Discard The First One

Don’t be afraid to throw your first attempt out. Often when you are working on a project, your first idea is the one that you stick with. Sometimes when you are working through a stressful situation, you will begin to fall victim to cognitive tunnelling. Cognitive tunnelling is when you focus on one thing so intently that you forget to take a look at the big picture. For example, you might be intensely focused on changing the tire on your car, that you don’t even notice the approaching thunderstorm that could also harm you.

A good way to ensure that you don’t succumb to cognitive tunnelling is to make a habit of discarding your first idea. When you come up with a solution to a problem, know ahead of time that this isn’t the solution that you will pursue. Then go and figure out at least one other way of solving your problem. Once you have one other solution, you can compare your solution first solution to the second solution. If the opening solution is better, then use it. You then know that you have made the best choice of solutions that you can think of. But if the second solution is better, you know that you haven’t locked yourself into a solution simply because it was the first one that you chose.

Discarding the first solution doesn’t mean that you simply try to think of a second way to solve your problem. If you take this approach, you will always think of a second-rate solution because you want your first idea to be the correct answer. Discarding your solution is to not let yourself use the solution no matter what. That will force you to come up with a second idea that would also resolve your issue. Once you have two good options, you can make a clear choice about which one is better.

In our changing tire example: the first solution is to change the tire and continue on your way. If you discard that solution as a viable option, you might decide that you have to walk to the nearest gas station. Looking at the sky as you begin walking, you will see the impending thunderstorm and realize that changing your tire quickly is actually the best and most effective option.

Always consider answers to your problems from every single angle to find the best one.