Attitude is often more important than skills and knowledge. If you are determined to follow a course of action that requires specific knowledge, it is always possible to apply your mind to learning what you need to know in order to become skilled in that specific area.
It is rather more difficult to change your attitude. The language you habitually use is a good indication of what others will perceive about you, your outlook on life in general or on a specific matter.
Using the word ‘but’ and statements such as “This will never work”, may indicate that not only are you risk averse, but perhaps unwilling to change your perspective.
Specific mental habits that support innovation and creativity are:
Instead of focusing on what seems impossible or overwhelming, develop curiosity by asking better questions.
Questions that carry limitations rather than options are –
- “Why did you do this?”
- “Why is this happening to me?”
- “Why do I have to solve this problem?”
The first question generally leads to defensiveness. The others often simply have no answers – leading to frustration or a feeling of being overwhelmed.
Better questions would be:
- “What did you intend to achieve with this course of action?”
- “What can I learn from this experience?” and
- “What else should I consider in order to solve this problem?”
Willingness to Experiment
Hesitation, doubt or fear can prevent you from experimenting. Trying different options when you are presented with a problem that has to be resolved, can lead to exciting discoveries whether related to your professional or personal life.
Asking “what would happen if” is an approach used by toddlers and young children, when they lack the necessary language skills to verbalise their intent. They often lose this tendency because adults transfer their own fears and the tendency to be risk aversive. This is not to say you should take risks bordering on the irrational or irresponsible that can endanger your life or the life of another. Experimentation is how many great inventors found solutions to seemingly impossible situations – sometimes after dealing with failure after failure.
Challenge yourself by asking more “what if” questions every day. New and better habits take time to form.
Try, even though you don’t know everything
Somehow people believe that they can only try their hand at something if they have mastered every single aspect of their subject. This is a fallacy and a sign of perfectionism taken to the extreme. There is always someone who knows more than you. New discoveries and theories will not wait for you to catch up, and there is no better school of learning than applying something on a practical level – within reason, of course!
If you would like to communicate better, then communicate. If you desire to be more confident – practice is what it takes and even the smallest step in the right direction leads to more confidence. No matter how much you read about communication, confidence, being positive or gaining more knowledge about managing your finances and investments, you can only master it by practice.
Take advantage of the knowledge of others
Experimentation and practice are great – combined with that, what would happen if you verify your arguments or intended course of action by speaking to a knowledgeable other? The worst case scenario would be that you find your reasoning process did not take account of an unseen critical factor. The best case scenario is that you may either be right or on the right track, and then there is the possibility that a chance remark leads to learning something new or solving a tricky problem.
Observe an expert in action
Children learn by imitating to become proficient at things that require small motor skills – they use the same process to master the complexity of learning a language!
The best way to learn a new skill, or a life skill such as displaying a positive attitude, is to observe those who are already proficient.
- What do they say?
- How do they say it?
- How do they act?
- How is that different from your way of expressing yourself or acting?
- Are there specific behaviours they display that would be easy to adopt?
- What mental changes would you need if you want to be more creative, competent and insightful?
- What specific attitude changes are required in order to support such flexibility?
Remember that mental flexibility raises you above your limitations, both those you impose on yourself and those you may be unaware of. It can make the difference between mediocrity and greatness.
Mental flexibility is, however, dependent on emotional resilience and a willingness to acknowledge the power of your thoughts!