“with simple thinking, we can maximise our focus with minimum distractions.”
Many things influence our lives and decisions we make. The primary influences being the perceptions and most of the times, the mistakes of perception leads to our complex thinking. we get used to the complex processes, procedures and matters in our day-to-day tasks which in turn add to our complicated thinking. We acquire habits, possessions, relationships, needs, etc., which are part of richness and enjoyment of life — but also are the reason of the complexity of our thinking.
We get continually bullied by opportunities which seem to be attractive and get pressurised by them thereby making our lives more complex. Sometimes fear of boredom leads you into a complexity of temptations and pressures of ‘have to do things.’ This makes our thinking a complex process driving us to busyness, approval of others, anxiety, performance and control.
Some of this complexity is created by us and some we accept and take on as part of our daily lives. Having things to take care of, people to deal with or processes to attend to, our thoughts create clutter giving rise to complicated ideas and create confusion and disappointments. We get caught up in the day-to-day complex tasks we have to get done and often run out of time to do the things that really matter and those that are essential.
We get so comfortable things being familiar and certain way that we don’t want to find simpler way of doing things. Simplicity in thinking is something that is deliberate and intentional and should be a choice you make. By adopting to a ‘simple perspective’ in your thinking, you can free yourself from all the distractions and you can maximise your focus on that which is essential, can eliminate complexities, create effective solutions and can reach your objectives or goals much faster.
Simplicity makes it easier to do things. But finding a simpler way is usually not that simple.
The perspective of ‘simple thinking’
Complex is something which is hard to understand, explain, or deal with and leads to inefficiency, wastage of time, attention and mental energy in unnecessary things. But there is always a much simpler way of doing things. The perspective of ‘simple thinking’ and doing is always possible and is very important to improve efficiency and to reduce stress, anxiety and frustration. By identifying areas, matters and procedures which seem unnecessary and replacing them with simple processes, you can learn to take action much faster.
“When we begin pursuing a more simple, intentional life, we obtain a new perspective.”
Perspective of ‘simple thinking’ is a value, a habit and an attitude of mind as much as it is a process. You accept something complex because you are not looking for simple solutions and your outputs also tend to be complex. Simplicity will not happen unless you are prepared to work hard and make a real effort to achieve it. The emphasis needs to be on simple perspective at every moment of your decision-making process.
‘Is there a simpler way to do this?’
‘Is this really necessary?’
‘Does this add to simplicity or complexity?’
By having the intention of making something simple, you can prioritise your actions towards simple processes.
Ways to achieve a ‘simple perspective’
Many of us consider thinking as a complex process because we have never made any attempt to make it simpler. We tie ourselves up in complex rules when in reality, most of our practical thinking takes place in ‘simple perspective’ and is mostly based on self-organising system of brain. So, We can design simple tools for thinking to improve productivity in number of ways and for a more focused effort.
You need not always depend on major changes to make things simple. You can Make slight changes in small things to simplify your efforts of doing difficult things.
Here are some small changes that can be made to achieve ‘simple perspective’ in your efforts of achieving your tasks.
One thing at a time
We are capable of thinking many things at the same time. But if you find matters getting too complex, then it is always better to pay attention to only one thing at a time. It does not mean that you cannot do more than one thing at a time — but you choose not to for the moment.
Express in words
Complexity is difficult to cope with while it remains out of consciousness and you will find it difficult to arrive at decisions. When something seems complex and difficult, verbalise why you are making that choice, the reasons behind your decision. This can simplify and clarify your decision-making process.
Complexity arises when you are trying to deal with more than one matter at same time. If there are two separate issues, separate them out and deal with each one on its own. Analyse and break it down to deal with it one at a time.
Take small steps
If the task is complex, it can be broken down into tiny steps. Certain tasks may seem impossibly complex on the whole, but if broken down to small steps, each step can be simple and doable. It is simpler to focus on the next step than to focus on the entire task.
Concepts are a broad and general way of simplifying things. They simplify the action into stages. Making use of concepts in thinking can simplify your efforts. Once the concept is formed, the details of the concept will still need to be worked out but they set the direction of the action.
Think in stages
Always have a clear objective in mind and figure out how to reach the objective.
• The direction to reach your objective.
• The concepts that can be used in order to move in that direction.
• The ideas that can be used to put those concepts into action.
