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Are you a flexible thinker?

Posted 19th of February, 2019 at 5:42am by Sharyn Kennedy

We love the idea of flexible, agile bodies, but what about flexible, agile minds? Just as you exercise your body, you can exercise your mind — with practice, you can get better at being flexible in your thinking. What does flexible thinking look like? Since you can think in two very different ways, flexible thinking happens when you move rapidly and flexibly between two thinking styles.

  • One style of thinking is seen as rational — it’s conscious, analytical and can be learned in standard ways. This thinking might be, “I need to go to the store and pick up meat and salad ingredients for dinner.”
  • The other style of thinking is unconscious, and relies upon memories and loose neural connections — it’s intuitive, fast and often coloured by emotion. This thinking might be, “This is simply unfair — I can’t cope with all these things happening at once.”

You could also think of these two modes of thinking as being in the world (rational thinking) or being inside your head (intuitive thinking).

  • Your rational thinking will be related to what is going on in the world — you will see, hear, taste, touch and smell things that you will process in your mind.
  • Your intuitive thinking will be related to what is going on in your head — you will think and feel, experience images and urges, and ponder memories that you will process in your mind.

Flexible thinking happens when you are aware of whether you are thinking rationally or intuitively, and when you choose the mode of thinking that will work best for you. You can think of moving between these two thinking patterns as a little like riding a bicycle — sometimes you lean towards the ‘rational ‘ side, and then you correct your balance by leaning towards the ‘intuitive’ side. You are constantly noticing and adjusting your thinking, so you become flexible in the way in which you think. Or you could think of yourself as being way up above in the sky and looking down on yourself, noticing when you are thinking rationally and logically or emotionally and reactively. Since you are located high up in the sky, you are not changing your thoughts or feelings — you are just noticing them and flexibly moving from one style of thinking to the other.

What you can do:

  • Can you tell the difference between thinking that comes from the world and thinking that comes from your mind?
  • Don’t be dismayed if, at first, you find this difference hard to notice – with practice you will be able to ‘feel’ the difference more easily.

Categorised in: Thinking.

See also

Listen to your thinking – Cognitive errors (from Cognitive Behaviour Therapy)

Thinking styles happen when you habitually process information in a certain way. Thinking habits become ingrained and can stay below your conscious awareness, so starting to notice and ‘catch’ these thinking habits is the first step to making changes. Continue reading…

Thinking about thinking (from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy)

Thoughts. What are they? What am I supposed to do with them? Which ones should I listen to? Which ones do I need to let go? Why do particular ones keep happening? Will I ever be free of them? Will they always hold me back? Continue reading…

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- Dr. Sharyn