Downtime’s Dual Purpose and Silver Lining
“Every problem is a gift. Without problems we wouldn’t grow.” Anthony Robbins
“It is better to solve one problem five different ways, than to solve five problems one way.” George Polya
How do you become a great problem solver? How can your playtime contribute?
While you are working from home, you’ve flexed your problem-solving skills in ways you’ve probably never considered. As a stress reliever or a fun diversion, you may spend more time on electronic gaming, board games, crossword puzzles or jigsaw puzzles, reading or watching mysteries – all problem-solving activities. (Understanding, this is true if you are not overwhelmed and can find the time for these interests.) If you have the space for downtime, these activities exercise your mind to be more active, resilient, poised for challenges you haven’t come into contact with previously. And here’s the silver lining, wait for it…you’re training your leadership skills.
Yup. Not only are these things fun, they also provide a chance to see things in different ways and put many pieces together at the same time. They train your mind to be more flexible. You may have found it amusing before that Millennials and Gen Z’s co-workers, friends, relatives or your own kids spend so much time with their video games; you’re probably not laughing any more as you see yourself playing more Candy Crush, Far Cry Primal, or Words with Friends.
Flexing these muscles is not just good for new leaders who have never had a chance to manage situations before, it’s also important for seasoned professionals to remain relevant for today’s customers and unforeseen surprises. When you cultivate your problem-solving skills, you build a leadership muscle that is more open to: encourage ideas from your team; listen to an alternative opinion; work with an expert for a new vision/solution; accept personal feedback and advice; and expand your creative thinking and memory. Dopamine is released with every success as you solve a puzzle or discover a solution. Dopamine is the main reward signal in the brain.
And, it doesn’t have to be games or mysteries. You could learn something new that challenges a traditional way of thinking and consequently adjust your actions. You might even change your point of view on a subject you hadn’t known enough about before and you now have the time to study it. Changing your point of view pushes you out of your comfort zone which makes you more adaptable.
If games or mysteries aren’t your “jam”, what about cooking? For instance, create a meal out of a group of random ingredients or veer from a recipe – a version of Food Network’s “Chopped”. My grandmother made wonderful little rolled cookies based on a cream cheese dough with cinnamon, nuts and raisins: rugelach. I always wanted to attempt to make them but was afraid they would never be like hers and I didn’t want to ruin my memory of them. Add to that – it’s a two-day process which is daunting in itself. One day I got up the nerve and started planning. I looked at the recipe and there were measurements and some details missing. I problem solved around it – I made it up according to what seemed logical to me. Were they fantastic the first time around? No. But I tried it a few times, changing things slightly each time and they finally were almost as good as hers.
Another problem-solving exercise, take a piece of clothing and rather than wearing it the way you always do, think about all the possible ways you can wear it and all the possible things you can pair it with. You could take it a step further, write them all down. Then next time you wear those pants, shoes or jacket, pair it with a clothing piece you’ve never worn it with before. The following time do it again with another new option. Besides being fun, the exercise challenges you to see new possibilities and not be stuck in one way of thinking.
We may not be aware of the next crises we’ll be confronting universally or even the next challenge you’ll see personally. And yet getting ready to look at problem solving and solutions in different ways and through various lenses makes you more ready for when those things happen.
Want to put those multiple-viewpoint muscles into your leadership role but not sure how, email me: Susan@SusanGoldbergLeadership.com
The world needs more leaders who care about showing up as the best version of themselves.
If you are in a position to bring forth good change, encouragement, and growth – you want full access to your potential. Make the choices you need to be the leader that advocates change to look forward to. That change which engages your people, improves productivity and highlights the abilities of your team members.
And, if you have team members who aren’t showing up and you are not sure how to manage it, talk to me: Susan@SusanGoldbergLeadership.com