Why think differently

23 Jan What I’m Doing Works, Why Should I Bother Thinking Differently?

You’ve done a lot of things the right way.  You made it through grade school, high school and maybe even got a degree along the way.  You’re likely employed and contributing to society.  These experiences have fostered a way of thinking that works for you.  Good job!

But I want you to think differently.

So, if what you’re doing is working for you, why should you try a different approach?

I’m passionate about getting people to think differently.  I desperately want you to get a new perspective and approach life from a new angle.  This is not to say that there is a “right” way to think.  The way you think works for you – no need to abandon it.  But if you occasionally approach problems, tasks and people in new ways, you’ll discover that thinking differently leads to great results.

I’m a contrarian.  

I always have been.  Maybe it’s because I’m the baby boy in a family with three older sisters.  Maybe it’s because my Mom’s habitual first reaction to anything new is “no…”  

Whatever the reason, I’ve always been able to take the opposite stance on any topic – even when that means that I’m arguing against my own personal beliefs and attitudes.

I’m sure this can get annoying for those around me. Just ask my wife.

BUT, there are some upsides to this way of thinking.  The ability to see the ‘other’ side of an situation creates a more balanced view and leads to more reasoned decisions.  

So, here are my top 5 reasons to Think Differently:

5 Increase Problem Solving Skills and ‘Big Picture Thinking’

See the big picture

If you have a problem, you want to solve it.  Likely, you want to solve it as quickly and efficiently as you can so you can get on with your life.  This desire for quickness often leads to adopting the first solution that comes to mind.  That may be a fine answer, but chances are good that a better answer is waiting to be discovered.  By thinking differently about the problem, your mind will uncover solutions that aren’t obvious at first glance.  

The problem we need to solve is often a piece of a larger, more complex issue.  Just one piece of the bigger puzzle.  If you are focused narrowly on that small part, you’re likely to miss the bigger picture.  This happens in organizations all the time.  One person (or department) will try to solve a problem without understanding where that problem fits into a larger strategy or vision.  By approaching the problem from new angles, you’ll gain an appreciation of where your specific problem fits into the big picture.

4 Get Out (and Stay Out) of a Rut

Get out of a rut

“The most dangerous phrase in the language is “we’ve always done it this way.”

~Rear Admiral Grace Hopper

We all get into ruts sometimes, it just happens. But thinking differently can help us to get out of these ruts and avoid them in the future. If we’re always looking at things through the same lens, how can we expect to do things differently and move around certain obstacles? Questioning the status quo is a great way to tackle a rut and reformulate road maps and avenues towards our goals and accomplishments, large or small.

Next time you find yourself in a rut of any sort, try thinking about things a bit differently: has my current workflow or formula been working for me? How can this be tweaked? Flip things around and challenge yourself to see things from a different perspective and redefine how you navigate through life’s potholes.

3 Stand out From the Crowd

Stand out in a crowd

By and large, our educational system encourages similarity.  We’re taught to memorize facts and learn the ‘one right answer’.  Then we grow up and our culture tends to favor those who ‘step in line’ and ‘get with the program.’  We’re told not to rock the boat.  To play it safe.

Yet, some of the most celebrated members of our society are those who think differently.  

If you want to stand out from the crowd and discover better ways of doing your job, you need to approach problems from new angles.  When you’re surrounded by complacency, the willingness to apply new ways of thinking and working may feel risky, but the rewards can be tremendous.

2 Find New (and Better) Solutions

Be more innovative

The desire for a quick solution also leads to recycling ideas.  We use the same solution that worked last time, even when we’re not sure it’s the best answer.  This is reflected in the statement “we’ve always done it that way.”  Just because there’s an established pattern, that doesn’t mean it’s the best possible answer.

For tens of thousands of years, humankind made fire by rubbing sticks together.  The friction causes heat which eventually can be coaxed into flame.  I’ve personally done this and can tell you, yes, it works.  But it’s a LOT of work.  Other advancements including flint (essentially banging rocks together) happened over time, but the creation of fire remained a serious task for centuries.

Then, one day in the 1800s, someone thought differently and created the match.  This revolution literally changed the world.  All because someone thought ‘there must be a better way’.  

So, what are you doing in your life that makes you think “there must be a better way”?

1 Have Empathy – See Things From Others’ Perspectives

See others perspectives

Finally, my number one reason to think differently – empathy.

Simply put, empathy is the ability to share another person’s feelings and experiences from their perspective.  Each person’s life experiences have created their own unique perspective on reality.  These differences are what make life interesting.  Unfortunately, they also make it complicated.

In my experience, the lack of empathy is the biggest cause for conflict at home and in the workplace (for that matter, in the world.)  If we aren’t able (or willing) to truly understand another’s motivations, desires, pains and perspectives, how can we expect to get along with anyone?  

But when you think differently, you can start to build empathy and see the world from someone else’s perspective.  You can start to see what lead them to their conclusions and motivated their actions.  That’s not to say that you will always agree with them, but by having empathy, you can start to build bridges of understanding and create solutions that work for everyone involved.

Next Steps 

So, now that you’re excited about thinking differently, what’s next?  I’m going to spend all of 2016 writing about how the topic in depth.  Next week, we’ll start with some quick and simple ways that you can start approaching your world from a fresh perspective.

Don’t forget about my 2016 Theme Photo Challenge!  Harness the power of a yearly theme, then join me on Instagram and tag your own theme photos with #my2016theme. Check out my post about Themes vs Resolutions.

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