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8 Ways To Think Different And Develop Your Own Opinion

8 Ways To Think Different And Develop Your Own Opinion

Think out of the box! How many times have you heard this phrase and wondered how can ‘I think out of the box’? Thinking ‘differently’ is a skill most sought after. Look at most professional job descriptions and you will see critical thinking as a required skill.  People who think differently are the ones getting paid lucratively.
So how can you think differently especially if you have never done it before? The first simple step is that –  to think differently, you have to do differently.

1. Play children’s games

Yes, you heard me right! So many of the kids’ games nowadays are challenging and mentally stimulating, forcing us to think different. Games such as SnapCircuits, Swish, Set, Gravity Maze are just a few examples from thousands of exciting and challenging games. Play them with your kids or with friends and have fun while developing the abilities to think differently!

2. Different people enable different thought processes

Meeting new people is a great way to learn new things, become aware and open our mind to new possibilities. As an example, I was talking to the granite installation guy at my house earlier today. It was a fascinating conversation to learn about his origins from Cuba and how he came to be in the US and in the granite business. This spurred several streams of thought about immigration issues, career choices, granite industry and even food!!

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A simple 3 minute conversation not only spurred these different thought processes but inspired me to do some research on a few of those things. I learnt something new. Meet new people at every opportunity you get. Through networking or through friendly referral introductions or in the community you live and work in, each person you meet is a treasure trove of information and ideas.

3. New experiences trigger new thoughts and opinions

Every new experience whether good or bad, triggers a new way of thinking. A few ideas worth exploring here are:

  • Experimenting with new cuisines
  • Taking a new route on the way to work and observing what is outside
  • Indulging in different travel experiences – possibly traveling to different destinations or traveling alone or traveling with family, traveling with friends, traveling to a spiritual destination, traveling to a foodie destination, architectural vacation, cruise, art destinations and so on. Each experience will leave you with something new and a new way of thinking about something.
  • Experiencing new cultures. This is a big one! Learning about a new culture by experiencing it, opens up our senses and our thought processes significantly.  If you have the opportunity to live in a new culture situation for a few months or a year, that is a great way to become aware and learn to adapt new ways of thinking.

4. Exposure to different ideas

People are filled with ideas. It’s fascinating to read about these ideas in various books on different topics. We are living in an information overload world and there is no dearth of information and ideas. Developing interests in varied range of topics by reading different books on different subjects by different authors is another great way to develop the ‘different way of thinking’ mindset. Go to a bookstore, walk randomly and pick a book and read it. Pick random magazines at the doctor’s office and read them.

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Now that you have learned some exciting ways to think out of the box, that is not enough! It’s not enough to just think differently, it is also essential to be able to use that thinking ability to develop one’s own opinions and express them.

Why is it important for us to be able to form our own opinions? Because we are part of a larger fabric of society and there are many instances and situations where our opinion matters. If not singularly, as a collective entity our opinion matters. It may be in politics, it may be on your school PTA board, it may be in your community, in the workplace or even at home! There are umpteen instances where we need to be able to form our opinions and express them clearly. Sometimes we may be speaking for ourselves, but at other times we may be the voice of many others who are unable to express the same view!

5. Get your facts right

The first step to forming your own opinion is to form it based on the right facts. It is one thing to form your opinions based on emotions and feelings and perceived intentions, it’s another thing to truly investigate and ascertain the facts before forming an opinion. Do your homework – talk to people, research, do whatever it takes to get the facts right. The easiest way to get into this habit can be to start with simple matters. At home or work when you notice yourself forming an opinion about someone or a situation, force yourself to answer the questions :

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  • How do I know this to be true?
  • What are the facts that support my opinion?

6. Write a persuasive essay on a high school topic

Pick a persuasive topic from a high school list of prompts. Do the research, gather the facts, spend time thinking about your views on the topic and your takeaways. Write a persuasive essay convincing someone of your view on that topic. Make sure to back it up with facts and a logical line of reasoning taking the reader along with you through your thinking process. Do one essay a week and your skills should be sharp in no time!

7. Hold a group discussion with a group of friends

Gather a group of friends and hold a group discussion. This is similar to a book discussion meeting, but instead a topic is given on the spot or picked from a list of prompts that are prepared earlier. The sky is the limit with the topics you can choose from. You can go from politics, religion, sports, healthcare to parenting, work and many more.

Limit the group to about 5-6 people. Split the group into 2 sub teams. One team will talk in favor of the topic and the other team against the topic. Start off with giving each member about 3 minutes to speak. Once all members have had a turn, open it up and let the members question and support their points. This activity not only helps in forming an opinion but also helps with expressing your opinion persuasively and succinctly.

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8. Use the objective lens

As much as we would like to think that our thinking is right and logical and that we could never be wrong, the fact of the matter is, we could be wrong!! The key thing to remember is that we view the world through the lens we have adopted – a lens that has trained us to see the world a certain way clouded by our experiences, our upbringing and so on.

When we form opinions, it’s critical to take off that lens and use a more objective lens, one that will not cloud our judgements. Have we arrived at an opinion viewing all pieces of the information available objectively? Or have we conveniently ignored certain relevant pieces of information? This way of viewing the world comes with conscious practice. Start practicing it today!

