Flexible Thinking

Life Skill 3 - Flexible Thinking

The ability to think flexibly helps you to find solutions to problems. There is almost always more than one way to figure out a problem. Find out more

Flexible thinking.

There is almost, always, more than one solution to any problem. Another way of looking at this is “Having Choices”

Flexible thinking will help you when you’re dealing with problems and looking for solutions.

The school years present lots of challenging times for young people. They are learning new things every day, they are going through puberty and also trying to fit in and be liked. Their emotions are sometimes unmanaged and their behaviour is sometimes unacceptable.

What is flexible Thinking?

Let’s start with the opposite of Flexible Thinking and that is “All-or-Nothing” thinking.

This type of thinking can keep us stuck. It’s very one-eyed and close minded. When you’re in this state of mind, you are not receptive too listening to other’s points of view. We often don’t take on board what someone else has said because we think that our view is the right one and the only one.

All or nothing thinking is a very big barrier to moving forward in your life and for your future. It inhibits you from changing or taking a different pathway. Whereas Flexible thinking helps us think of new ideas until we find one that works.

You might of heard: It’s all your fault or Nothing goes the way I want it too. “This is never going to work.” “Nobody understands me” These are all “All or Nothing” thinking.

In the case of nobody understands me; there may be people that understand you and support you in your life and you’re just not paying attention to them enough or reaching out to them.

Just remember that you’re not always going to have the same opinion as others and that’s ok. Sometimes we disagree with friends or family or work colleagues. Think flexibly and realise that just because someone disagrees doesn’t mean that they don’t support us.

How to turn your all or nothing thinking into flexible thinking

Let’s try it……….For example

All or nothing thinking: I’m never going to be any good at this.

Flexible thinking: I’m good at some things, I just need to try a bit harder to master this.


Mum and Dad always so NO

Mum and Dad worry and that’s why sometimes they say no.

All or nothing thinking  uses defensive thinking – this is your right brain kicking into gear. Be aware that your right brain is over riding your calm brain.

It is hard

It’s easier to be aware of other people’s all or nothing thinking. This is something you need to work on but as they say – Practice makes perfect.

Visually think flexibly

Write a list

Problems – Solutions

When you’re writing a list, create a category such as “Problems.” Then create a list of problems that you see you’re facing. Next, create a category called Solutions. Then list the solutions to problems. Sometimes people write problems in the left column of a piece of paper and solutions in the right column of a piece of paper.

When you’re making a list, you can come up with all kinds of ideas. You can be more creative if you let yourself write down any idea that comes to mind and then go back and look at each one.

Another aspect of writing lists is that it reinforces the use of your problem-solving brain, in general the left hemisphere of your brain, which is most active when you’re reading and writing, listening and talking. If you’re upset, sometimes writing a list is a helpful way to calm down.

You may find as you write your list that you start getting focused more on problem solving and stop feeling as upset. When you make your list, put down any idea you have – even silly ideas – because it’s just a list of ideas and not a plan yet. When you go back over the list, then you can decide, with your problem-solving brain, which idea you will actually do. If you need to keep thinking of new ideas first, then keep putting down more new ideas.

You can think and feel anything. It’s what you do that really matters

Don’t do anything until you’ve thought about your list and decided if any of your choices is one that will help you. If so, do that one.

Contact Us to find out more about how you can implement the New Ways for Life program in your school or youth group.

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