVE, YOUR MIND FINDS WAYS TO DO.

This experiment has just one point: When you believe something is impossible, your mind goes to work for you to prove why. But, when you believe, really believe, something can be done, your mind goes to work for you and helps you to find the ways to do it.

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