How Transformational Thinking Can Lead Us Beyond Today’s Challenges
Abraham Maslow, the mid-20th Century psychologist who created Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, said: “One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.”
This quote is particularly applicable to the times we live in today. Dealing with a global pandemic understandably has caused people to search for a safe haven, but safety shouldn’t mean resorting to ways of thinking that keep us stuck in fear. Instead, we must move forward by choosing growth over fear. The way in which we can do that is choose a more transformational way of thinking.
Transformational thinking is using our minds productively. We think approximately 40,000-70,000 thoughts a day, and many are anything but productive. If we approached our lives with the intent of taking personal accountability for the thoughts we think, we’d be much more careful and selective of the type of thoughts we allowed to dominate and control our minds. But with the pandemic, we’ve given into too many fear-based thoughts.
By becoming transformational thinkers, we’re more inclined to utilize our mind to think strategically of ways to create solutions for the problems or fears we’re facing. We can’t problem-solve if we’re stuck in fear, which is why it must be “overcome again and again,” as Maslow said.
With transformational thinking we achieve a state of mental balance, and instead of giving into a particular emotion like fear, we function as a “solution thinker.” We recognize that fear gets in the way of practical solutions, or even using common sense.
When we’re functioning out of fear, which we have for an entire year during the coronavirus pandemic, we’re more likely to limit our thinking and instead of it being constructive, our thoughts can be destructive to our own and others’ well-being. Fear causes us to remain in a state of fight-flight-freeze, which is the body’s built-in defense mechanism when we perceive a threat. But if we allow ourselves to stay in this fear state, we perceive far too many situations as threats to our survival, and this can even extend to how we perceive others.
The increased polarization in the world today corresponds to our perception of others as threatening to our own well-being. Take, for instance, the divergent ways that groups have chosen to deal with the pandemic. Those who adhere to medical guidelines to wear a mask and social distance feel threatened by those who take a cavalier attitude to the virus. Yet those who refuse to mask and social distance believe their more cautious counterparts threaten their economic security and personal liberties.
In the meantime, COVID-19 has led to 2.6 million deaths worldwide. Now, as we’ve learned more, many people are choosing to not be led by fear and opt to deal with what’s been called the “new normal” in their own way.
Transformational thinking makes us more accepting of one another, and the choices that we feel are best for us personally. We must be careful not to perpetuate a belief that we are a threat to one another, which is born out of fear. This pandemic has accelerated fear in ways that are completely unprecedented. Even now when vaccines are available, we find enormous numbers of “anti-vaxxers” who are either waiting for more data on the efficacy of the vaccines or are choosing to rely on various alternative yet unproven treatments, therapies, or supplements. Some trust in their body’s innate ability to heal and rely on that as their preferred way to deal with the virus.
Who are we to tell someone else what is best for them? Even if we think we know what is best for us, we mustn’t impose that on others. In any case, it’s likely that they’d listen.
Nevertheless, the times we’re living in have led us to become quick to allow our minds to grasp onto thoughts that aren’t transformational. Our default behaviors are ruled by criticism, judgment, and even hatred.
From the standpoint of Maslow’s quote, we must decide to choose growth over fear. A transformational thinker knows that this must be the way. Without growth, we wallow in fear, and if we stay stuck in fear, we won’t get through this difficult and challenging time having grown from the experience.
We all yearn for a new era in which we come together in a more civil and unified society. To make this happen, we must utilize transformational thinking to focus on solutions, not problems, and create the new normal that moves us past what will likely prove the most significant experience of our lifetimes.
Ora Nadrich is founder and president of the Institute for Transformational Thinking and author of Live True: A Mindfulness Guide to Authenticity, named in the 100 Best Mindfulness Books of All Time by BookAuthority. She is a certified life coach and mindfulness teacher, specializing in transformational thinking, self-discovery and mentoring new coaches as they develop their careers. Contact her at theiftt.org.