“Rethinking isn’t a struggle in every part of our lives. When it comes to our possessions we update with fervour. We refresh our wardrobes when they go out of style and renovate our kitchens when they’re no longer in vogue. When it comes to our knowledge and opinions, though, we tend to stick to our guns. Psychologists call this seizing and freezing. We favour the comfort of conviction over the discomfort of doubt, and we let our beliefs get brittle long before our bones. We laugh at people who still use Windows 95, yet we still cling to opinions we formed in 1995. We listen to views that make us feel good, instead of ideas that make us think hard.”
This paragraph was the first of many paragraphs that I bookmarked as I made way through Adam Grant’s fascinating new book Think Again. In it, Grant explores how rethinking happens and why it’s so important to be able to rethink old ideas. It’s a book that makes you think. About your own ideas, things in your life you’ve had a hard time rethinking, and how to interact with people who have different opinions to yours in a respectful and productive way.
The book is split into three sections. The first focuses on opening our own minds. The second examines how we can encourage other people to think again. And the third section is about how we can create communities of life-long learners. He has a story telling writing style, which I really enjoyed. It makes the concepts he shares easy to understand, thought-provoking, and allows you to not just read, but learn and apply.
This book could hardly have come at a better time. In the last year, we’ve had to rethink how we socialize, work, shop and travel. In a world where things are everchanging and uncertain, being able to rethink and unlearn isn’t just about intelligence, it’s about survival. He speaks about the notion of deciding what you want to learn in the next year or two and remaining open to what comes – particularly relevant now when it’s hard to definitively plan anything. It’s a book well worth reading.
At the end of the book, Grant shares 30 practical takeaways to help you work on your rethinking skills. They’re all takeaways he discusses at length in the book and act as an easy reference to refer back to. I’m sharing just 9 of those lessons which he files under Individual Rethinking.
How to Develop the Habit of Thinking Again, Calibrate Confidence and be Open to Others Questioning You Thinking
1. Think Like a scientist
Resist the urge to preach, prosecute or politick new opinions. Instead treat those emerging views as a hypothesis or hunch and test it. This is similar to an entrepreneur who approaches business strategies as experiments, a mindset that allows you the agility to pivot.
2. Define your identity in terms of values, not opinions
Grant explains that it is easier to avoid getting stuck in past beliefs if you don’t become attached to them as part of your present self-concept. Value curiosity, learning and mental flexibility. Go one step further by keeping a list of factors that would change your mind on an opinion you hold.
3. Seek out information that goes against your view
Fight confirmation bias and burst your filter bubble by actively engaging with ideas that challenge your assumptions. An easy way to start is by following people who make you think, even if you disagree with them.
4. Beware of getting stranded on mount stupid
Don’t confuse confidence for competence. Oftentimes, the greater we think we are, the more likely it is to overestimate ourselves and stop improving. Simply put, stay humble and reflect on how well you can really explain a given subject.
5. Harness the benefits of doubt
When you find yourself doubting yourself, look at it as an opportunity for growth. You can be confident in your capacity to learn whilst questioning your current solution to a problem, knowing what you don’t know is often the first step toward developing expertise.
6. Embrace the joy of being wrong
When you find out you’ve made a mistake, take it as a sign that you’ve discovered something new. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself. It helps you focus less on proving yourself and more on improving yourself.
7. Learn something new from each person you meet
Everyone knows more than you about something. Ask people what they’ve been rethinking lately or start a conversation about how you’ve changed your mind.
8. Build a challenge network, not a support network
It’s helpful to have cheerleaders encouraging you, but you also need critics to challenge you. Choose respectful critics who can add value and challenge you.
9. Don’t shy away from constructive conflict
Disagreements don’t have to be disagreeable. Although relationship conflict is usually counterproductive, task conflict can help you think again. Try framing disagreements as a debate. This way people are more likely to approach it intellectually and less likely to take it personally.
Who you are and what you want is not and should not be set in stone. By questioning what you do daily, you can rethink old images of what you wanted that no longer serve you. Think Again by Adam Grant is the book that will show you the way.
Think Again was published by Penguin Random House. It is available here.
Penguin Random House nor the author approved or reviewed this piece prior to publication. Opinions + images are our own.
Zissy is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to make things, do things and wear things.