Look for out-of-the-box answers

Molecular biologist, neuropsychologist, Dr. Bachrach Estanislao, PhD, in his book “The Flexible Mind. How to See Things Differently and Think Outside the Box” talks about the importance of creativity. He suggests always asking the question: how many points of view there are on a certain problem, ways to rethink and solve it? In this approach, it is important to abandon reproductive thinking, which lacks flexibility. “The solutions found with it are exactly the same as our past experiences, or – at least – outwardly similar to them,” the author notes.

A study by Harvard Business Review authors, included in a collection of the best articles on emotional intelligence, shows that leaders and executives in large companies make bad decisions more than half the time because of disorienting memories. They think they’ve faced a similar problem in the past, but that leads them down the wrong path.

Put yourself in the newcomer’s shoes

Natalie Fratto, a venture capitalist and vice president at Goldman Sachs, the largest investment bank, in her TED talk, advises to forget the information you already know and put yourself in the newcomer’s shoes. This can apply to any area of life, from finding a new path to a long-known location to alternative solutions at work. This approach, according to Fratto, allows you not to take existing attitudes as the only correct one and be more open to new rules and technologies.

Have new experiences every day

Curiosity and openness to the unknown have a positive impact on how we seek out new knowledge and how varied our daily experiences are. To develop these qualities, you need to be open to all senses. Don’t give up on an experience, even if you fear it will be negative or unsuccessful. If you feel dislike, fear and distrust, don’t avoid these feelings, feel them and let them go.

You can also do a daily practice exercise. It can be reading an unusual text (including in a new language), listening to music, watching an arthouse movie, or simply having a more thoughtful conversation with a colleague at work who will open up to a different side. The key is to find something new and surprise yourself. You can write the experience down in a journal. The knowledge will be more structured, and you will be able to better understand what areas you want to develop in the future.

Loosen your grip on what’s going on

Openness to experience means not only new experiences, but also the ability to be in the unknown. The latter often occurs when we let go of control of a situation. Research shows that certain intentions are conceived by our brains before we consciously decide to take action. In other words, we are carrying out an attitude that our brain has already adopted before we do. Despite seeming control over what is happening in the moment, one cannot know what one’s brain has in mind. Therefore, time can be more usefully spent looking for unorthodox solutions, exploring assumptions, or practicing relaxation.

Change states of attention

Mind flexibility develops when we alternate between states of focus and defocus. As psychologist Srini Pillay, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Harvard University, explains, the moment we stop focusing on tasks activates the brain’s passive-mode network, which gathers scraps of information and memories into a coherent whole. This knowledge allows for a more expansive understanding of the situation, as opposed to relentlessly concentrating on the problem, which leads to fatigue and one-sidedness of perception. Pillay suggests a 20-minute defocusing exercise several times a day. A free walk in nature or the city, a breathing practice, meditation, or the process of daydreaming, accompanied by an activity that relaxes you. For example, painting or tidying up your room. The main thing in choosing such exercises is to be guided by how you feel.