Can you change your thinking? I think so! Today we have to think, work and respond faster than ever before. And time plays a part in changing our thinking because when under pressure, we will typically do what we always do. There isn’t time to think and we get caught-up in a react, react instead of having time for a thought-out response.
The world is rapidly changing: and at a rate that few would have predicted even just few years ago. Just look at political changes, shifts in world power, climate change, even down to aware we have become of the problem with throw-away plastics that have ended up in our oceans. In terms of how quickly it is happening, it is unprecedented.
To keep up, to not only cope, but to also to do well, you need to think more clearly and more creatively. I would like to share with you some tools that can help you develop your thinking so you can get past any blocks you have in your life and step into the flow of our new, fast moving world.
Changing your habitual thinking pattern
People tend to think about things according to their habit. For example, an optimist tends to have positive thoughts even in adverse situations, whilst someone who is generally fearful will tend to think of all the things that could go wrong, and so on. It’s usually not active choice: more commonly it’s habit that has developed along side your personality. If you would like to be able to think more creatively, see things from different perspectives, be able to take the opportunities that come your way – then you need to exercise your brain to think in different ways.
How can you do this? I’d like to introduce you to 2 different techniques that I use. The first way is a very practical, easy to master technique developed by Edward de Bono called, “The 6 Thinking Hats”. I teach this method to my business coaching clients who need a team to reach their full potential. The second way is a form of self-enquiry known as, The Work developed by Byron Katie. I sometimes use this approach with my life coaching clients when they are stuck, particularly if that is in terms of emotions around someone in their life, for it helps people see the flip side, and an alternative view to what is really going on.
The 6 Thinking Hats
Edward de Bono created this tool to specifically break habitual ways of thinking – especially in meetings, which are typically dominated by the loudest members of the team. By asking people to think in only one area at a time, it allows everyone to be involved and gets people to really think more deeply about a certain issue.
Say you want to have a meeting to resolve the issue of falling profits. The person leading the meeting may begin by asking people to put on their “white” hat which means thinking only about facts and figures of the situation: How much have profits fallen by? Is turnover down, or are expenses soaring? And so on. After this, people might be asked to switch to “green” hat thinking which is asking for creative new, fresh ideas like: What would be a new way of presenting our services? Then perhaps to go into Red Hat thinking – for feelings about the ideas. Anyone straying from the area of thinking is gently reminded to come back into the area until everything is on the table. Then taking everything into consideration, decisions can be made.
The different hats are:
The control hat used by the person hosting the meeting to layout the objectives and do the wrap-up of the final decisions. The person wearing the blue hat also keeps people in the thinking arena of the chosen hat.
Facts and figures. Dealing with the data only.
Feelings and emotions. How do people feel about what is being discussed?
Caution. Asks questions like: “What will happen if we take this action?”
Sunshine. Thinking with this hat looks at all of the benefits and positive aspects.
Growth, creative and fresh ideas. “How could we do this in a new way?”
There is no set order in which to use the hats – rather the host directs people as the meeting unfolds. A good ‘thinking’ meeting will consider all aspects – get people to think using all of the different ‘hats’. I have facilitated many meetings using this technique. It allows everyone to have their say, even quieter members of the team. It makes people feel included and enables a team to get behind any decisions for they feel they were instrumental in bringing about the solutions.
Byron Katie created this simple way to help people turn their thinking around, and in doing so help people change their lives. This thinking is known as The Work.
This process begins by putting your thoughts on paper about someone who is causing you stress, anguish, fear, or who is pushing your buttons. You are encouraged to be judgmental, harsh, childish and petty. Write as a child who is sad, angry, confused or frightened. This is not about being wise, spiritual or kind. This is about getting your innermost thoughts out.
These are the questions to guide your out-pouring:
• Who angers, disappoints or confuses you and why? What is it about them that you don’t like?
• How do you want them to change? What do you want them to do?
• What is it that they should or shouldn’t do, be or feel? What advice could you offer?
• Do you need anything from them? What do they need to do in order for you to be happy?
• What do you think of them?
• What is it that you don’t want to experience with that person again?
Then for each part of your answers, you ask yourself these 4 questions.
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought? And now turn it around.
Let me give you an example of how it begins. A client having difficulties in a new workplace shared with me the following when doing this exercise.
“Sarah and the others in the team exclude me. They go off together for a coffee break and never ask me if I want to come. They leave me doing all of the work. I’m not appreciated. I don’t feel like I’m part of the team.”
We went through what she wanted to change, what she thought of her work colleagues etc. But for now let just take this first strand or the first question. When asked, “Is it true that they exclude you?” my client said “Yes!” When I asked her, “Can you know absolutely that it’s true?” there was hesitation. Absolutely true? No, she couldn’t say it was absolutely true. When she was asked, “How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought” Her response was, “I get the hump. I disengage with them. I bury myself in my work.” At this point my client was beginning to see that she was excluding herself. To the final question, “Who would you be without the thought you were being excluded?” my client told me that she would engage; ask if she could join them to go on a coffee break. The turn-around was the change in perspective that she had made. In our next session, my client told me how different things were – she now felt included and part of the team. All that had really changed were her thoughts. Thinking differently about the situation, made things change.
Let me share with you some of Byron Katie’s wisdom from her book, Loving What Is
‘When you do The Work, you see who you are by seeing who you think other people are. Eventually you come to see that everything outside you is a reflection of your own thinking. You are the storyteller, the projector of all stories, and the world is the projected image of your thoughts’.
Since the beginning of time, people have been trying to change the world so they can be happy. This hasn’t ever worked because it approaches the problem backward. What The Work gives us is a way to change the projector—mind—rather than the projected. It’s like when there’s a piece of lint on the projector’s lens. We think there’s a flaw on the screen, and we try to change this person and that person, whomever the flaw appears to be on next. But it’s futile to try and change the projected images. Once we realise where the lint is, we can clear the lens itself. This is the end of suffering, and the beginning of a little joy in paradise.”
You can download The Work worksheets from www.thework.com