To think optimally or not to think optimally, that is the question (Optimal thinking – What’s all the fuss about?)

  • process your emotions
  • interrupted your default neural pathways
  • be aware of your availability to resources
  • how to think optimally

 

“I can’t do this!” The problem with this thinking is the word ‘can’t’. If you believe you can’t do something, then you will not be able to do whatever the ‘this’ is. This is referred to as ‘negative thinking’ or having a ‘victim mindset’, which then becomes your self-imposed limiting belief in your life without you realising that this is occurring! Other examples of phrases that are associated with that of the victim mindset include: I am overwhelmed; I am helpless; I am hopeless and so on.

Stop for a moment and think about the phrases that you are using that may have limited you in your life. If you are having trouble with this task, then you may be more aware of your experiences of getting stuck in your emotional reactions caused by your self-imposed limiting beliefs. This may be associated with your fears, anger, frustrations, worries or anxieties in life. You may also recognise your ‘negative thinking’ or ‘victim mindset’ when you are jumping to conclusions, self-labelling, undervaluing the reward or seeking perfectionism.

The issues with negative thinking and the victim mindset is self-evident; you give away your personal power, you become a passive player in your life and essentially inhibit yourself from living your life optimally and purposefully.

If, however, you don’t believe that you are a negative thinker or have a victim mindset, then as stated above, you will not be a negative thinker or victim! However, ask yourself this question; are you living your life optimally and purposefully? If the answer is yes. Then, there is no need to read on! Congratulations, you are not in need of this blog. If, however, you felt an emotional charge to answering this question, whether that be sadness, grief, worry, anger, frustration, happiness or joy then read on – you may be a sub-optimal thinker!

Thinking sub-optimally does not allow you to become the best version of yourself. Sub-optimal thinking only leads you to an average life. Everything in your life may be sub-optimal such as your relationships, career or achievements! Sub-optimal thinking, however, is deceptive! Why? Because unlike negative thinking and the victim mindset, you are not constantly getting stuck in your emotional reactions. Sub-optimal thinking lets you enjoy your comfort zone.

We all have zones of comfort. Comfort zones allow you to believe that you are doing well and that you are comfortable in what you are currently doing in life. This, however, is the illusion of sub-optimal thinking. What do I mean by this statement? Sub-optimal thinking prevents you from growing, evolving and progressing in life. Essentially, sub-optimal thinking prevents you from living your life optimally and purposefully. Why? Because as soon as you begin to move out of your comfort zone, the reactive emotions of fear, worry or anxiety stop or even paralyse you from doing so. Essentially, you become a victim to your comfort zone!

How did becoming a victim to your comfort zone occur? According to Blaz Kos from Agile Lean Life you have not been asking yourself the right questions. Instead you have been emotionally torturing yourself with victim mindset questions or encouraging a sub-optimal life by using sub-optimal questions. For example, Kos suggests that victim mindset questions include: “Why is this happening to me? Why did they give me a task, they know it’s too demanding for me? What if I fail and everybody will laugh at me? Why should I act, there’s no good that can come out of it? Why am I not more successful?” In contrast, Kos suggests that sub-optimal questions include: “What should I do now? Which option should I choose? What’s a good way to approach a thing like that? How can I solve this problem?”

According to Kos, if you want to achieve your peak potential in life, you simply must upgrade your thinking from the negative or average to optimal. This is where Kos suggests that you need to use ‘optimal thinking’, a concept introduced by Rosalene Glickman, Ph.D. and who has written the book Optimal Thinking: How to Be Your Best Self. It is suggested you need to start building self-confidence, deal with cognitive distortions, shape a superior life strategy and start with everyday small steps to change the victim mindset or sub-optimal thinking. This is where using the concept of optimal thinking is used.

To create change, it is recommended that you begin asking yourself questions, but framed in an optimal thinking way. For example, Kos and Glickman recommend using questions such as: What’s the best way to do this thing? How can I solve a problem in the best way? Which is the best option for me? What will lead to the best possible outcome? What would the best solution look like? What is the best opportunity in my life right now? Who is the best person to help me make progress in life? What is the best location for me to work? What is the best way to minimize waste? What are my best skills that I can offer to the market? What is the best company for me to work for?

Are you seeing a common theme with these questions? Yes, it’s using the word best in your optimal thinking questions. The belief here is that, as discussed with using can’t by including best you are asking yourself the right questions which allows you to not only raise your standards, but also start looking for completely new solutions you haven’t thought of before. You are, however, not limited to using best, you can replace best with other superlatives (refer to table below).

I agree that being able to use optimal thinking questions may assist you in raising your standards and finding better solutions for yourself in comparison to asking sup-optimal thinking questions, as demonstrated in the table below. However, when you are emotionally reacting to a situation, asking yourself optimal thinking questions is not in the forefront mind.

Try asking an angry person caught up in their emotional reaction: “What’s the best possible way to calm yourself down?” Let me assure you, this will not end up well for you! Stop for a moment and recall a time when you became angry. You would have justified to yourself that your angry outburst was appropriate because someone or something just violated a belief of yours that you hold to be one hundred percent true and valid! Are you able to ask yourself optimal, let alone sub-optimal questions, when stuck in your emotional outburst?

