We all know people that are able to adopt very quickly to different perspectives, environments, or are able to change one’s way of thinking. They seem to be able to find more solutions to a problem or a challenge. Their life appears to be less stressful and more fun.
They seem to be able to put on a different kind of thinking-cap for the moment and examine facts, situations, environments from different perspectives.
Those people have developed cognitive flexibility.
What is cognitive flexibility?
Why is cognitive flexibility important?
How can we develop cognitive flexibility?
What Is Cognitive flexibility?
“Great potential for emotional balance and mental flexibility can help us fight the bleakness and sterility of a statistical matrix that clashes with our inner compass’s needs.” ― Erik Pevernagie
According to Wikipedia, Cognitive flexibility is an intrinsic property of a cognitive system often associated with the mental ability to adjust its activity and content, switch between different task rules and corresponding behavioral responses, maintain multiple concepts simultaneously and shift internal attention between them.
In a nutshell, cognitive flexibility is being able to quickly asses and adapt to your environment or situation. It is the ability to quickly learn and pivot in attitude and perception if necessary. This includes being able to change strategies if required.
Cognitive flexibility also known as mental flexibility gives us the great ability to recognize what is not contributing to us being successful and to make the necessary and appropriate changes in order to achieve it.
Cognitive flexibility is very important and we should dedicate time to work on improving it.
Why Is Cognitive Flexibility Important?
Cognitive flexibility is extremely important if we do not want to remain rigid in our reactions and responses to ever-changing circumstances and situations. Through improving our cognitive flexibility we can enjoy the following benefits:
- Creativity – cognitive flexibility is the key to creative thinking. It gives you the ability to think of new ideas, come up with new inventions and see new connections.
- Increased Adaptability – cognitive flexibility will allow us to rise above challenges and remain relevant in our personal and professional lives. Increased adaptability will make our life appear less stressful and full of opportunities instead of obstacles. We will be able to adapt and respond positively to changing situations and environments by adopting our responses accordingly.
- Building Relationships – building relationships is mainly about our ability to identify, intimate, and maintain a connection that is mutually beneficial to both sides. Good relationships are crucial to getting things done and when our success depends on others. Cognitive flexibility helps in building great relationships by being able to recognize differences as beneficial as opposed to negative.
- Multitasking – cognitive flexibility allows you to multi tasks by having the ability to smoothly transition form one task to another, and back and forth. By not being rigid and getting stuck on one task, we can focus on many tasks at once.
- Think Differently – cognitive flexibility will give you the ability to think differently. You won’t be stuck in a tunnel vision. By being able to think differently and see different perspectives and views you will be able to come up with multiple solutions to a problem or generate many ideas.
How To Improve Cognitive Flexibility?
Flexibility is a learned mental skill. In today’s dynamic world, your effectiveness as a professional depends on your readiness to adjust quickly to the moments of need or opportunity, adversity, and change. — Jennifer Touma
There are many things you can do to improve your cognitive flexibility and make your brain amenable to different ways of thinking.
- Change your routines – we all have our routines. You can start improving your cognitive flexibility by changing your routines. Try getting out of bed different way, take a different way to work, change your exercising regime, etc.
- Practice creative thinking – take the time to challenge yourself to practice divergent thinking. See if you can see different perspectives of an idea. Try to let go of limiting beliefs and embrace possibilities.
- Leave your comfort zone – experiencing anything out of the ordinary helps your brain make new connection. Challenge yourself with leaving your comfort zone.
- Learn new things – learn new language, work on developing a new skill,
- reduce stress – find ways to reduce stress. Stress puts strain on your mental ability. Once you are able to manage stress it will free up mental energy that you will be able to use for cognitive flexibility.
- Supplements – you can take supplements to improve your mental flexibility. Vitamin B12, fish oil, green tea are a great choice to boost cognitive flexibility, reduce stress, and help you focus.
- Exercise – exercise is helpful in shifting your focus and clearing your head. Also, by exercising you will give your brain more oxygen therefore improving its mental activities including cognitive flexibility.
- Meditation – taking some quite time to clear your brain is a great way to increase mental flexibility.
“What then are the benefits of being mentally flexible? Imagine a storm brewing. Intense winds are blowing hard. Stiff trees are breaking under the pressure while softer more flexible trees are bending and will rise again when the strong winds subside. Now turn this image onto human beings. People who are narrow minded, opinionated, stubborn and bullheaded are more likely to crack under pressure than people who take up a more flexible attitude towards life. It is the difference between bending and breaking under pressure.” ― Gudjon Bergmann
Cognitive Flexibility In A Workplace
The world is moving very quickly. We need cognitive flexibility to not only improve out personal lives abut also be able to keep up with business needs. Cognitive flexibility helps businesses and employees with the following:
- being able to juggle complex workflows and priorities
- understand rapidly evolving markets
- manage constantly changing clients and business needs
- ability to communicate and collaborate with international teams across different time zones
- stay calm, proactive and focused