It may sound simple, trivial even, but Stanford University professor of engineering Bernard Roth suggests swapping two common phrases for greater success and ease of communication. In fact, according to Business Insider, the seemingly insignificant change has the power to shape not only your command of language, but your behavior, including how you approach goals.
Here’s the first trick: Swap “but” for “and.” Instead of saying “I want to go out, but I have a paper to write,” try “I want to go out and I have a paper to write.” According to Roth, the word “but” inherently creates a conflict that may or may not exist, preventing you from seeing a solution that manages both desires. For example, you might go out for a short period of time as a break in between writing your paper. By using the word “and,” says Roth, “your brain gets to consider how it can deal with both parts of the sentence.”
The second trick is just as simple: Swap “have to” for “want to.” The phrase “have to” is often associated with an obligatory action, and one you might dread. By making this adjustment, you are acknowledging that your actions are based on choices you have made. While “have to” carries a negative connotation, “want to” denotes desire, and thereby implies the positive.
Roth’s new book, The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life, theorizes that achievement is a muscle that you can learn to flex to best grapple with challenges as you work toward your goals. The book is based on a course Roth has taught at the University for decades, and hinges on design thinking as a means to change and improve our lives and reach our full potential.
According to Fast Company, design thinking is a proven problem-solving methodology that enables users to achieve extraordinary, even life changing results.
“Although Design is most often used to describe an object or end result, Design in its most effective form is a process, an action, a verb not a noun. A protocol for solving problems and discovering new opportunities.”
Design thinking can be broken down into four steps:
- Identify the problem — The goal here is to observe carefully, target the right problem, then frame the problem so you open up the possibility of identifying creative solutions. The problem might be to make time for daily exercise. One possible approach to a solution would be to find a way to tap into the motivation that would drive you to want to improve your physical health.
- Consider a range of solutions — It’s easy to revert to the same way of doing things time and again. Here the key is to be open to different ways of solving the problem and willing to judge all potential solutions equally. Wild and unexpected ideas are welcome. Design thinking prescribes teamwork and multiple perspectives over solitary work.
- Refine — Based on your brainstorm and the myriad solutions that emerged, combine or break up solutions into component parts and begin to refine and reformulate.
- Choose, implement and repeat — Now commit your resources to a possible solution then prototype and test. If the solution is not a fit, try another and test until you solve the problem or uncover an opportunity.
Roth is the co-founder of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, otherwise known as the d.school, a highly sought after institute where graduate students and even senior business executives gather to explore alternatives to various problems in real world settings.
“The d.school is a hub for innovators at Stanford. Students and faculty in engineering, medicine, business, law, the humanities, sciences, and education find their way here to take on the world’s messy problems together. Human values are at the heart of our collaborative approach. We focus on creating spectacularly transformative learning experiences. Along the way, our students develop a process for producing creative solutions to even the most complex challenges they tackle.”
Faculty and students work collaboratively to seek out new ways to solve old problems and through teamwork, are able to quickly move past obvious solutions to more creative ones. The d.school partners with corporate, non-profit and government organizations to develop projects that range from 10 weeks to years. D.school faculty and students have worked with the Gates Foundation, Google, General Electric, JetBlue, Motorola, PepsiCo, and more.
What Roth and colleagues attempt to convey are ways in which subtle changes in thinking, language and approaches to problem solving can make all the difference when it comes to achieving personal and team success.
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