Thinking And Stress: Are You A Fixed Or Flexible Thinker?

by Doc Orman, M.D.

This week, I’ve been asking you to consider the following questions about yourself:

  • Are you a one-way thinker?stopwatch-stress
  • Are you a two-way thinker?
  • Or are you a rare three-way thinker?

These questions were stimulated a book I recently read called The Art Of Thinking (formerly Styles of Thinking) by Allen Harrison and Robert Bramson. 

In my first post on this topic, I briefly described the five primary thinking styles these authors distinguished.  I also mentioned how the authors observed that certain styles of thinking tend to cause conflicts and stress in both our personal and business relationships.

In my second post, I gave you a few tips on how to determine if you are a one-way thinker or multi-way thinker.  I concluded this second post with the question: Does it make any difference which one you are?   I think it does, and in this post I will attempt to explain why.

Are You Fixed Or Flexible?

We tend to think of flexibility as a physical attribute—do your joints and muscles give your body more or less flexibility?  Are you able to easily move between different yoga postures?

But there is also mental flexibility as well.  How fixated are you on certain specific beliefs or on certain habitual styles of thinking?  Or are you easily able to move between different (and often conflicting) beliefs or even entire ways of thinking and reasoning?

The answers to these types of questions, I believe, have a great deal to do with how much stress you are likely to experience.  In more than 30 years of working with people who are stressed, I have found that many of them are rigid, inflexible thinkers.  They have very firm beliefs in what they consider “true,” “good,” “right,” or of value.

The interesting thing about many of their firmly-held beliefs is that many of them (certainly not all) are dead wrong.  Yet, they never get to discover this because they are so fixed and committed to just one way of looking at things (their way).

Inflexibility in your thinking, whether it is about specific, individual beliefs or in your overall preferred style of thinking, is surely going to result in you having much more stress than you need to have.  And the opposite is commonly observed as well—the more flexible and “unattached” people are about their most cherished personal beliefs and their pet ways of thinking, the less problems, conflicts and stress they are likely to experience.

So what can you do if you suspect you are a fixed, inflexible, one-way thinker?  I wish I had a simple answer for you.  This is a challenge that even our best and most talented mental health professionals struggle with (as was so brilliantly depicted in the movie Good Will Hunting).  

All I can say is that at some point in your life, hopefully something or someone comes also who can open your eyes (and your heart) to the benefits of being more flexible and to costs of continuing to be so fixed and set in your ways.

Hope you found this series of three blog posts this week of interest.  And if you are attracted to detailed analysis of specific styles of thinking, you might want to read The Art Of Thinking book.

Note: For a full list of all of my Kindle books about stress, click on this link:





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