Cultivate a Problem-Solving Mindset

The questions you ask yourself determine both your mindset and your perception of the world around you. In fact, your internal questions influence every decision you make—good or bad.

Here’s a simple example of how your questions influence your thinking. Let’s say you’ve decided to buy a new four-wheel-drive vehicle. You probably ask yourself, “Which one should I get?” Now that your mind is focused on four-wheel-drive vehicles, you can be sure that the next time you are on the road, you will notice Jeeps, Explorers, and Range Rovers in record numbers. You will also start to see articles and advertisements featuring these types of vehicles, and you may even discover that some of your friends and acquaintances own one.

You never would have noticed all these vehicles if you hadn’t set your mind on the act of buying one. The phenomenon of seeing what you expect or want to see is called mental set. Your mental set functions all the time, consciously or nonconsciously. A limited mental set hampers solutions to challenges. As Abraham Maslow explained, “People who are only good with a hammer see every problem as a nail.”

Therefore, a critical key to problem-solving is expanding your mindset by cultivating an open questioning approach. The questions that engage your thoughts influence the quality of your life. By cultivating an open questioning state of mind, you broaden your universe and improve your ability to travel through it.

Your Emotions and Mindset

It’s easy to talk about having an open mind, but frequently prejudice and emotion constrain our mindset, The discipline of opening your mind requires learning to separate feelings from perceptions. To make this distinction, ask yourself how you honestly feel about a problem. Ask, “Do I have any prejudices, ego attachments, fears, or limiting mental sets that are preventing me from assessing this problem accurately?”

Feelings play an intrinsic role in any problem-solving process. Intuition, hunches, and gut feelings can be your best allies. But unacknowledged feelings and repressed emotions cloud your inner wisdom and limit your mindset, which makes problem-solving difficult.

Tip: Realizing that we have mental sets, that our feelings help shape them, and that our universe is restricted by them can be the first step in a more enlightening journey. We all have a responsibility to be aware of our own mindsets.