How an Outward Mindset Shifts Our Focus from Problems to Solutions

When was the last time you felt negative towards a person or a situation? It could be anything like the social media post of someone bothering you, or a person not being able to understand your perspective or things not panning out the way you would ideally have liked. All too often, when we feel negative towards anything, our focal point tends to be the problem at hand. We continue to dwell on it. Ruminating about the problem can be our instinctive reaction to deal with it, but it is not helpful as it imprisons us in our own negative thoughts rather than helping us explore potential solutions. We must shift the epicenter of our thoughts from problems to solutions in order to learn and grow.

At My Emotions Matter, we believe that most of our problems are interpersonal in nature. One way or the other, other people are connected with issues we are grappling with. Keeping this in mind, our 10-hour training course called ‘Emotional Intelligence Mindset: Getting Out of the Box’ has been developed with the purpose of helping people bring a change in their thoughts and improve their interpersonal relationships. We introduce the concept of two mindsets: an inward mindset in which people are inclined towards tendencies like complaining and blaming others for the problems at hand and an outward mindset in which people collaboratively work with others to find solutions rather than focusing on problems.

As an organization that wants to build a solution-focused culture, Reduct Nepal decided to partner with My Emotions Matter for our 10-hour session called ‘Emotional Intelligence Mindset: Getting Out of the Box’. As the 10-hour training course panned out at Reduct Nepal, a few participants shared their experiences of becoming more solution-oriented after attending our session.

Ms. Dilasha Shrestha, who is a User Experience Researcher at Reduct Nepal shared how she was successful in thinking with an outward mindset when recently dealing with a problem. She shared, “I recently saw a social media post shared by my friend. To my surprise, even during the grave times of corona, when it is considered advisable to stay indoors as much as possible, a few of my friends had organized a get together outdoors and they captured a picture from the same and posted it on their social media. I felt disappointed looking at the picture because the safety requirements for corona prevention were not being followed by my dear ones. Regardless of the fact that I wanted to react and talk to my friends and tell them how I felt looking at the picture, I decided to take a pause and think from an outward mindset. I realized that texting my friends right away would be an inappropriate way to overcome the problem at hand – as it could potentially make my friends defensive and lead them to think that I was just being nosy about their personal lives.”

The instance shared by Ms. Dilasha shows how she refrained from reacting immediately when she was filled with disappointment. She decided to take a step back and think calmly. This gave her a chance to make the choice of operating from a solution oriented outward mindset. She further shared how outward mindset helped her find an alternative solution to the problem at hand. She said, “I decided to focus on how I could contribute to solving the problem. So, I shared a post in my social media from the World Health Organization on statistics related to Coronavirus. I posted it in my social media with the intention of making people aware of the intensity of the Corona crisis which would motivate them to take safety precautions as much as possible. I decided to look for solutions by empathizing with my friends. This helped me initiate solutions from my side than hoping for my friends to change.”

By operating with an outward mindset and reminding ourselves to think of the solutions, we can deal with our problems faster rather than just wasting time blaming others and justifying ourselves. The 10-hour training that we provide on outward mindset helps people explore solutions with an open mind and minimize blame-game on who caused the problem. The result: reduced conflicts in relationships.

On the contrary, with an inward mindset, we struggle to open our eyes towards others and their needs and we look at things only from our perspective. This leads us to play the blame-game when people do not act in ways we want them to. The result of this is conflict and misunderstanding which can translate to bitterness in relationships. For instance, Mr. Ujwal, who works at Reduct Nepal, shared an example of how earlier when he was not exposed to the rewards of an outward mindset and the harms of an inward mindset, he could not acknowledge the needs of his father. This led to miscommunication between them. He stated, “My father had to go outdoors even when the lockdown was imposed to prevent the spread of corona. I often used to react out of fear and would tell him not to go outside due to the heavy risks associated. This invited defensiveness in my father because for him it was important to go outside and continue working as his business falls under the basic essentials category. This essentially led us nowhere but in the vicious cycle of blaming each other.”

After taking the session on Emotional Intelligence Mindset, Mr. Ujwal became aware of his own controlling behavior in his relationship with his father. He realized that he would have to collaboratively work with his father in order to find a solution rather than imposing his opinions on him. He shared, “The session learnings from My Emotions Matter helped me connect to my father on a deeper level. I understood that the problem at hand was that while other family members were concerned about my father’s safety, he was hoping to continue his essential work to serve the community. This meant that a constructive way of looking at the problem would be other family members helping him maintain safety while he would continue to do his work. After realizing this, I had a conversation with my father calmly and rather than insisting him not to go out, I asked him what we could collectively do as a family for him to maintain his safety even when working outdoors. This gesture shown by me was well received by my father and it pushed me to find solutions rather than remaining hooked on the problems.”

Functioning from a solution-oriented outward mindset is crucial if we want to nurture sustainable relationships. It is important to realize that every human being around us is unique and has different needs, objectives and challenges. What might seem like a problem to us might be what they deem to be a solution for the challenges they are currently facing. Therefore, a starting point to overcome any conflicts and misunderstandings is to consider the needs, objectives, and challenges of others.

The foundation of a strong relationship is built with an outward mindset. When any problem occurs in our relationships, we should be less concerned about changes the other person needs to bring and more concerned about how we are contributing to the problem at hand. This is the key principle of outward mindset which intends to increase accountability in individuals and reduce conflicts in relationships.

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Mahima Poddar

Mahima Poddar is Research Assistant at My Emotions Matter and can be reached at [email protected]