Can you teach yourself to think differently? Both research on the topic, and success stories, suggest that you can, indeed!
In our previous blog post, we looked at develop a learning mindset to make the most of every encounter, conversation and piece of information you come across. Now, let’s talk about mindset shifts.
Different schools of thought on the subject come to the same conclusion through different pathways. In psychology and specifically, the branch called Transactional Analysis, the basic tenet is that we are all governed by our own life scripts and that with conscious effort we can change these scripts to serve us better. In What To Say When You Talk To Yourself, psychologist and author Dr Shad Helmsetter argues that the more we practice talking ourselves down, the less we succeed in our efforts, and vice versa. In any case, our internal dialogue has a major role to play in determining our success, and the same goes for thinking differently as well. After all, a pattern of thought is nothing but something we’ve practised long enough to believe. Ready to change these patterns for good? Let’s get started, then. 1. Observe: We live in a world of endless banter. Most of it is presented to us by choice, in the form of social media, notifications and meetings we can’t say no to. Some of it is important information that we actually need to get through a day.
If you could look into your brain right now, would it look like a spotlessly clean Japanese home, or would it look like a pile of garbage? Let’s be honest here- most of us do have garbage piles in our heads. And when they’re not cleaned from time to time, they pile up and begin to stink. Most importantly, they leave space for nothing else, garbage or otherwise.
The first step in learning to think differently is observing what ads to the garbage pile on a daily basis. For this writer, it is the sheer to-do list that includes everything from due dates to school notices and even what to cook for dinner.
Journaling is a great way to begin noticing some of these things with more clarity. Some people prefer to doodle their minds away, while others prefer writing. Be sure to take time every evening to journal your thoughts and make not of what can stay and what needs to go.
2. Clean-Up: Philosophers, saints and monks weren’t entirely wrong when they unanimously declared that the mind is a monkey. Cleaning up space on the top floor is not just about clearing out the clutter, but also about replacing it with meaningful ideas.
The first step towards cleaning up is a digital detox. Yep, we recommend doing away with social media entirely. If that’s too hard in one go, start with achievable targets, like not checking Instagram for one full day.
Doing so gives you a chance to experience boredom, and boredom is that empty space in the head that you can fill with things that actually serve you.
Had a chance to be bored yet?
3. Push The Envelope: In times of boredom, it is easy to fall back into old habits such as binging on The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina. However, resist the urge to let the old habits play out. Every time you think of opening up that app, or just turning on the television, resist the urge and spend some more time being bored.
This allows new thoughts and ideas to fill the vacuum, such as writing a poem or painting something, or even just getting that much-needed nap.
From here, your imagination is the only limit!
Try and do things you’ve never done before, like doodling about your day if you usually write. To get you started, we have curated a list of ten ideas for you to begin with. Add to the list with your own ideas and keep going.
Learn a new word and use it in one conversation
Draw something simple from memory alone
Read a graphic novel/ comic book
Watch a movie in a language you don’t understand, without subtitles
Try a new cuisine, one that you’ve never tried before
Cook a meal from scratch
Find the oldest unread book in your collection and read two pages from it
Choose any five words at random and make them your prompt for writing a story
Try a physical activity you’ve never tried before
Ask friends for playlist suggestions and listen to songs you’ve never heard before
Activities like these force the brain to think in new patterns and form new connections. In fact, you can even feel them forming just by the sheer degree of discomfort of doing them. Also, it isn’t important that your art match Picasso’s proficiency or your writing win the Booker prize- let it be bad, and let bad be the new starting point.
After all, learning does begin from level Zero.