Think of a problem you are trying to solve that has been bugging you. It could be a dead end in your life, an overly complicated relationship, not meeting the “right” people, or a seemingly unsolvable work problem.
Whatever box you have been living in, throw it away now. Then write the problem on a new page in your Notes app on your smart phone or a journal, and answer the following questions:
- If I were more confident in myself, what I would do?
- If I were more driven, what would I do?
- If I were still age 10, what would I do?
- If I were still a teenager, what would I do?
- If I were 10 years older, what would I do?
This exercise may not solve your problem, but now that you’re looking at it from a variety of perspectives, you’re getting more clues than you had before. You’re not “stuck in the box” of who you are now. You see that there’s a number of possibilities for moving forward. That’s what cognitive flexibility is all about.
Another way to let go of your usual mode of thinking is to schedule time for throwing away the box. Don’t just think “outside the box”—think beyond the box itself. Simply thinking outside the box would suggest you are in a box in the first place. Societal stereotypes and prejudices are part of what builds the boxes around us. It’s often not our own doing, but sometimes we might build boxes of our own, too, around things, people, and ourselves. This is all part of inflexible thinking. When you broaden your perspective on who you are, a whole world opens up.
Here are some events you can schedule to mess with your calendar and practice breaking rigid habits and narrow thinking:
Entropy. This is a law of physics that tells us that systems predictably tend toward increasing disorder. It is the opposite of evolution in the biological realm—it’s the inclination to devolve into disarray. Find three hours of your week and schedule in ENTROPY. You can use your own words, such as “chaos,” “stuff hits the fan” or “licking my wounds.”
Fun. This is that feeling you get when you’re doing something new and interesting with no real purpose or desired outcome. Schedule two hours of fun on your calendar. Do not define what fun is. Let yourself figure out what feels fun when that time arrives. Only in that moment can you choose what that will mean.
Dreaming. Once a week, schedule three hours to do something that is not a reality for you, but still a dream or a desire. You can use this time any way you want; it serves only as a reminder to take your dreams seriously. If you’d like, you can use the time to set intentions or make goals for your dream. For example, I schedule 2 to 5 p.m. on Fridays as “dream interpretation.” I would like to offer sessions to clients that focus on interpreting dreams. I haven’t created a program, but I schedule it in my calendar as a reminder that I would like to be doing that.
Figuring out my place in the universe. Schedule 15 minutes for this every day. Think about all the people in the world, planets in the solar system, and galaxies in the universe. As you think, just wonder what it’s all about. Ask yourself, “What’s my role in the universe?”
Excerpt from: Brain Hacks: Life-Changing Strategies to Improve Executive Functioning will help you work smarter, stay focused and achieve your goals.
Lara Honos-Webb, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist licensed in California. She is author of Brain Hacks, The Gift of ADHD, The Gift of ADHD Activity Book, The Gift of Adult ADD, The ADHD Workbook for Teens, and Listening to Depression. Her work has been featured in USA Today, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, and more. Honos-Webb completed a two-year postdoctoral research fellowship at University of California, San Francisco, and has been an assistant professor for graduate students. She has published more than 25 scholarly articles. Visit her website at www.addisagift.com. You can also connect with Dr. Lara Honos-Webb on Instagram and Facebook.