Thinking in this kind of framework helps you arrive at possible action alternatives to achieve your complex tasks.
Do things slowly
If your mind is minimally occupied, as in doing things slowly, it will be more able to have new ideas. This also helps the mind to clarify or simplify things and requires discipline and concentration.
Things which were needed at one time may be no longer needed. Shedding approach simply involves throwing things out and putting nothing in their place. Sometimes things are ‘unnecessary’ or ‘redundant’. If these things add to clarity they should be retained, but if they add to the complexity of the situation, they should be shredded and thrown out.
Clarity and simplicity go together. What is the situation? What do we really need to do? What is going on? Questions of this sort can clarify and provide thorough understanding of the situation or process. The perspective of simple thinking comes from thorough understanding.
As a self-organising information system, our brain allows incoming information to organise itself into routine patterns. Once we identify with these patterns, we flow along with them without much effort. Setting up routines can simplify your perception and action.
Be determined to seek simplicity.
When things are highly complicated we do often wish for simple perspective. But when things are not complicated we rarely strive to make something simple. Always find simpler ways of doing things. Make the ‘simple perspective’ as part of your normal thinking process to free up time, reduce stress and to make better decisions.
Put yourself in ‘simple perspective’
• Be determined to make an active effort to make things more simple.
• Be motivated and creative to arrive at a possible simple, effective and practical solution to a problem.
• Have the willingness to simplify process instead of coping with complexity.
• Look for simple alternatives and be willing to invest time and effort in that search.
• Spell out in words what you are seeking to achieve. This creates a path to move in defined direction thereby avoiding unnecessary.
• Design the ideal simple process and then seek to work incrementally step by step.
• Consider all the things you are busy with right now and consider how few of these are really necessary.
• Take notice of your habits and cut back on clutter, distractions and focus on the essentials.
“Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs
Problems exist everywhere and may arise in all facets of our lives. They are natural part of any work related or business related process. These problems block our progress if not addressed or solved. When we fail to solve these problems, we often learn to work around them or simply learn to live with them. But they can be solved and focusing on finding solutions to problems that arise empowers us and will benefit our personal and professional lives.
It may not be clear what the problem is unless it comes to light. Understanding the problem is important in order to know whether to spend the time or money to find a solution. As a problem solver, you need to understand how the system meant to work and the fundamentals that affect the problem so you can follow a systematic approach. You can find solutions to almost any kind of problem in a methodical and disciplined way.
Here are some do’s and don’ts when diving into problem-solving.
Understand the problem
When we face a problem, we tend to come up with many ideas of what might be wrong and how to fix it and quickly get to work without proper understanding. Anytime you come up with a potential cause that you are not certain of ‘you are guessing’. Guessing is naturally reinforced throughout our lives and we like it because it is quick and works for some of easy problems.
Guessing has number of drawbacks as itrobs you of your time and resources to test every guess. With a long list of your guesses, you will end up wasting both and worse sometimes you may miss out the root cause on your list. You might cause new problems as you really don’t understand the root cause.
Next time around, when these guesses are going to bounce around and distract you, do not suppress, write down your guesses, recognise them for what they are and get them out of your system. Take time to analyse and understand the problem before you rush in to solve it.
“If you are unable to understand the cause of a problem, it is impossible to solve it.” – Naoto Kan
Do not Hide Behind Ignorance
We are often afraid to admit what we don’t know, because it is comforting to imagine that we already have a good idea of the solution to our problem and can take action. The fear of looking ‘ignorant’ or of being ‘exposed’ by asking questions one is “ supposed to know” causes many to hide behind their ignorance. You fail to solve the problem by pretending to know something you don’t under false understanding.
When you are in a problem solving situation, you must focus on learning what you do not yet know. You need not present yourself as all-knowing. Embrace your ignorance and challenge what ‘everyone knows’ by asking questions to make sure you have facts. These questions shatter assumptions and provoke new insight and gets you closer to the problem-solving.
Define the Problem
Get your problem definition right. The way you define your problem influences the solution. Not knowing the problem you are solving might lead to wasting your time and resources to fix something that was never the problem in the first place, whereas defining lets you have a measurable observation and you can remove guessing and emotional attachment to the problem.
Don’t get trapped into solving the wrong problem by defining with prejudice or assumption. Make sure to define your problem as something that is fully within your scope and precisely describing what you observe.
