It was a sweltering early July day. One of those days where you walk outside, the sun is beating down, and the air is dripping with humidity. My mom was in town visiting and we were at an outdoor mall, in the heat, enjoying one the things we love to do together – shopping. She has a favorite store that she likes shop at when she visits me in Richmond. It’s not really my style of store, and I wasn’t all that keen about going in, but because I enjoy being with Mom, I wandered in there with her. To a place I don’t normally wander into.
I looked around, didn’t see much, and kept walking until I ended up in the back of the store perusing the sale racks. And, there it was. The Yellow Coat. That had my name written all over it. It was a hot July day – who wanted to try on coats?! I did anyway. I loved it. It was like sunshine in a jacket. Cozy, soft, and delightful.
The size was way too big. I took it to the counter and asked if they could find my size at another store or online. They did! And, because it was left over from the previous winter season, I got it for a steal! It came a couple of weeks later, and I opened the package with joy. I hung it in my closet where it remained waiting until the weather turned cold and I could pull it out and wear it.
As I put it on to wear for the first time, I began to think about this unexpected surprise. What if I had not gone in the store? I would never have gotten the yellow coat. Because I went somewhere I don’t normally go, I found something that I love that suited my personality.
I thought about flexible thinking. How sometimes if we really practice awareness, we can develop a mindset that will help us be more creative, flexible, and even resilient.
Wilma Koutstaal, Ph.D, psychologist at the University of Minnesota says of flexible thinking:
“It can enable us to be more effective problem solvers and problem finders, help to foster creativity and innovation and allow us to identify and realize promising opportunities.” Mental flexibility is not arbitrary or whimsical Koutstaal says – it’s grounded by our goals and aspirations and a balance between control and spontaneity. I love what she says of the balance between control and spontaneity. Spontaneity led me to the Yellow Coat. So, what can we do to become more flexible thinkers and perhaps open those unexpected gifts?
- Mix up the way you think. Get up from your desk and take a walk outside or a lap around the building. Innovative and creative ideas often arise after periods when our thoughts are extremely focused. Our brains benefit from a change of scenery both physically and mentally.
- Switch hands. If you are right handed, try using your left hand to brush your teeth or vice versa. It’s much harder than it sounds. Give it a try, and your brain will work in a different way!
- Get a joke book. You may be asking, what!? Joke books can be a great way to think about the different meanings of words and about how changing the meaning of a word makes it funny. Thinking about the word in a different way than you normally word encourages a different way of thinking.
As the holiday season shifts into high gear, what unexpected gifts will you be on the lookout for? What will you do to mix things up? How can you use your creativity and flexible thinking to give an unexpected gift? What will be your Yellow Coat?