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Give Way

How to Shortcut the “Thinking-I’m-Stuck” Mindset by Giving Way

Photo credit: ©2013 Ellie@BouncebackCafe
Feeling stuck, or at the very least, stale? Give way to seeing the world through new eyes and then see what happens!

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.

— Marcel Proust

I’ve just returned from the lands-down-under – Australia and New Zealand – where folks drive on the left side of the road. Which meant that, for this U.S. citizen who (usually) drives on the right, there were plenty of opportunities for mishap!  But because I was a tour bus rider instead of a driver, I was free to delight in all the Ozzie and Kiwi street signs that were similar but not quite the same. For instance, where I come from, the pointy-side-down red triangle sign would say YIELD. No biggie really – most drivers, regardless of where they learned to drive, can probably surmise that – when you see such a sign – you should be prepared to let somebody or something else go first – bodies and things like trucks traversing roundabouts, trains and such.

Still, the change in verbiage got me wondering about the way I see and feel my environment and my place in it.  You see, for me there’s a world of difference between the word “yield” (to give up) and the phrase “give way” (to make room).  I rather like the feel of “give way” – it’s somehow more gracious, more accommodating. And, (surprise, surprise) I dislike the idea of giving up.

Isn’t it interesting how just one small shift in perspective can transform a mindset?  For instance, earlier, as I was writing, I almost described the Give Way sign as an upside-down triangle. But in reality, “upside-down” is a judgment call about what’s “right-side-up”, isn’t it.  I wonder how many judgments I make simply out of habit? And whether I might see new and intriguing opportunities if I were simply to make more small shifts in my perspectives?

Aha!  I think we’re on to something of a breakthrough here.

What If There Were a Shortcut?

Perhaps influenced by this story as told by blogger, Steve Goodier, I’ve begun to ask myself “What if a powerful, new and creative viewpoint could emerge out of seeing with new eyes? What if I could become more agile at recognizing my biases and at proliferating several new perspectives before I simply slipped into old ways of perceiving???”

But I get ahead of myself. First let’s  take a look-see at Goodier’s story and commentary:

Some two hundred years ago a class of noisy boys in a German primary school was assigned a task to keep them busy. The children settled down, scribbling busily on their slates — all but one. This boy looked off into space for a few moments, then wrote something on his slate and turned it in. His was the only right answer. When the amazed teacher asked how he did it, he said he wondered if there might be some shortcut. He went on to say, “I found one: 100 plus one is 101; 99 plus two is 101; 98 plus three is 101, and, if I continued the series all the way to 51 plus 50, I have 101 fifty times, which is 5,050.”

The teacher decided then that this child needed special tutoring. The boy was Karl Friedrich Gauss, and he became a great mathematician of the 19th century.

Gauss solved his problem when he asked himself the question, “What if there is a shortcut?”

Goodier concluded that:

Two of the most powerful words I know are “what if.”

…the way through a dilemma or the beginning of that next creative change in my life almost always starts when I decide that I am NOT locked in. “What if” questions release my imagination so I can better see what was hidden.

I don’t know about you, but when I read problems/solutions like the one above, I don’t immediately (and sometimes never) delve into understanding the detail. I skim through, looking for the bottom line – the gist of the story. So, after the first 3 readings (as I decided whether this story could really add value to this post) I still didn’t get the genius of Karl Gauss’s solution – I’d simply walked away asking the question, “What if there’s a shortcut?” And all my “answers” were uninspiring. Why? Because I wasn’t really comprehending Gauss’s shortcut and why it worked. I had used the old habit of “getting the gist of it” repeatedly when I should have been doing my second read for the detail. And, as a result, I wasn’t discovering how I might create my own shortcut through the “thinking-I’m-stuck-loops” that I often wind myself tight inside…

BTW, I can now explain Gauss’ solution to you if you ask. But ask soon before it gets set aside in my memory banks! What about you can you explain Gauss’ solution?  If not, read the story for understanding this time. Brilliant, eh?

I now realize, having taken the time to see the detail of the story, that for me, and perhaps many of you, the question isn’t just “What if there were a shortcut?” but a series of questions that begins with these:

  • “What habits no longer serve me and, in fact, take me the long way round?”
  • “What shortcuts might I discover if I change some of my old habits of seeing and thinking?”

Start asking yourself those questions and see where they lead you.

Be like the bird that, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing that she hath wings.

— Victor Hugo

Like the sign says, Give Way to feeling stuck and/or stale… and make room for new patterns of seeing and thinking.

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