“A problem clearly stated is a problem half solved.” – Dorothea Brande
Don’t wander aimlessly, Generate Possible Solutions
Sometimes, we aimlessly wander around looking at too many things and reams of data. Instead try to ask specific questions about the behaviour of the problem and generate as many solutions possible.
Understand what is going on behind your problem and what controls your problem. Here are some questions to ask:
1. What does the problem look like?
2. Is it the same every time?
3. When did you first see this?
4. What pattern do you notice?
5. What is its cause?
Be detailed and thorough to know how the problem manifests and use the answers as guides. You can develop a pattern of failure to understand where the problem does and doesn’t happen. Try to find specific information and generate possible solutions. Consider about the positive and negative consequences and what you want the solution to do or not to do.
“You can increase your problem-solving skills by honing your question-asking ability.” – Michael J. Gelb
Arrive at simple solutions
Many of us are used to a pattern of poor problem solving that we have come to believe that complex problems have complex solutions. The complex solutions tend to be often expensive and end up fixing the symptoms instead of the actual problem. Break your assumption and believe in simple solution to complex problems.
Once you understood the root cause,
evaluate them for their effectiveness by considering the following:
1. Does the solution solve the real problem?
2. What are the consequences of implementing the solution?
3. Would this solution help you solve the problem permanently?
This way, you can eliminate many of the variables that aren’t working and can arrive with best and simple possible solution.
Simple solution will always give you the most effective outcome and you will be able to approach the problem correctly rather than work around it.
Don’t make opinion-based decisions
If a particular problem that is ‘known to all’ is being solved, a common method is to use “wisdom of the group.” In solving such problems, do not use your assumptions about facts or the assumptions of others to make decisions, rather verify the facts yourself. Opinion-based decisions prevent progress and you might end up in a wrong direction and won’t solve the problem.
When solving your own complex problems, recognise your opinions for what they are and set them aside.
Use facts to determine which solution is most objectively valuable and has more impact. Be persistent in getting the right facts and make fact-based decisions.
“Your ability to solve problems and make good decisions is the true measure of your skill as a leader.” – Brian Tracy
Finally, Focus your efforts to stay on the solution-finding path and avoid distractions. Don’t get bogged down by expanding the scope of your problem endlessly. Instead break up your problem to eliminate the variables that are not contributing and dig into those you can’t eliminate. This keeps you on the path to the root cause.
Next time you are faced with a problem or an issue, try to structure your efforts systematically and focus on an organised approach to get to the possible solution.
People are constantly doing things. But usually only when they have to or under fire from themselves or others. Many of them lack organisational capabilities, planning and management of their internal and external agreements. They get no sense of winning or of being in control, or of cooperating among themselves and with others. This dramatically decreases their ability to make things happen and lowers their performance personally or professionally.
Acting out of external pressure or stress
lowers your self-esteem and ends up making you feel not so good about yourself. Disempowerment lowers your positive Psychological Capital or PsyCap. The aim of developing positive psychological state is to build best qualities, to get things going of your own accord, before you are forced to by external pressure and internal stress. This builds a firm foundation for good self-worth and self-esteem that in turn spreads to every aspect of your life. You are the captain of your own ship; the more you act from this perspective, the better things will go for you. This increases your ability and levels of empowerment.
What is PsyCap?
PsyCap is a common resource connected to many positive outcomes such as job performance, psychological well-being and boosting your self-esteem. PsyCap is your overall resourceful state with all your potentially meaningful things clarified, organised and reflected upon. People with high PsyCap, put more effort into a task, are tenacious, have realistic expectations of future success and respond positively to setbacks or difficulties.
Your PsyCap is a combination of following:
•Self-efficacy : is the ability to take on and devote the necessary effort to succeed at challenging tasks. This improves your job satisfaction, commitment and well-being. (By enabling you to create and maintain a complete picture of your commitments to yourself and others in order to make good decisions, automatically builds your confidence, control and well-being.)
•Hope: Your desire or ambition to persevere and redirecting paths when necessary to reach goals in order to succeed. (Identifying your valuable goals and generating multiple pathways helps you to consider required resources to pursue them. Discarding unrealistic pathways and adopting smaller and realistic pathways makes you more organised and you can generate multiple solutions.)
