Safe is risky

Your brain tends to work on auto-pilot. When faced with a challenge, it comes up with a solution almost immediately. It won’t even consider most alternatives.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s quite useful. Your brain recognises certain elements and immediately ‘sees’ the connection. Based on past experience and ‘common knowledge’ you will be able to choose an approach within a fraction of a second. This is the obvious approach. Experience ‘taught’ your brain what to expect and exactly how to handle the situation. All other possibilities will be ignored. After all, many of these alternatives are ‘crazy’, improbable or even impossible. They receive no attention.

Letting your decisions be guided by past experience is often quite useful. You choose the options that have proven themselves time and again. It’s exactly this approach that allows us to function well in everyday society. If we would always take into account all possible alternatives, completing even the simplest tasks would take up all our time. I’ll illustrate this point with an everyday example:

Crossing the road
Imagine you want to cross a road. You see a car approaching. Your brain instantly calculates at what speed the car travels and tells you whether it’s safe to cross the road in front of the car or not. Your mind ignores all ‘useless’ information (the colour of the cars parked in the street, the temperature, the birds in the sky etc.).


Most alternatives will also be ignored (what if the car will instantly start speeding, what if a helicopter will land in front of you, what if a passing tornado will blow you across the street?). If you’d take every possibility into account, you’d be stuck at the side of that road for days…

While using familiar patterns in your thinking is safe and generally efficient, it doesn’t lead to original thoughts. When you exclude alternatives (that fall outside of your normal thinking patterns), you’re limiting yourself. You’ll stay on the known path you’ve travelled a thousand times before. Not only is this mind-numbingly boring, it’s dangerous as well. Staying in the comfort zone prevents you from gaining progress. You and your company are standing still. There is no movement forward and therefore no growth.

Safe is risky

As long as everything around you stays exactly the same there is not much to worry about. But when something changes in society or in the world… or when one of your competitors finally wakes up… you’re in trouble.

Doing what you always did might seem safe, but the contrary is true. Competitors, or life in general, can take control in the blink of an eye. To anticipate changes and to always stay one step ahead, you need original thoughts. Suspend your judgement and use a few thinking techniques to generate ‘out of the comfort zone’ ideas. Don’t be scared to question what seems to work perfectly well. Thinking about improvements or alternatives either confirms you’re still on the right track or delivers you a better way to do things.

Temporarily break with your fixed thinking patterns once in a while. Only then you’ll come up with truly creative and valuable new ideas.

Do you have any questions about breaking with fixed patterns? Please let me know in the comment box below. Your feedback helps us give you the information that’s most valuable to you.

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