Shrinking Thinking

I was on the phone with my coach yesterday and after listening to me explain an unfixable problem in great detail, she asked me a very simple question: “Have you thought about it this way?” All of the sudden, simply by looking at this problem from a different angle, my thinking expanded. The problem was actually an opportunity.

In fact the problem was never a problem at all – I was just thinking about it in a limited way.

There are really two principles at play in this story. First, even though I’m a coach who helps my clients gain clarity, I need a coach myself. We all do. When we think inside the closed system of our own minds, our world tends to become very small and very limited. So if you are thinking of hiring a coach, be sure they have a coach.

​Second, she showed me a way out of what I call “shrinking thinking.”

Never heard of it? Here are a couple of examples:
In response to asking a friend if she would like to ski, she said “I could never do that.” Then she had a litany of reasons – ending with not wanting to get her hair wet. Her world stayed small and her hair stayed dry.
In the second example, I’m talking to a client who has taken on way too much
Me:  Have you asked your boss which project needs to move down in priority?
Client: I could never do that.
Me: So you said yes, even though you knew you couldn’t do the project?
Client: Yes – but you have to understand. No is not an acceptable answer in my company.

We went on the show that being stuck at saying yes knowing you can’t really deliver is a form of shrinking thinking – and we talked about ways out of this dilemma. In fact, the boss was relieved to work through the priorities and my client eventually became a more senior player on the team.

My point is not about confronting the boss, though. Yes, overcommitting is a problem.  Harvard Business Review did an article on the topic of overcommitting in October of 2017. Organizations and people are overcommitting at incredibly high rates.

My point is that many (maybe most) of our problems are a product of our thinking.

We can look at what is happening and start to feel powerless. The world IS moving faster. Demands on our time ARE becoming greater.

The question is “What are we going to do about it?” Let me make that more personal. “What am I going to do about it?”

Shrinking thinking is fear-based, keep-me-right-in-my-comfort-zone, narrow thinking.

My brain gets stuck in “either/or” options, never seeing the dozens of other possibilities. My repertoire goes from unlimited to one or two strategies at best. It’s kind of hard to learn and grow when you are stuck in shrinking thinking.

What I am working on is moving away from shrinking thinking to developing expansive, possibility filled thinking to solve problems.

Having a coach helps. Meditating daily is huge. Another technique I love is doing a “whiteboard exercise” in my retreat center. It’s amazing what you can see when you have a whole wall to lay things out. Those are just a few of the things I’m doing.

How do you get out of shrinking thinking? What are your best tools and tactics to gain clarity for yourself? How do you know when the problem is really just in your thinking?

I would love to hear from you! See that box below? Share your best tactics for moving from shrinking thinking to a holistic viewpoint!

Photo Credit: Copyright: <a href=’’>thanaphiphat / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

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