At one time or another, it happens to us all. The mental roadblock. If you find yourself stuck on a problem, here are five tricks to help think your way around any issue.
We’ve all been there. You’re working hard to grow your online business when suddenly, there’s something blocking your way. Whether it’s a long-standing problem or an unforeseen issue in day-to-day business, roadblocks arise and solutions can be hard to come up with. Thankfully, our brains actually come pre-loaded with tricks for turning these issues on their heads. Once we approach these roadblocks with the right perspectives, the rest falls into place.
Here are five ways to refresh your perspective on a problem:
1. Stop following the rules
Rules are valuable, but when you’re looking for a new perspective, they can get in the way. The problem with rules is that they imply certain things are “right” and other things are “wrong.” More often than not, the established “rules” are just another way of saying “This is the way we’ve always done things.” You follow the rules because that’s what everyone has always done, or more powerfully, because you don’t want to make a mistake. However, mistakes are nothing to be afraid of!
Although we’ve been conditioned to avoid mistakes, they are goldmines of potential knowledge and growth. If we’re stuck on following rules, we can miss out on harvesting these benefits. As Gordon MacKenzie pointed out, “Orville Wright did not have a pilot’s license.”
Sometimes the rules can actually be root of your problem, so ignore them and see what happens!
2. Walk away
Sometimes the best thing you can do to get past a roadblock is leave it alone. How many times have you wracked your brain over a problem, only to give up, start something else and have the solution hit you 10 minutes later? Frustrating as it is, solutions can be very shy of the limelight. Try staring right at them and they’ll bolt off stage, but focus on something else and they slowly float back into view.
So how do you give them their space? The possibilities are endless. You can physically leave the room, leave the building, and take a stroll. Or you can take a mental break, and get lost in a good movie or book. The main goal is to change your focus and get your brain excited and engaged again.
3. Start over
If you keep hitting one big bump in the road, you may just need to start down another road altogether. That’s not to say you should give up whenever you reach a challenge, but rather, accept that there are multiple solutions. These other solutions may not be what you originally expected, but you can learn a lot from them.
Next time you’re stuck with an almost-perfect plan that’s just not panning out, try starting anew. If that’s too big of a commitment, try changing one or two very small details from your previous plan. (However, be aware that we are creatures of habit, and if things start looking too familiar, we’re apt to take the exact same approach again.) Starting over gives you a chance to drop any previous assumptions and opens your mind to create something even better.
4. Be silly
Remember when you were a kid and you never had any shortage of crazy ideas? Any problem you had was met with a quick, sometimes unrealistic, but always imaginative response. You still have that creativity in you. You just have to be ready to reengage with those more “foolish” and “impractical” thoughts. Really!
For example, what if instead of trying to accomplish your goal, you were trying to do the opposite? Say you’re rethinking the way you organize your products. Your goal is probably to make it as simple as possible for your customers to locate the products they want, so for this thought-exercise, try making it excruciatingly difficult. Sort your products in odd ways, like by material, city of manufacturing or even whether or not it has more than one color. Once you’ve done this exercise, you can see if those connections provided any new insights on organization, grouping and so on.
5. Look for inspiration elsewhere
Our brains get bored looking at the same things day in and day out. Switch things up by exposing yourself to something completely unrelated to the task you’re struggling with. The bigger the difference, the better. Inspiration can come in the most unlikely of places.
Here’s an exercise you can try: Look out the window and see what catches your eye. Whether it’s a moving car, a bird, or a branch with a flower–whatever it is, pretend that it’s the solution to your problem. At the outset, it won’t seem like there’s any way a red car could actually be the solution to your budgeting problems. However, this thought experiment makes your brain think more abstractly, and the car may bring you closer to your solution than you’d think. For example, you may start thinking about the process of buying the car and how you typically have the option of paying all at once or in payments, and this may make you realize that you’re missing flexibility in your budget.
Your mind is an incredible machine, and with a little help, it can produce incredible solutions for all of your problems. Think of yourself as an artist, with your business as your canvas. Sometimes you have to switch the kind of brush you’re painting with to make your masterpiece.
-Gracelyn Tan, Volusion