Do you remember playing Simon Says when you were a kid? When the game began you were totally focused. Then, within a short time, you forgot to wait for the “Simon Says” command, and you were out of the game. It was so maddening. How could you forget so quickly?
It seems we have a natural inclination to react to the first impulse or idea that pops into our heads. By extension, we tend to jump to conclusions and assume that our first thought to a problem is often the only plausible solution.
Test yourself on this question?
Dan Manly was visiting his hometown when an old friend called, “Hey Dan, how have you been? It must be 15 years since we last saw each other.” “At least that,” replied Dan. “I’ve been keeping well, but tell me about yourself,” said Dan. Dan’s friend replied, “I’m married now but to someone that you wouldn’t know. By the way, this is my daughter.” Dan looked down at the little girl and asked her name. “It’s the same as my mother’s,” the little girl replied. “Then I bet your name is Susan,” said Dan. How could he possibly know?
If you got it right congratulations. If you didn’t, were you guilty of jumping to the conclusion that Dan’s friend was a man? In this case Dan’s friend was the little girl’s mother, Susan.
Although this inclination to accept the first thought may be the mental residue from our much earlier “fight or flight” survival days, this singular habit can be a major impediment in our ability to “maximize our success” in the modern world.
When we’re confronted with a problem or a request for advice we want to make a good impression, nothing wrong with that. The problem invariably results when we equate a speedy response with being smart, efficient and capable. How many times have you made a hasty decision only to realize a short time later that you’ve just become the charter member of the all-world-dumb-team?
I can attest from first-hand experience that almost every time I make a snap decision on an important matter, I live to regret it.
It’s highly unlikely that we can stop our minds from jumping to conclusions, but we can develop the discipline to refrain from spontaneous reaction. When we have a problem, or someone asks our advice, there’s nothing wrong with a delayed response. In other words, wait before making a decision. I am always amazed at how radically different a problem looks after sleeping on it, or just taking the time to walk around it a few times and see it from a different perspective.
Suppose you’re wrestling with a problem and you resist the impulse to jump at the first solution. Instead you ask around to see if there might be a better solution. The first person you ask listens to your explanation and blurts out an answer as if it’s perfectly obvious. The next person you ask listens to your problem, pitches a few questions and then says, “I’m not really sure what the answer is. Let me think about it for a while.” Which of the two people would you seek out the next time you needed advice?
It is quite a three-pipe problem, and I beg that you won’t speak to me for fifty minutes. ~ Sherlock Holmes
One of the first signs of maturity, integrity and wisdom, is to slow down, evaluate, weigh and consider. If your boss, spouse, child or friend asks your opinion, they will never think less of you if you say you want to consider the matter and take some time to think it through. The beauty of this response is that not only are you giving the person, and their problem, the consideration they’re due, but your status inevitably rises and you’re going to arrive at better solution.
Ready for another test? Try this.
At 7 a.m. a high-speed electric train moving 90 mph leaves New York heading for Chicago. At 8 a.m. a train running 110 mph leaves Chicago heading for New York. The distance between the two cities is 700 miles. The weather and the wind speed is exactly the same for both trains. Since neither train experiences any delays, when the two trains meet which one will be closer to New York?
Do you get the answer? If you didn’t, did you catch yourself thinking; “Oh crap, I’m no good at math.” Here’s a hint – you don’t need math to solve it. In fact, using math will actually lead you down the wrong path!
What’s the answer? Which train will be closer to New York?
When the two trains meet they will be in the same spot so the correct answer is neither or both. Take your pick.
The next time you have a problem that requires serious consideration, follow these five simple steps and you’ll surprise yourself at just how wise and resourceful you really are.
Separate facts from opinions and assumptions. Once you isolate the facts take some time to really analyze them. Be sure you can succinctly summarize the problem.
Consider ALL possible solutions. Nothing is too wild at this stage. Think brainstorming. Ask your subconscious mind for an answer and then wait. It will deliver. The answer will often be astonishingly clever! Make your decision confidently, knowing you’ve analyzed and considered all the facts.
Does this work every time? I believe it does, and even if it doesn’t prove to work every time, you “gotta” like the odds of weighing and evaluating over the ‘snap decision’. Try this five-step formula the next time you have an important problem to solve. You will be delighted with the results.
Now that you know the five steps to solving problems, see if you can save Midnight from certain death!
A black dog named “Midnight” stands in the middle of an intersection in a town painted black. None of the streetlights are working due to a power failure caused by a local storm. A car with two broken headlights drives toward the dog but turns in time to avoid hitting him. How could the driver have seen the dog to avoid hitting him?
Life presents us with one problem after another all the days of our lives. Most of them don’t require a great deal of thought, but when they do, weighing, evaluating and pondering using the five steps will make you indispensable.
Oh and by the way, luckily for Midnight, it was daytime.
Richard Fast is the author of 29 DAYS ... to a habit you want! http://www.29daysto.com