Article by Cheryl Lentz, D.M.
During my 20+ years of teaching, thousands of students have asked why they need to take a course in thinking. When I begin a class offering a few problems the students cannot solve, they soon see why. Learning to think critically is an important skill to master. Problem-solving at the office and in personal lives must begin with knowing how to ask the right questions to find the right answers. Learning to ask the right questions leads to how to get unstuck when problems do arise. The helping hand you need is your own.
The Magic of Asking Why: What is the Problem?
I invite you to go back to when you were about 4 years old. Do you remember your favorite question? If your remembered constantly asking “Why?” you’d be spot on! Remember asking questions like “Why is the sky blue?” and “Why is the grass green?” or “Why is the man on the moon smiling?” I’m sure you had many other “Why?” “WHY?” “WHY?” moments.
Parents tell me they find their childs’ questions difficult and often give up with a dismissive, “Go ask your mother/father/teacher.” Asking questions isn’t easy; however it’s a strategy that opens doors to your creativity. All questions farewell-worth the processes you learn to dig deep and follow the trail in pursuit of answers. As a teacher, my goal is to turn all of my students back into 4-year-olds so they can rediscover this love of asking questions and rediscover their inner curiosity. Little do they know that returning to the age of 4 holds the secret to adult thinking and problem-solving!
Perhaps you’re wondering how you know you’ve arrived at the correct problem. The answer is quite simply when you no longer have to answer the question “Why?” When you don’t give yourself permission or the time to ask the right questions, you often get stuck. You’ll go round and round in circles constantly arriving at the starting point again, not moving forward.
If you only solve the symptom, the problem will always remain.
The WRIST Method
To change your thinking, and to give yourself a hand, help in the form of Words, Rules, Imagination, Space, and Tools is at the end of your WRIST.
Step 1: Change Your Words
One way to change your thinking is to change the words you use. If you speak than one language, use it; if you don’t, use a translation program or app such as iTranslate or GoogleTranslate. Every language uses different patterns, different meanings, and different ways of thinking. For example, I struggled to come up with a name for one of my book imprints. When I got stuck in English, I simply translated the word “thinking” into different languages. Voila—this imprint is called Pensiero Press. The Italian word for “thinking” is “pensiero.”
In addition to foreign languages, there are also differences in words spoken in specific fields or industries. An account -ant will use different words than an engineer and an airline pilot’s language will differ from that of a schoolteacher. The longer you work in one industry, the more you think in that specific way. When you use the same terms over and over, you lose your creativity and get stuck in old patterns. By changing the words you use, you can change how you think when you use them.
Step 2: Change Your Rules
Working for the same company for many years sometimes leads your thinking to get stuck inside the box. You’re bogged down by thinking by the rules. Often, I hear people say, “That’s the way we’ve always done it,” or “This is how we do things here,” which offers rules, restrictions, and boundaries. What would happen if I gave you a magic wand and took away all the rules? What if there was no box? What if you were free to think in any way you like? What might this look like? When you change the rules, you can change how you think.
Step 3: Change Your Imagination
When you get stuck in your thinking, it’s really helpful to look at your creative side. Perhaps you need to spend time playing! What makes you happy? What makes you silly? Put a jigsaw puzzle together, build a castle made of bricks (LEGOs), or play with some soap bubbles. Play is an important part of the learning process. When you change your imagination through play, you can change how you think.
Step 4: Change Your Space
By changing your space, you can change how you look at the problem. When you go out for a walk, take a different path. Change your office layout, chairs, flooring, décor, or even the entire office building. The goal is to change the space around you. Just by moving to a different part of the room or a different chair, your perspective changes. When you physically change what you see, it changes how you think.
Step 5: Change Your Tools
Sometimes you need to change your tools. Perhaps you need to change what you write with. Instead of typing on a keyboard, use a pen. If you often use a pen, try a pencil; if you are using a pencil, change to a new color; try a marker or highlighter, or better yet use a crayon! Think about the visceral experience of the tool for a moment. When you change the tools you use, you can change how you think when you use them.
When you change your thinking, you get what you want. So how will you make that happen? By using the WRIST method, you can change little things that will change how you think when you use them.
Cheryl Lentz earned a doctorate of management in organizational leadership. She’s known as Dr. Cheryl The Academic Entrepreneur for her writings on leadership and failure, as well as critical and refractive thinking. www.DrCherylLentz.com.