When I was much younger, I used to find it irksome when friends, particularly young folk, would make sweeping and definitive statements like ‘I always do…’ or ‘I never….’ It doesn’t matter what the specific action was.
I used to find myself thinking ’How is it that someone so young can be so absolute, so definite, so set in their ways?’. ‘Do they really never do anything else?’. Maybe it was because I hadn’t a clue about who I was and who I was meant to be, but I didn’t see any such consistency in my world. Sometimes I drank tea and sometimes I drank coffee, sometimes people made me happy and sometimes they made me sad, or mad.
I was truly confused by this phenomenon. But of course, as I got older, I started doing a similar thing. Patterns of behaviour started forming. Patterns of thought started repeating and it was good. I had started to find who I thought I was. The scripts, the mental models, the beliefs seemed to work and I felt I was making more sense of the world more consistently more often. It all worked well, until it didn’t.
And then I started to notice that my thinking was becoming ossified. The mental models worked, but only sometimes, the thought patterns no longer smoothed the way but started getting in the way. Things no longer seemed to fit in the neat and simple way they once had.
When I started to work with the various coaches who have helped me throughout my life one of the things that they helped me understand is how we can get trapped in old habits of thought, word and deed and the significant value of flexibility.
One particular coach, whenever I would make an ‘I am’ statement would quietly nod and agree saying ‘yes Ian you are….. AND you are so much more than that’. Masterful coaching! Now, whenever I try to define myself by my past or by my limitations his words ring in my ears. Realising that I am so much more than my old patterns of behaviour helps me be more flexible and more creative. It feels more difficult as I get older but fortunately our brains, our thoughts, are far more plastic than we might believe.
What are you doing to build your flexibility and increase your options in any given situation?