“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” - Albert Einstein (Nobel laureate, 1921)
Albert Einstein, the theoretical physicist who developed the general theory of relativity, strove to find answers to some of life’s most fundamental questions, and to do so he had to open his mind to transcend the boundaries of usual thinking, to experience new concepts.
Previously I’ve focused on being present and one of the principal benefits of attending to the present moment is that as you remove mental clutter, so your mind becomes open to new possibilities. For some being open minded is as easy as breathing, but for others it is a challenge and requires continual effort. However, attempting to think openly and embracing new ideas can generate a number of benefits in your work and life in general.
It’s like viewing a mountain as an obstacle when you’re standing at the base, but “from the top of the mountain, you cannot see the mountain” (Frank Herbert, author of Dune) – the challenge is to get to the top.
So here are 4 tips to help you walk to the peak and I’ve used an acronym to help you remember: LEGS!
Listen Explore Gratitude Stop …
Listen, listen and listen: Most of the time we are so absorbed in our own point of view that we forget to actually listen; in the words of Simon and Garfunkel we’re “hearing without listening”. Seek first to understand and then to be understood. It appears to be a simple concept, but it is far too easily ignored and we rarely learn of new ideas if our mouths are too busy moving. Stop typing, stop texting, stop multi-tasking and learn to listen intently, thoughtfully and silently. Adopt the 70/30 rule: listen 70% of the time and talk 30% - new ideas will flow.
Explore: Seek new opportunities. A natural by-product of an open mind is a tendency to actively seek new openings and new approaches to your life’s challenges. Even though you might think that you’ve investigated every angle and every possibility to solve a problem, in all likelihood you probably haven’t. The light bulb (or the first commercially practical incandescent light) would not have been patented in 1878 had Thomas Edison taken a closed approach to his thinking – he tried 10,000 times before getting it right!
Gratitude: We often forget to meaningfully give gratitude for the kindness and work of other people. “Thank-you” is a great English phrase, but its meaning is frequently lost, so it can sound quite glib. But imagine if your boss sincerely thanked you for your work and gave you the credit for it; how much harder would you work next time?
Stop Criticising: Not just vocally, but silently too; and don’t criticise yourself either. Criticism is a judgement with a negative connotation and when we criticise, even in our minds only, it becomes detrimental to achieving success. So, for example, instead of saying, “the weather is awful today and I cannot go out”, look at the situation another way: “because it is raining I will sort out my files” – and you never know what delights might be waiting for you. Alternatively think about the benefit of rain and how it helps nature to flourish, and perhaps you’ll venture out into the seemingly bad weather and discover something new and exciting.
So remember to Listen Explore Gratitude Stop (LEGS!) and reflect on words of Thomas Dewar (physicist) who put it even more succinctly:
“Minds are like parachutes — they only function when open.”
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