 

Examples of types of thinking Optimal thinking Sub-optimal thinking
1. “What’s the best way to do X?” “What’s a good way to do X?”
2. “How can I solve Y in the best way possible?” “How can I solve Y?”
3 “What’s my greatest talent?” “How can I work out my talent?”
4 “What’s my highest priority in life?” “How can I determine my life priorities?”
5 “How can I find the smartest way to work?” “What’s a smart way to work?”
6 “I will find the most rewarding way to enjoy my day?” “How can I spend my day?”
7 “How can I determine the maximal time needed to get the best productivity?” “How much time do I need to be productive?”
8 “How can I live my life optimally?” “How can I live my life?”

 

Most probably not! Why? Because your emotional outburst, irrespective of the emotion, is associated with belief systems which are already part of your neurology! These unhealthy default neural pathways need to be interrupted, but I will address this in another post.

I will, however, share with you a real-life example of how thinking at the most optimal level may work. I recall back when my partner was organizing and packing for our family vacation, my partner asked herself the question (she was thinking out loud) “What’s a good way to make sure I don’t forget anything?” We have two boys under 3 and another one on the way at the time and she needed to make sure she was ready for any situation!

In recalling my partner’s question that she thought out aloud to herself, the most obvious thing that she was doing is being focused on ‘forgetting’. This focus, however, was based on pre-existing belief systems associated with fear of getting it wrong, needing to be in control and issues of self-esteem. As I will explain in another post, my partner’s default fear, control and poor self-esteem default neural pathways were already part of her neurology. As I will explain in my next blog, these default pathways needed to be interrupted.

As this blog is about optimal thinking, the next obvious issue relates to her sub-optimal question. Although my partner worked out a plan for herself to pack, it was a sub-optimal plan. Referring to the table above, she could have asked herself; “What’s the best way to pack for this trip?” By answering this question my partner (and hopefully you) could see that she would now be seeking an optimal solution. However, as previously stated, my partner needed to first interrupt her unhealthy neural default pathways which kept her focused on sub-optimal outcomes.

There are moments when you may also be distracted by life. During these moments you may not immediately know the best solution to your problem. In fact, you may not be asking yourself optimal thinking questions because you are either reactively stuck in your emotions or not aware of your default neural pathways, or both! If, however, you did find yourself in this type of scenario, once you have processed your emotions and interrupted your default neural pathways, to see the results gained by optimal thinking, you would need to ask yourself, “What does the best solution look like?”

In fact, having this question in the forefront of your thinking before you get emotionally reactive to your default neural pathways is a much better outcome! For example, continuing with my example above, if my partner first asked herself “What does the best solution to packing for our holiday look like?”, she could have then listed some of these attributes, such as: setting an alarm and getting up early, writing out a list of things for the vacation, exercising so that she may think clearly, eating healthy meals so her blood glucose is balanced and is therefore better focused, asking her family if there is anything specific that they wanted to take and so on.

When considering your optimal thinking question, it is also important to be aware of your availability to resources. Continuing with my real-life example from above, if my partner only had 20 minutes to pack then time would be her limited resource. This means that a solution to packing for the vacation that took an hour would be impractical nor would this, by default, optimal.

It is important that you must also include constraints in your original optimal thinking question. For example, using my partner’s example, “What’s the best way to pack for vacation in 20 minutes or less?” Bringing this to my partner’s consciousness whilst also using techniques to process reactive emotions (such as UEFT and using proŸmŸemo) and interrupting her default neural pathways associated with this issue, she is now always organised!

Once you make the decision to use optimal thinking, you will find it not only great but easy to use, saving you time and, from my personal experience, will deliver you numerous benefits. I believe that one of the desirable outcomes of applying optimal thinking questions to yourself is the elevation in your own personal standards. Simply put, you raise your own standards by asking the following optimal thinking questions:

  • How can I maximise my time right now?
  • What’s the best time for me to exercise regularly? (recall that one possible limiting resource is time, so addressing it means you can exercise in a way that works optimally for you)
  • What’s the best way to get myself abundant? (focus on abundance rather than ‘out of debt’)
  • What’s the fastest and best way for me to make a side income?
  • What school will deliver my child the best opportunities in life?
  • Who are the best people for me to associate with right now?
  • What book should read next to give me the best boost in life right now?
  • What is the best new blog I should be reading and bookmarking regularly and tell everyone I know about?

In all aspects of life, I advocate that you commit yourself to doing all that you do, to the best of your abilities. If, however, you are not consciously doing this, then you will be faced with emotional reactivity, sub-optimal thinking or worse still, victim blaming. My grandfather used to say to me when I was a little boy: “measure twice, cut once”, meaning find the best way to do something the first time you do it. This may involve ensuring that you have all the relevant information and then executing it with precision. By doing so, you are on your way to achieving optimal thinking outcome that does not ever have to be re-thought or a job that needs to be re-done.

There is another saying I will share with you here before completing this article, and that is; the universe will only ever deliver what you ask for! So, my challenge to you is asking yourself optimal thinking questions as illustrated in the above table. However, before you can think optimally, you need to process your emotions and interrupt your default neural pathways! However, what’s even more important than this, is listening to your innate wisdom and then acting on the answers to create changes in your life. By consciously doing this, you will be living by the ROA motto: Live optimally. Live purposefully™.