Would you buy into the belief that it’s useless to try to learn a new skill because you’ll never be as good as the superstars who’ve been doing it since they were young?
Or, that you can’t get a new job because you’re only good at what you’ve been doing for the past two decades?
“Think again,” said Barbara Oakley, author of “Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential.”
“Some of the best teaching is happening online nowadays,” she added, pointing to sources like Class Central, Coursera and two open online courses she teaches “Learning How to Learn” and “Mindshift.”
Online learning just one example of keeping your mind open to change.
More tips on doing so:
Reframe thinking. Successful people often find a way to put a positive spin on their personal challenges, Oakley says.
For example she adds, you might say to yourself that every big problem creates a big opportunity, or other equally optimistic thoughts or affirmations for when challenging situations arise.
Further, Beth Storz, who along with Adam Hansen and Edward Harrington wrote “Outsmart Your Instincts,” uses the example of doing away with the “yes, but,” qualifier. The three are executives at Ideas To Go, an innovation consulting firm that helps companies generate new ideas for products, services and communications.
” ‘Yes, but’ is a polite, or sometimes not so polite way of shooting down ideas,” she explained. Instead, try saying “yes, and.”
“We have a different approach that acknowledges the ‘yes’ while dealing with the ‘but’ in a problem-solving way,” Storz said. “Using this mindset helps keep the good alive in any idea while pushing for solutions. It also makes it safe for others to share ideas.”
Work the mind. Video games can reset critical areas of your brain so they work like they did when you were 20-years-old, Oakley says. Just three hours or so of book-reading a week appears to extend your life span by two years.
“Learning happens in many ways — it is the ultimate secret weapon in enhancing your career and your life,” she said.
Examine your beliefs. Storz recommends an exercise that she terms “assumption busting.”
Write down all of your assumptions around a topic, your product, business model, etc.
Next, ask what if those weren’t true. “Take some notes and see where it leads you,” she said. “By doing this several times and with other people and their assumptions, it will lead to lots and lots of possibilities.”
Dream away. Look for ways to break the status quo, Storz says, and she points to Ideas To Go’s DREAM acronym, which stands for delete, reduce, enhance, add and maintain.
Storz says to look at your product, service or user experience and ask yourself, “What if we delete this, reduce that, enhance here, add and maintain?” “Don’t be shy about it,” she said. “It’s OK to put down some ridiculous things on the list. It will stimulate your thinking.”
Allow for downtime. The next time you’re driving or taking public transportation to work, don’t listen to music or a podcast, says Meta Wagner, author of “What’s Your Creative Type?” Further, put your phone away and don’t email, text, use social media, make project lists, etc. (You shouldn’t be doing any of that if you’re actually driving anyway)
By doing nothing, Wagner said, “see if your mind, free from clutter and distraction, will produce your next great idea or the solution to a challenging problem.”
She points to author J.K. Rowling, who one day sitting on a train with nothing to do, had her epiphany for the “Harry Potter” series arise in her mind, nearly fully formed. Rowling went from penniless to a billionaire in some 15 years.
Cultivate patience. It’s the rare businessperson who hasn’t at one time or another had an idea they thought could be the next sticky note or Airbnb, just to have it shot down by bosses or investors, Wagner says.
“But, even if you feel discouraged, don’t abandon your concept — not if you truly believe in it,” she advises. “Hold onto it, be open to the right timing, and then pounce!”
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