Flexible thinking is one of the three main executive skills. The other two are working memory and inhibitory control (self-control). Together, these skills allow people to manage their thoughts, actions and emotions in order to get things done.
Think about what might happen when a child encounters a tough math problem. She uses inhibitory control to stay focused. She uses working memory to keep the formulas in mind so she can use them. And she uses flexible thinking to come up with alternative ways to solve the problem when her first attempt doesn’t work.
People who struggle with flexible thinking will likely also struggle with other key executive skills. But that doesn’t mean a person will have the same degree of weakness in all three skills. This person may have more trouble with flexible thinking than with working memory, for instance.
Flexible thinking is a skill we use throughout everyday life. People with poor flexible thinking skills can often seem rigid. They may seem fearful of change or easily frustrated by challenges that come their way. That’s because they tend to get “stuck” in one activity or in one way of perceiving things. They also have a hard time coming up with alternative solutions.
What does it mean for you as a trainer to develop flexible thinking and at the same time transfer it to the participants as the main learning approach?
- Relax and become more physically flexible. Learning to relax physically can help you to be less rigid about other things. Practice yoga stretches or tries deep breathing techniques.
- Think about how much you have changed and all the new ways of thinking you have developed since you were younger. For example, if you were 12 you could consider how much you’ve matured and how your interests have changed since you were 9.
- Practice trial-and-error learning. Do something with the peers in which it is clear that there is no right or wrong answer. For example, rearrange the books on a bookshelf to see how they look best.
- How do you understand flexibility?
- Why is it important for you in your daily life to develop such skill?
- How do you practice flexibility in your life?