•Resilience: Ability to face problems and adversity, to sustain and to bounce back to original or to even better state of being. (There will be obstacles to virtually any goal. When you ensure ownership of your goals, you can anticipate and be better prepared for obstacles and can overcome them by implementing multiple pathways. You can respond positively to setbacks.)
•Optimism: Ability to believe that you will succeed and involves making positive attributions about succeeding now and in the future. (Greater optimism enables you to draw connection between the successful completion and their purpose goal-directed efforts. This creates constructive thinking patterns and inspiring atmosphere. You can adapt well to change.)
Why is PsyCap important?
Positive psychological state leads to positive organisational behaviour and improves your personal and organisational well-being. PsyCap consists of essential personal psychological resources such as self-esteem, being in control and emotional stability. Empowerment, competence and initiating actions with a sense of having a choice is more possible if you develop high levels of PsyCap. Empowering yourself leads to effectiveness, improves your belief in your own capabilities and can have a positive impact on yourself and others.
Ways to enhance your PsyCap.
What can you do to build up your ability and to enhance your PsyCap? Here are some ways to overcome inadequacy attitudes and learning to practice hope and optimism.
Raise your individual self-awareness.
Self-awareness and understanding your needs is an important key to behaving in a ways that move you closer to achieving your goals.
Accept your strengths and weaknesses. This lets you express yourself clearly and helps in asserting your needs with others effectively. Once you are aware of your area of strength, find ways to demonstrate it. Being self-aware lets you define your valuable goal and ensures ownership and freedom to make choices.
Avoid generic positive affirmations.
You can tell yourself you’re great but if you don’t really believe it, your mind will reject the affirmation. Just telling yourself ‘you can do it’ isn’t enough. Your affirmations should be based on your true strengths. Use constructive and positive statements to avoid negative self talk and to control your inner dialogue. List out your valuable goals and devise realistic pathways based on your true strengths.
Open yourself to feedback.
Self esteem is not fuelled by —‘I’ll be successful any day now’ — or by false beliefs — ‘I am the greatest.’ It is fuelled by authentic experiences of demonstrating ability, competence, and learning from mistakes. True estimate of your ability helps you to make necessary effort to succeed at challenging tasks. You can attempt to make yourself better by being open to feedback.
Do not let self-deprecatory thoughts grow into mental monsters. Do not build up obstacles in your imagination. Difficulties must be efficiently dealt with to be eliminated, but they must be seen for only what they are. They must not be inflated by your fear thoughts. Have positive expectations about future.
Keep up with your internal and external agreements.
When people with whom you interact notice that without fail, you receive, process and organise the agreements and exchanges they have with you, they begin to trust. You tend to incorporate a level of self-confidence in your engagements. This prevents a poisonous guilt complex and enhances the quality of your communications and relationships, both personally and professionally.
Remain flexible in the face of obstacles.
Never be too stubborn to change. Seeking out unconventional solutions to problems and keeping an open mind helps you in making your own decisions in the face of problems. Think outside the box to develop tolerance for ambiguity and maintain an openness to change.
Create sense of direction in your life and develop a foresight to anticipate problems or needs by paying attention to the details. Be committed and do things that actually make you feel accomplished, appreciated and empowered. Try taking steps that make you feel you’re advancing towards your goals.
Mindsets are an important part of your personality and behaviour. Your ‘personality mindset’ comes into play in situations that involve your personal qualities — how dependable, cooperative, caring or socially skilled you are. People always think, act and fare differently from each other. These differences are mainly due to people’s backgrounds, experiences, training or ways of learning. The view thus adopted for yourself has a profound affect on the way you lead your life. This view becomes your mindset and can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.
The two mindsets
Believing that your qualities are fixed and thinking that you have certain kind of intelligence, certain personality and a moral character makes you a person of fixed mindset. For people with fixed mindset, human qualities are like they are carved in stone and intelligence or personality is something that is fixed or is a deep-seated trait.
Believing that your intelligence or personality is something you can develop and that human qualities are not fixed and you can always make an effort to improve yourself makes you a person of growth mindset. People with growth mindset do not waste time proving how great they are, but instead believe that the basic qualities can be cultivated through learning and they constantly better themselves with continuous effort.
Fixed mindset vs growth mindset
Most of us are trained in fixed mindset from an early age creating a mindset in which our one consuming goal is to look smart and prove ourselves in classrooms, careers, and in our relationships.