What tactic from the 8 listed above, are you going to try first?

Featured photo credit: Jacob Botter via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 24, 2021

7 Ways to Eliminate Your Excuses

7 Ways to Eliminate Your Excuses

I have this friend. She uses excuses to get out of everything related to being a responsible adult (and I mean everything!). The worst part is, she’s been doing this for so long, excuses are now a deeply embedded part of her personality.

I used to gently nudge her toward ways to solve her excuses so she’d stop holding herself back, but she has the market cornered. Seriously, it’s an impenetrable force field. Her life isn’t at all how she wants it to be, and instead of taking responsibility for it, she pulls out her scroll of excuses and reads out the section called “Reasons Why Nothing Is My Fault.”

Truthfully, I’d have more respect for her if she were to just come out with it and say, “I’m not doing this or that because I’m too lazy.” Let’s face facts: if she wanted her picture-perfect lifestyle badly enough, she’d do anything to get it.

Why do I bother with her? Because at one time, I was her: ambitious, motivated, determined, but when things weren’t going how I wanted them to I was suddenly a victim of my environment. This led to years of spinning my tires. My excuses were always there to break my fall… until they weren’t. Like my friend, I was participating in a blind game of self-sabotage that led to my life turning out exactly how I swore it never would.

Like all bad habits, excuses are easy. They allow you to box yourself into your comfort zone and be “okay” with your life. After a while, you’ll find this way of living isn’t enough for you. You can either accept where your life is (which is the excuse-coated version of “give up”), or you can eliminate your excuses by taking responsibility for where you are now and more importantly, why you created the excuses in the first place.

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So what’ll it be? Yeah, I thought so. To help you get started, here are 7 ways to eliminate your excuses:

1. Read Between the Lines

Usually, the excuse you’re using is masking the real reason why you “can’t” accomplish something. For some, it’s a fear of failure. For others, it’s a self-esteem issue. For others still, it’s a fear of success or having something to lose.

If you’re unsure of where the excuses are coming from, simply ask yourself: if you were to succeed and accomplish what you want, what’s the worst thing that could happen? List off every worst case scenario, and you’ll likely recognize a theme. This is the issue to tackle.

2. Stop Ending Your Statements with a “But…”

This is a little trick I use that works every time: instead of saying “I’d really like to, but…”, cut yourself off and say “I’d really like to.” This triggers your mind to focus on the plans you need to make to reach your goals, instead of the roadblocks currently in your way. Instant motivation!

3. Avoid Other “Excusers”

One of the big things I noticed once I began stepping out of my comfort zone was the number of people in my life who were also making excuses. So many excuses, in fact, that looking back on our conversations together, we were always complaining and excusing! Imagine if we instead put all of that time into doing!

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Like you, those you spend time with might not realize they’re making excuses, and trust me you can point it out all you want – it’s a realization everyone has to come to on their own before they can change. Jump start a new conversation; be the one who changes the tune. If you eliminate your excuses, you’ll likely encourage those you care about to do the same.

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4. Trick Yourself

Depending on your goals, sometimes just thinking about them is overwhelming. This is especially the case with enormous goals, such as succeeding in a challenging career or building a business from the ground up. It’s too easy to become so overwhelmed you don’t get started at all.

Eliminate your excuses by creating the mother of all to-do lists as it relates to that specific goal. Break it down into itty bitty baby steps. Only work on one tiny step at a time, and hide the rest of the steps in a drawer. When you’re done the step, it doesn’t feel like it was such a big deal. Then move onto the next, and the next. This worked wonders for me when I started working on my first screenplay while simultaneously recovering from adrenal fatigue. Now, I’m able to work on it regularly—and comfortably—without a list at all.

Soon, you’ll look back on all of your tiny steps and will be amazed at your progress!

5. Build Excuse-Free Habits

As they say, “Feel the fear, but do it anyway.” Recognize the excuses you’re making, own up to them, and do what you want to do regardless of what you think is holding you back. Yes, it’s a lot easier said than done, but it’s one thing to say you have control of your life and another to take control.

Building these habits is difficult, and sometimes painful in the moment, but afterward you feel refreshed and indescribably proud of yourself. So much so, you’ll want to set your next challenge right away. It’s an addictive practice once you get started! Make testing your limits fun and enjoy the process on your own terms.

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6. Use Your Excuses As Signals

Once you recognize your excuses for what they are, you can begin using them to your advantage. Consider your excuses a signal to a deeper underlying problem. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with what makes you tick. Each time you find yourself making an excuse, look into it further, find the true cause and work toward moving past it. The more you practice this, the less you’ll hold yourself back from your full potential.

7. Trust the Process

There are times when you sincerely want to do something, but there are aspects of your schedule/lifestyle/workload that hugely conflict with what you want. In these instances, you’re not in denial or making excuses, you’re simply examining the roadblocks that are in your way. It’s when you allow these roadblocks to stay in place that they become excuses.

Oddly enough, it’s when something’s really important to us that we start layering on the excuses. If you immediately turn to a proactive attitude when these situations arise, and trust yourself to think of a solution, you won’t have to eliminate your excuses – you won’t be able to find one.

How do you eliminate your excuses?

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