Thinking Differently to Live Differently

Thinking differently requires training the mind towards a much more flexible, elastic, and creative approach. In fact, it'll allow you to better respond to everyday changes and challenges. Achieving it requires a firm commitment, of course. 
Thinking Differently to Live Differently
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 20 October, 2022

Thinking differently leads to living differently. People often entrench themselves in steely mental focuses and become stubborn, inflexible soldiers. Thus, and almost without realizing it, they stop finding solutions to their problems, remedies to disappointments, and perspectives in the face of daily challenges. Yes, thinking differently isn’t easy, but it can be the difference between well-being and suffering.

Now, what really keeps you from thinking in a faster, more original, and even healthier way? One of the most prominent figures in the field of psychology who investigated this topic was Abraham Luchins.

In 1942, he published an experiment titled “Water Jug Problem” with which he showed that our main problems are mental rigidity, prejudice, and even fear.

Humans fear innovation. People tend to be somewhat insecure when it comes to changing behaviors and introducing new things into their routine. Their main pending account is to rethink approaches and deactivate old inherited thought patterns. Furthermore, they must detect the defense mechanisms they apply on a daily basis and that they aren’t usually aware of.

According to Luchins, the strategy to improve these realities would be neither more nor less than to make use of more flexible thinking. Mainly to be able to adapt to an environment in constant change that’s increasingly demanding.

“Nothing threatens a corrupt system more than a free mind.”

-Suzy Kassem-

An art installation.

Thinking differently to live differently – how to do it?

Everyone has the ability to perceive the same things: the sound of an approaching storm, the smell of wet soil, the rain hitting the windows, etc.

Now, despite the fact that all humans can perceive the same stimuli, every one of them also interprets them in their own way. In other words, according to their experience, personality, education, environment, mood, preferences, and aversions, among others.

Thus, while some are uncomfortable with the proximity of a storm, others enjoy it instead. There’s no greater problem in this, every person has their own particularities that allow them to filter and understand reality in one way or another.

The central issue is that, sometimes, that particular way of processing what surrounds them and what happens passes through the tapestry of negativity and defenselessness. Also, through the mental rigidity where they can only perceive darkness at the end of a tunnel.

So how can you start thinking differently to live differently? How to do it when your thoughts arise automatically and are, in many cases, mediated by your emotions? Continue reading to find out!

The elastic mind

Dr. Abraham Luchins already anticipated the need to develop another type of mental approach in the 1940s. One that allows people to survive and react to a changing environment full of stimuli.

In addition, Leonard Mlodinow, a renowned physicist and mathematician introduced a concept of great interest to the field of psychology a few years ago. He referred to it as the “elastic mind”.

Mlodinow collaborated with Stephen Hawking on several of his books. In fact, he’s still one of the most interesting scientific disseminators. His contribution to the elastic mind is a direct invitation to think differently, and not just to live better. Thinking differently can also contribute to your happiness and even to the progress of society.

This idea is based on the following pillars:

  • You must stop taking things for granted. Comfortable ideas are numbing. Thus, it’s time to apply a critical gaze. One that’s sharp and won’t lead to easy answers.
  • It’s also time to start doing something that’s very difficult: tolerating ambiguity, uncertainty, and even contradiction.
  • You need to rise beyond the more conventional mindsets.
  • Finally, you must trust both logic and lateral thinking, the kind that invites you to innovate.

Elastic thinking doesn’t fear the new and accepts uncertainty. You know and understand that changes are constant. Also, you don’t only have to adapt to them; you must take advantage of them.

A seemingly relaxed woman.

Thinking differently forces you to detect useless thoughts and truly opens your eyes

You must be flexible to respond effectively to your daily challenges.

Everyone would love to apply this type of approach, as healthy as the elastic mind is, in order to respond more innovatively to the future that lies ahead. However, yes, there’s another thing you must take into account.

Countless unhelpful and even harmful thoughts embed in your mind. Specifically, those that negatively feed your internal dialogue. The same ones that tell you things like “You’re useless and will never get over this”, “Things are just going to get worse and there’s nothing you can do about it”, or “Taking risks is pointless, just stay in your comfort zone”.

Your internal dialogue will be much healthier, even enriching, if you sanitize the flow of limiting thoughts that live in your mind. Only then will you allow yourself to think differently by making some room for your inner elastic mind. The one that’s capable of seeing valuable opportunities in every change.

Also, the mind and the brain must change and adapt to the new times. Something like this requires constant work and a firm commitment to yourself. So are you ready?

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  •  Luchins, A. (1942). Mechanization in problem solving: The effect of Einstellung. Psychological Monographs, 54(6), i-95.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.