People with fixed mindset have a constant urge to prove themselves to others and they feel rejected with minor disappointments and setbacks. Do not confuse yourself fixed mindset with low self esteem. They are just as worthy and optimistic when they aren’t coping with failure. They strongly believe “If at first you don’t succeed, you probably don’t have the ability.” Or “ If Rome wasn’t built in a day, may be it wasn’t meant to be.”
Fixed mindset does not let you believe in putting effort or getting help, and makes you fear the challenges with its focus on permanent traits. People with this mindset tend to misestimate their performance and their ability. This turns them into non-learners and lose interest when things get too challenging. They have higher levels of depression and ruminate over minor problems and setbacks.
On the contrary, growth mindset lets you understand the power of persistence and the importance of taking risks. It lets you recognise the value of challenges and overcoming obstacles. People with growth mindset think they can work much harder and always resolve to do better. They strongly believe in “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Or “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
It is interesting to know that those with the growth mindset can identify their own strengths and weaknesses. This leads to the love of challenge, belief in effort, and resilience in the face of setbacks. With their focus on development, they take action to confront their problems and become more determined to take up the challenges.
By being aware of both mindsets, you can start thinking in new ways. All of us have elements of both — a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets. People can also have different mindsets in different areas.
Your personality or intelligence is something you can develop. You can always make an effort to shift your mindset in order to take better action. Mindset is not a fixed quantity and can be changed or increased with practice, training, and above all you can improve your attention, memory, and your judgment. A simple shift in your mindset can transform you into the person you want to be and can accomplish the things you value.A mindset shift lets you-
love what you are doing.
Believing talents can be developed allows you to fulfil your potential. Growth mindset allows people to love what they are doing. Many successful people didn’t even plan to go to the top. They arrived there as a by-product of their enthusiasm and love for what they did. In the fixed mindset, you tend to base everything on outcome. It makes you think if you fail or if you are not the best—it is all been wasted. By changing your mindset, you begin to value and love what you are doing regardless of outcome.
Fixed mindset undermines the value of effort. It makes you think effort is for those who don’t have the ability or “Things come easily to people who are true geniuses” or “If you have to work at something, you must not be good at it.” We begin to prefer effortless success and become intolerant of mistakes, criticism or setbacks as we constantly crave for validation by others.
Whereas by changing you perspective to growth mindset, you begin to admire the effort, for no matter what your ability is. You can catch yourself when you are in the throes of the fixed mindset — like instead of getting discouraged when something requires lot of effort, challenge yourself and continue your effort. Know that many successful people did not have natural ability, but developed exceptional skills through their effort.
Growth mindset doesn’t let failure define you. Failure for growth mindset is something to be faced, dealt with, and learned from. It makes you concerned with improving as you are open to the accurate information about your current abilities. People with fixed mindset instead of trying to learn from and repair their failures, they simply try to repair their self-esteem by assigning blame or making excuses. Growth mindset thinkers correct their deficiencies and learn from their mistakes in an effort to better themselves.
Here is how you can change your mindset:
• A fixed mindset can undo your learning habit. When we try to learn something new, may be a sport, dance or a new skill, many times it gets hard and we opt out either because you felt bored or tired. Next time this happens don’t let the fixed mindset take over. Do not assume you are always bad at it. Well, may be you are, but then may be you aren’t. Grow your mind set by putting in the effort in learning.
• It feels nice to surround yourself with people who make you feel faultless. It is always tempting to create a world in which we feel perfect. But you will never be able to grow. Try and seek constructive criticism.
• If you think something from your past, like being rejected or a test score or a callous action, measured you wrong, focus on that thing and feel all the emotions that go with it. Get into the growth mindset perspective. Understand your role in your growth and know that it doesn’t define your personality or intelligence.
• Next time you feel depressed or low, grow your perspective by thinking about learning, challenging and by confronting obstacles. Think about your effort as a positive and more constructive force.
• When people outdo you, instead of assuming that they were smarter or more talented, consider that they just used better strategies, taught themselves more, practiced harder and worked their way through obstacles. You can do that too if you grow your mindset.
Finally, most of us become the targets of negative stereotyping. Even when the negative label comes along, you can remain incharge by developing your growth mindset.
Fixed mindset stands in the way of development and change. The growth mindset is the starting point for change, but you need to decide for yourself where you need to put it n your efforts and where they would be most valuable.