By Bart Vogelzang

Fancy enough word, but the meaning is simple enough…extending thoughts from where they are now, outwards, as far as you want to extend them. It is, without any doubt in my mind, both the best thing that ever happened to the human race and the worst. I guess it is a bit like any tool we have, it can be a tool in the toolbox or a tool in the arsenal. We can use it for good, or bad. We have a responsibility to use it properly.

People are pretty creative, although sometimes moms worry about just how creative their younglings are, but once we get beyond the ‘me…me’ years, I think most of us are pretty much okay with our creativity. We will come up with ideas, even whole concepts, and extend our thoughts about them far beyond what could be considered logical. We like making some music on a flute or on the backs of some pots and pans, and before we know it we are thinking of ourselves as world famous entertainers, basking in glory and fame, and surrounded by adoring admirers. We have extrapolated, and this leap motivates us to try hard to learn instruments, music reading, and memorizing scores. An instance of knowing a bug on a plant can extend to a lifetime career in science, or some success at convincing someone who has been irritating you, might make you that world-renowned politician who fixes all the world’s woes. That, of course, is the good side of extrapolation. It motivates us.

Motivation, however, is not always a good thing. It depends, I’m sure you’ll agree, on what you are motivated to do. If you feel someone has hurt you, and you might be motivated to seek revenge, and your extrapolated nasty ideas may well have you ending up thinking about killing someone, or even groups of people. Not good at all.

Of course you can extrapolate in the wrong direction altogether, not even getting to the point of being motivated…far from it, in fact. If something goes wrong, like you making an attempt at singing and people making fun of you, you might extend your thoughts endlessly into the future, now absolutely convinced that you can never sing a note. The same thing can happen with being bullied. If you extrapolate in the wrong direction, you will see an unending succession of attacks on you, with no respite or reprieve. You might envision a future that seems bleak and hopeless, and lose all motivation, even for living at all.

We can throw ourselves into the deepest of pits, and raise ourselves to the highest of peaks, all by extrapolating from a single point. It really is a matter of just picking the right direction to aim ourselves so that we achieve what we want. Almost any challenge and obstruction can be overcome, if we can see beyond it. Almost any challenge can defeat us, if we cannot see any good beyond it.

Everyone should extrapolate with themselves at least once a day, in order to have a healthy attitude.