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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 October 21, 2019

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination, is a reminder of why I am so drawn to leadership as a topic. Whenever I think it is impossible for me to be more impressed with her, she proves me wrong.

Earlier this week, a former marine suggested that he had been in a long-term sexual relationship with the Senator. She flipped the narrative and used the term “Cougar,” a term used to describe older women who date younger men, to reference her alma mater.

Rather than calling the young man a liar, or responding to the accusations in kind, she re-focused the conversation back to her message of college affordability and lifted up that “Cougar” was the mascot for her alma mater. She went on to note that tuition at her school was just $50 per semester when she was a student. Class act.

But by the end of the week, news broke that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, another contender for the presidency, had a heart attack. Warren not only wished Sanders a speedy recovery but her campaign sent a meal to his staff. She knew that the hopes of staff, donors and supporters were with the Senator from Vermont and showed genuine compassion and empathy.

To me, she has proven time and time again that she is more than a presidential candidate: she belongs in a leadership hall of fame.

What makes some people excel as leaders is fascinating. You can read about leadership, research it and talk about it, yet the interest in leadership alone will not make you a better leader.

You will have more information than the average person, but becoming a good leader is lifelong work. It requires experience – and lots of it. Most importantly, it requires observation and a commitment to action. Warren observed what was happening with Sen. Sanders, empathized with his team and then took action. Regardless of the outcome of this election, Sanders’ staff will likely never forget her gesture.

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You would have had to work on a political campaign in order to appreciate the stress and anxiety that comes with it. In this moment, staff may not remember everything that Warren said throughout the lengthy campaign, but they will remember what she did during an unforgettable time during the campaign.

If this model of leadership is appealing, and if you are searching for how to up your own leadership game, read on for six characteristics that good leaders share:

1. Good leaders are devoted to the success of the people around them.

Good leaders are not self-interested. Sure, they want to succeed, but they also want others to succeed.

Good leaders see investing in others just as important as they see investing in themselves. They understand that their success is closely tied to the people around them, and they work to ensure that their peers, employees, friends and family have paths for growth and development.

While the leaders may be the people in the spotlight, they are quick to point to the people around them who helped them (the leaders) enter that spotlight. Their willingness to lift others inspires their colleagues’ and friends’ devotion and loyalty.

2. Good leaders are not overly dependent on others’ approval.

It is important for managers to express their support for their teams; good leaders must be independent of the approval of others. I explained in an article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, that:[1]

“While a desire to be loved is natural, managers who prioritize approval from subordinates will become ineffective supervisors who may do employees harm. For example, a manager driven by a need for approval may shy away from delivering constructive feedback that could help an employee improve. A manager fearful of upsetting someone may tolerate behavior that degrades the work environment and culture.”

In yet another example, a manager who is dependent on the approval of others may not make decisions that could be deemed unpopular in the short run but necessary in the long run.

Think of the coaches who integrated their sporting teams. Their decision to do so, may have seemed odd, and even wrong, in the moment, but time has proven that those leaders were on the right side of history.

3. Good leaders have the capacity to share the spotlight.

Attention is nice, but it is not the prime motivator for good leaders. Doing a good job is.

For this reason, good leaders are willing to share the spotlight. They aren’t threatened by a lack of attention, and they do not need credit for every accomplishment. They are too focused on their goal and too focused on the urgency of their work.

4. Good leaders are students.

In the same way that human beings are constantly evolving, so too are leaders. As long as you are living, you have the potential to learn. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge you think you have; you can always learn something new.

I have the experience of thinking I was doing everything right as a manager, only to receive conflicting feedback from my team. Perhaps my approach was not working for my team, and I had to be willing to hear their feedback to improve.

Good leaders understand that their secret sauce is their willingness to keep receiving information and keep learning. They aren’t intimidated by what they do not know: As long as they maintain a willingness to keep growing, they believe they can overcome any obstacle they face.

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As both masters and students, good leaders read, listen and study to grow. They consume content for information, not just entertainment purposes. They aren’t impressed with their knowledge; they are impressed with the learning journey.

5. Good leaders view vulnerability as a superpower.

It means “replacing ‘professional distance and cool,’ with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure,” said Emma Sappala in a Dec. 11, 2014, article, “What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable” for Harvard Business Journal.[2] She went on to note the importance of human connection, which she asserts is often missing at work.

“As leaders and employees, we are often taught to keep a distance and project a certain image. An image of confidence, competence and authority. We may disclose our vulnerability to a spouse or close friend behind closed doors at night but we would never show it elsewhere during the day, let alone at work.”

This rings so true for me as a woman leader. I was raised believing that any show of emotion in the workplace could be used against me. I was raised believing that it was best for women leaders to be stoic and to “never let ‘em see you sweat.” This may have prevented me from connecting with employees and colleagues on a deeper, more personal level.

6. Good leaders understand themselves.

I am a huge fan of life coach and spiritual teacher Iyanla Vanzant. In addition to her hit show on the OWN network, Vanzant has authored dozens of books. In her books and teachings, she underscores the importance of knowing ourselves fully. She argues that we must know what makes us tick, what makes us happy and what makes us angry.

Self-awareness enables us to put ourselves in situations where we can thrive, and it also enables us to have compassion when we fall short of the goals and expectations we have for ourselves. Relatedly, understanding ourselves will allow us to know our strength. When we know our strengths, we will be able to put people around us who compliment our strengths and fill the gaps in our leadership.

Final Thoughts

Being a good leader, first and foremost, is an inside job. You must focus on growing as a person regardless of the leadership title that you hold. You cannot take others where you yourself have not been. So focusing on yourself, regardless of your time or where you are in your career will have long term benefits for you and the people around you.

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Further, if you want to become a good leader, you should start by setting the intention to do so. What you focus on grows. If you focus on becoming a better leader, you will research and invest in things that help you to fulfill this intention. You will also view the good and bad leadership experiences as steppingstones that hone your character and help you improve.

After you set the intention, get really clear on what a good leader looks like to you. Each of us has a different understanding of leadership. Is a good leader someone who takes risk? Is a good leader, in your estimation, someone who develops other leaders? Whatever it is, know what you’re shooting for. Once you define what it means to be a good leader, look for people who exemplify your vision. Watch and engage with them if you can.

Finally, understand that becoming a good leader doesn’t happen overnight. You must continually work at improving, investing in yourself and reflecting on what is going well and what you must improve. In this way, every experience is an opportunity to grow and a chance to ask: ‘What is this experience trying to teach me?’ or ‘what action is necessary based on this situation?’

If you are committed to questioning, evaluating and acting, you are that much closer to becoming a better leader.

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Featured photo credit: Sam Power via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Chronicle of Philanthropy: Why Good Managers Overcome the Desire to Be Liked
[2] Harvard Business Journal: What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable

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