Thinking Flexibly

Our mission statement reads: Growing Great Kids! We do this by affirming the strengths and struggles of TeRRiFiC citizens, stretching positive and productive habits of mind, and celebrating the awakening of creativity. This week’s habit is all about the stretch. Thinking flexibly encourages us to look beyond the norm and to try the unexpected. Too often, we settle for mediocrity or fail to consider new possibilities. For Christmas this year I built a wood project for each member of my family. To my surprise they turned out to be nice pieces of work. Between YouTube and the right tools, I was able to build things I never thought I could. I stretched myself and am now a little better version of Mr. B. Questioning our possibilities and stretching our thinking can produce new and wonderful gifts in our life.

The 80:20 Rule! If we want our children to think flexibly, think for themselves, and ultimately work our way out of our parenting job within 18 years, it is critical that they learn to answer their own questions. The 80:20 Rule is a general guide to describe how often we should ask questions versus giving answers. Most of the time (80% or so when they are young) our parenting should involve questions and less time (20%) provide answers. It is essential to flexible thinking that a child use his/her own brain to come up with answers instead of using ours. As a child gets older and wiser the questioning percentage should increase and answers all but cease. One of the ways we can look at our role as parents is that our job is to nurture neurons. When we think flexibly and encourage it in our kids, our brain neurons stretch their dendrites and improve electrical and chemical impulses from one neuron to another – this is what it means to be smart! Lengthy, healthy, and active neurons makes us intelligent and capable citizens.

The old adage of teaching a man to fish instead of feeding him the fish applies to this habit. When we question our children they are forced to think flexibly and consider various options and points of view. When necessary, provide 2-3 good answers and let them choose for themselves. Thinking flexibly forces neurons to stretch to other neurons and in doing so, creativity and intelligence improves.

Training Exercises

  • Heart – challenge our mind to seek first to understand, then to be understood.
  • Mind – “Do the math” – consider another way of resolving a problem.
  • Body – write with your non-dominant hand. Attempt a new activity or exercise in a very different way if only to recognize that there are various ways to accomplish something.
  • Soul – identify personal thinking patterns that don’t produce positive results and ask yourself if you might want to consider breathing new life into them.

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” Kenny Rogers

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