Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

On Premises That Restrict Our Thinking


There are more than words that restrict our thinking. Sometimes it’s a whole premise, the rules of the game, we buy into that set up a framework in your mind that leads you to a certain way of thinking, responding and reacting.

The very first step for me to break away from mindsets that restrict our thinking is by questioning the premise itself. It happens to me often in an interview, where a question is posed by someone who might not know your domain well, or the picture they want to paint is not what you had in mind. When you answer the question within their framework of the question, the end result is usually a poor interview. Perhaps it was a less relevant question, and answering that didn’t press your agenda forward. Similar to rethinking the question itself as if it’s the best question you could have been asked for your particular circumstance, and answering that instead (which I refer to as pivoting), we can refuse to accept the premise the situation offers you.

One example of a restricting premise is that it is a zero-sum game. Zero-sum games assume a fixed maximum yield, and so when you win some points, someone else has to lose some points. For others to get ahead, you have to lose. So many situations are treated by others as a zero-sum game. When it is, unless you have a clear advantage, it’s a losing battle, a competition with a single winner.

Most situations can accommodate a different outlook. When we smile, it doesn’t cost you anything, and it enriches another person’s life, which in turn enrich ours: a win-win scenario. There is really no reason to offer a genuine kind word or a gesture, except when we are vain (too self-absorbed, our problems are somehow more important than others, etc.). And when we are too vain, it’s worse than a zero-sum game: it’s a lose-lose scenario.

Photo: a Danish child questioning why he can’t see his own tongue colored by his blue candy at Den Gamle By, Aarhus, Denmark

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This entry was posted on May 21, 2015 by in Management and tagged , , , , .
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