One of the biggest enemies to our happiness, health, and success is our inability break out of rigid “All or Nothing” thinking or in other words: GETTING A NEW BRAIN!
Not surprisingly in my line of work people (not even necessarily my clients and students) will come to me and ask me to qualify something as “good” or “bad”. Most commonly people will ask something along the lines of “Do I have to meditate in order to be a mentalist?”, “Is watching TV “bad” for me?” or “Does influencing people using your methods considered manipulation?” “Would it be “good” for me to run a marathon?” and many many other questions.
Well, they are often disappointed when I respond to their inquiries with, “Well, that all depends on who YOU are.”
I get stopped with such regularity that it caused me to think about the universal “our” obsession with black and white thinking, what really boils down to rigid thinking and how it sabotages our best efforts at good health, wellness, and happiness across all areas of our lives.
This made me think of a good example… A few summers ago I was unhappy with the design of my home. Because I am also a musician and an artist a good deal of my personal space is occupied with accompanying art equipment and supplies as well as musical instruments and audio systems. Not to mention the mess I create with all my video-studio equipment that I use to shoot my clips for my students! I didn’t like my home but I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how to conceive of a different way or a more workable setup of the space. Then I went for a tour around the world, to perform my show, and forgot about it completely. I didn't stop by performing my shows in the different venues who booked me, but I also hiked through the gorgeous sweeping canyons in Arizona, rode bikes along Venice in Los Angeles, saw great shows in the strip of Las Vegas with my friends and just enjoyed myself thoroughly.
When I returned from my trip, my home hadn’t changed, but I was seeing things COMPLETELY different. I was able to re-arrange my entire home in less than one day. The way I had seen the rooms had become rigid so much so I was unable to conceive of other possibilities, but as it turns out possibilities that were right in front of my eye-balls if I had only been OPEN enough to receive them. Do you know that feeling? I'm sure you had it many times before! Where you just need to shake your brain up a bit, and there is nothing that gets your brain more relaxed than a performance-tour in the west coast in my opinion! Yes, I know you're not an international entertainer who gets to fly around the world and perform for audiences (well, maybe some of you ARE), but this is not the point! The point is actually as simply as one word. Open.
OPEN is an important word in life in general. Because until we are OPEN to seeing things differently, we will continue to get stuck in the same places and be unable to move past them much as it may be our intention to do so.
As Albert Einstein said on the subject, “You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.”
But how do we get a different brain when we spend so much time caught up in our own thoughts and in our heads?
It is easy to overlook solutions when we are stuck in rigid thought patterns and it is even harder to actively pursue solutions when we are stuck in this all or nothing frame of mind.
Sometimes we ask outside sources for their opinion such as a friend or a counselor to help see an issue from a different angle, and when the third party somehow spots the opportunity or solution so clearly – we scratch our head wondering how we didn’t see it first? Or all along?
Part of the job of a marriage counselor such as a Psychologist is to take the differences between two individuals, with contrasting views or opinions, and help them find a middle path they can walk together. A solution if you will. Two people may not agree on something, but they can agree on an overall goal. As one of my favorite quotes goes: Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?
So why do so many of us fall victim of rigid thinking? While mental flexibility is a quality of high functioning, successful and happy individuals, rigid thinking tends to feel easier. One of the most common reasons why this occurs is because we are only allowing ourselves two options “Right” and “Wrong”, “Bad” and Good”. It also feels safer because if we can clearly point out something as “Bad” or “Wrong” we can easily condemn it and stand on the side of the “Right” and “Good”.
We are either against abortion or for it. We are either for the war or against it. We either ate healthy today, or we ate like crap. It’s easier to evaluate a situation by picking one position instead of recognizing that there are gradations of complexities to it, in other words, there’s a grey area.
The biggest reason my students decide to quit my lessons on “How to be a mentalist” is because they are upset that they can't simply learn how to read people's mind in one week! People believe that when you learn how to become a mentalist – you'll know immediately how to ‘read minds'. My job in teaching the skills of the mentalist is to uncover the gray area, the area as it turns out where most of life occurs, and hold my students' hands as they begin to feel comfortable in it.
You see, teaching my techniques of ‘Mentalizing' is a long journey that has no YES or NOs. My old students (meaning, the ones who have been studying my lessons for months and not weeks) see the amazing growth in their lives and they understand how to use my tools to read ‘between the lines' and understand the ‘grey lines' of other people's personalities.
Mental flexibility is the state where the most creative thinkers and innovative minds have taught themselves to live in. Mental flexibility allows us to be adaptable in changing circumstances, see “outside the box” and find solutions that are workable. A flexible thought process moves away from fear and into broad inclusive thinking and options.
When we are rigid in our thinking we are more likely to become stuck in unworkable old patterns, feel unhappy and dissatisfied with ourselves and others, and be unable to see our circumstances with a level head.
However once you recognize your rigidity in thinking what you have before you is a tremendous opportunity to adapt your way of thinking and behavior.
Here are just a few great ways to shake yourself out of rigid thinking and into flexible creative thinking:
- RE-EXAMINE and QUESTION: We all have go to responses to things. It feels easier to navigate through life on autopilot, but it can also cause us to marry ourselves to a way of thinking we may have outgrown. Take the time to understand why you came up with a belief system about something. What were you feeling at the time you began to believe something? Have you grown and evolved since you created this belief?
- GIVE YOURSELF A BREATHER: Allow yourself to take a BREATHER when you find yourself stuck in rigid thinking. If you feel you are chasing your tail and keep finding the same unworkable solutions sometimes the best thing to do is to step away from the source of your frustration and do something fun or silly so that you can loosen up when you look at a problem again.
- TRY SOMETHING NEW:Our brains require stimulation to work at the highest level one of the best ways to keep your brain open and flexible is to try something completely different, something you NEVER would have tried before. Take a cooking class, go parasailing, take up fencing.
- LEARN TO EMBRACE “THE GREY” AREA: Maybe you’re not ready to wholly give up your belief about something, but you have to learn to consider the possibilities in order to move forward. Write down a list of alternative solutions, be creative, allow your mind to play. Soon you will see that just one solution doesn’t work for everything and everyone, there are so many more and there will likely be one that will address the needs of your situation.
Go ahead and share with us, what makes YOU feel stuck in life right now? What is it that makes you want to go out there and get a new brain?
Share it with us in the comment section below: