”To him who has only a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.Abraham Maslow
Maslow’s Law of the Instrument describes a cognitive bias that involves an over-reliance on a familiar tool; in our context, narrow skill-sets and resources. A hammer might not be the most appropriate tool for every purpose. Yet, a person with only a hammer is likely to try and fix everything by using it without considering other options.
We know the impending future is full of the unknown. Or we could reframe this and say the future is experimental. We need to keep looking for the best possible choices, and we need to rethink new ways to solve problems. Bill Gates once said that success today requires the agility and drive to rethink, reinvigorate, react, and reinvent constantly.
I used to go for mountaineering adventures. When I embark on a trailhead to climb a mountain, I’m entering into a different environment of interconnected systems that I’m a part of. The weather, conditions, flora, and fauna are the new variables I encounter. Uncertain of what mother nature’s next challenge would be, I always carried a pocket knife with me during these expeditions.
I pack along with me my Swiss Army Knife because it’s the most versatile tool set I can rely on to create my own solutions to whatever a different world – Nature – throws at me, away from the comforts of city life.
Reflecting on our current situation, I would like to share a “Swiss Army Knife” mindset as a tool, a handy reminder to help us face every challenge in our new post-COVID adventures.
Check out the interactive Swiss Army Knife tools and personalise yours.
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- Stay Sharp (Knife)
- Celebrate Small Wins Together (Corkscrew)
- Thorns Removal (Tweezers)
- Smile! (Toothpick)
“The secret of a successful restaurant is sharp knives.”
— George Orwell
Clarity of thought is critical to solve new problems. The good news is that there are limitless ways to hone your mental acuity and help your brain stay sharp and healthy.
In essence, stretching our brains with new and varied tasks keeps our mind alert. People who are more active and stimulated by mentally challenging activities are more likely to stay sharp.
“Always carry a corkscrew, and the wine shall provide itself.”
— Basil Bunting
As a team player, we need to keep our collaborative juices flowing.
We need to be appreciative of what others have done, applaud their efforts, acknowledge their successes, and encourage one another’s pursuits.
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
— Abraham Lincoln
Problems are opportunities with ‘thorns’ on them. Our negative emotions present hazards in our survival mode.
Let’s remove the emotional ‘thorns’, ‘splinters’, and ‘stingers’. The longer we dwell on the thorns, the greater becomes their power to harm us. The more we focus on the positive aspect in a situation, we can devise a positive course of action.
“A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.”
— Phyllis Diller
A positive attitude underpinning mental wellness is the first vaccine that we need.
We have to learn to smile in times of trouble, to embrace change, to gather strength from within, and to grow brave by reflection.
“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
— Henry Ford
New challenges require new attitudes. The most challenging part is the decision and commitment to act; the rest is merely tenacity. In the face of the seemingly impossible, you may just need a different mindset or a different tool.
“We must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw.”
— Stephen R. Covey
Known as habit number 7 of highly effective people, we must seek continuous improvement and renewal professionally and personally.
We need to preserve and enhance the greatest asset we have in four areas: the physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual. Afford each aspect the attention it deserves to sharpen and strengthen your entirety.
“Red tape will often get in your way. It’s one of the reasons I often carry scissors!”
— Richard Branson
To be sincere and get to the point, cut away the superficial ‘packaging’ and show your real values upfront. Others will appreciate practicality and the ability to think of a synergized win-win situation.
“Don’t water your weeds.”
— Harvey McKay
We need to run lean, cut out unnecessary expenses, and also do away with draining win-lose relationships.
Stop devoting time and energy to processes and procedures that are sapping efficiency.
“This world is changing enormously. In any position in a company, we need to work very hard on learning new skills every day, but you also need to unlearn some of the old skills from the past.”
— Paul Polman
With our traditional knowledge becoming misplaced or irrelevant in a changing world, an essential skill is how to learn new skills. We need to unlock our inner student to build a new repertoire of abilities and avoid becoming obsolete over time.
“You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.”
— Bob Marley
Problems are chances for us to outshine our own expectations and pull through tough situations. However, it’s crucial to know when something has reached an end and gracefully let it go. What matters is having the strength to move on and incorporate the lessons learned to become stronger.
“There are tremendous emotional and psychological rewards that come with pushing yourself to break through past limits and, in the process, creating something of value for yourself and others.”
— Tony Robbins
Perseverance is the grounding tenet of people who stay hungry and don’t allow themselves to get too comfortable. Comfort zones are rarer spaces nowadays, and entering a comfort zone is the fastest way to kill drive and determination; at which point we settle and accept what we have as being “good enough.”
“A very little key will open a very heavy door.”
— Charles Dickens
This analogy is an invitation for us to always carry our own versatile set of positive thinking tools that can be useful anytime we face a challenge. Sometimes the simplest, most elegant solution can be a start to budge the heaviest of doors.
I hope that the analogy of the “Swiss Army Knife” can be a useful tool for our mindset to survive and to thrive in a less comfortable landscape of possibilities.
What are the strengths and tools of your handy Swiss Army Knife that will give you the fortitude and resilience to overcome adversity?
No one-size-fits-all for the most effective mental toolkit, but by reflecting on our own past journey, sharing experiences with others and taking examples from the quotes of successful people throughout history, we can design our personalised pocket knife to adapt ourselves and embrace the unknown for success.
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