#1 Success & Happiness Solution: Rubber Band Thinking
Bill Cottringer

“I wouldn’t give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but for the simplicity just on the other side of complexity, I would give my life.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes.

There is no shortage of good information about success and happiness. Today, there are entire libraries about how to be successful and happy. And, there are over 800 million on-line resources for information regarding these hot topics. But the problem is that there is too much information and so where is a person to start, short of devoting several lifetimes to reading all that is available? In a word, simplify. The goal now becomes identifying the one thing that drives everything else and at the same time can change anything. This is our thinking.

If there is one single mental strategy that is the common thread running through the happiest and most successful people’s ways of thinking, it is this: Rubber band thinking. This is thinking that expands, adjusts and accommodates the situation as may be most appropriate, just like a rubber band. Visualize the many different shapes that a rubber band can contain—from a large square stack of papers, to a small circle of round pencils. Then of course there are many other uses like sling shots, paper clip launchers and such.

Take any problem situation in life—unemployment, divorce, substance abuse, financial worries, school bullying, family arguments, medical problems and pain, severe storm damage, growing old, or whatever—and if you apply flexible “rubber band” thinking, the problem’s stronghold on your failure and unhappiness lessens. Simply said, the more flexible the thinking is about any type of problem situation, the happier and more successful you will be with the outcome and the more you will expect and get those same results moving forward. The nice thing about this simple solution is that it is available to everyone at any time, on an equal opportunity basis. And it is completely free of cost.

Successful, flexible rubber band-like thinking involves several different mental strategies, but the primary driver is the difficult process of reprogramming your brain to reclaim the driver’s seat in your own bus. Here are three simple ideas on what this involves to get you started in creating your own list from your own rubber band thinking:

1. Slowing Down.

The first thing you have to do to start re-programming your brain is to slow down your thinking, feeling and acting, at least long enough to start noticing what you have been failing to notice all along. In slowing down, you begin to see the interesting connection between important things like your thoughts and feelings, choices and consequences, different approaches and their variety of results, and the habit-forming sequence of thoughts, actions, consequences, expectations, and experience. You will even begin to notice the relationship between the speed of your thinking and what you get from different speeds. This last bit of noticing is essential to become more sensitive to something we all need to be much more sensitive to—noticing the point of no return in something before it comes and goes. If nothing else, this sensitivity distinguishes between opportunity and danger.

Slowing down in a world gone mad with valuing speed above all else, is a challenging paradox to solve. But, for some strange reason paradoxes serve as the best hiding places of all for important truths that are necessary to build success and happiness upon. The brain can’t stand things like unresolvable ambiguity—damn if you do and damned if you don’t—and so these situations don’t normally make it to conscious thinking to see the way out, at least until you manage to stop the moving train just long enough to see that.

2. Re-defining Things.

When you do start slowing down, you begin to realize something pretty amazing—that how you define something helps determine how much or how little of the thing you have. If you define success and happiness in terms of money, power, education, achievements or even common sense in problem-solving, and don’t have those things in the bag, then you can’t be happy or successful. However, if you use flexible rubber-band thinking in gradually making the right choices and taking the best actions to start getting the objects of your desire, then you are already being successful and happy. In this sense success and happiness are what you do to be that way and also what you get from what you are doing to get it.

Creativity is very linked to success and happiness, but creativity is really driven primarily by curiosity, something our brains over-ride in the name of understanding and control. The only trouble is that creativity can’t be controlled, it is completely free and uncontrollable and any attempts to approach it in this way end up empty-handed. To escape this paradox, such as freeing yourself from any other paradox including the notorious one of “you can’t have your cake and eat it too,” you simply redefine creativity. One simple way to re-define creativity is seeing an unremarkable ordinary thing as a remarkable, unordinary thing and try using it in new and unusual ways. And if you can’t go this deep, just add a little something to a thing at hand to make it a little different. Next on your redefining list should be failure.

3. Completing the Loop.

When you manage to slow down and start redefining important things, you begin to increase your power to move further ahead in your success quest. However, nothing gets results without the last bit of follow-up and follow-through. Reprogramming your brain from autopilot to dynamic thinking requires changing the brain habit of creating the wrong sequence in the chain of choices, consequences, expectations, experience, and future results. And the only way to do that is to recreate the experience factor with a different feedback loop to the brain, which in turn re-arranges your thinking and that changes the whole sequence chain of a bad, nonproductive habit.

Let’s use the example of a yellow traffic light. Running a yellow light can have three main outcomes—you can get in an accident, you can get caught and given a ticket, or you can make it through without either of these other two undesirable results. But two out of three of these outcomes are potentially bad, so is it really a smart choice to see a yellow light and automatically step on the gas to beat it? No, but most of us still do, letting the brain automatically calculate our chances, which we naively assume to be accurate without any validation at all. On the other hand, when we slow down and stop at the next yellow light we see in our driving, we have provided the necessary follow-up and follow-through feedback loop to the brain to undue a bad habit and assure the best results moving forward.

Consider which is better—to be forced to accept the results you get being a “victim” of your brain’s autopilot process and the failures and unhappiness that perspective often brings, or to be freed to experience more success and happiness from slowing down, redefining things and completing the loop, or from your own new flexible rubber band thinking? It is really a no-brainer, so to speak!

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice-President for Employee Relations for Puget Sound Security, Inc. in Bellevue, WA, along with his hobbies in being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living in the peaceful but invigorating mountains and rivers of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, “You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too” (Executive Excellence), “The Bow-Wow Secrets” (Wisdom Tree), “Do What Matters Most” and “P” Point Management” (Atlantic Book Publishers), “Reality Repair” (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Authorsden), and “If Pictures Could Talk,” coming soon. Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 454-5011 or ckuretdoc@comcast.net