How to get unstuck from a thinking rut


We’ve all been there. Mired in the muck. Working to solve or move or create only to feel like every effort lands us right back in the same tar pit. New ideas don’t come because our thinking patterns don’t change. Our brains form habits. We use the same logic, make the same assumptions and take the same path time after time. Here are some ways to stay open and fluid.

1. Read. Read.

2. Read about a subject that challenges you intellectually. We all want to feel smart so it’s natural to choose reading material that reinforces the intellectual picture we have of ourselves. But where does that get you? Put yourself back in school. Read something that makes your brain hurt.

3. Try to understand a point-of-view that differs from your own. Are you a conservative? Talk to, listen to and don’t argue with a liberal about a subject you are both passionate about. Then attempt to argue the others side. You already know how you think, and it’s not working. Assimilating another person’s thought process can help you approach your problem differently.

4. Read up on a subject that is distinctly different from what you are working on. Are you trying to optimize your manufacturing? Read about painting techniques. Are you trying to change your study habits? Read a book about the space program. The pathway that your work needs to take can often be found in the techniques of other disciplines.

5. Have a conversation about a subject you’ve been writing or thinking about. Talk with a trusted colleague or friend. Don’t edit – let the stream-of-consciousness just happen. Don’t dismiss what your conversation mate might interject. Accept it all to keep your mind open and let the conversation go where it goes.

What techniques do you use to stimulating new thinking when you’re stuck? Share them in the comments and I’ll combine them all in a new post at a later date.

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