From Bondage to the Miracle of Life – the Bondage of Habitual Thought


The reason we do not get out of the “box” in which we find ourselves living is that we do not see its existence. The key to resolving this problem is recognizing and identifying the box. In fact, boxes like this are everywhere in our lives. The most common one is “habitual thought.” The square problem shown below illustrates and explains the concept of “habitual thought.”

Let’s look at the following four questions.
Can you divide the gray area in the outer portion of the upper right quadrant into two equal parts?
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Of course, this is easy. Now try to divide the gray area in the outer portion of the upper left quadrant into three equal parts.
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Here is the answer. Now divide the gray area in the outer portion of the lower left quadrant into four equal parts.
IMG_1815
Yes, this one is a little harder, but take your time and you can do it.
Here is the answer.
IMG_1816

Now let us try the last question. Can you divide the gray area in the lower right quadrant into seven equal parts?
The world record for this is seven seconds. Time is up; I believe you got the answer.
IMG_1816

The answer is below. It wasn’t that difficult, was it?
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Most of the time, the external environment governs our thinking, and we become creatures of habit. As we saw here, the questions started as simple ones and became more and more complicated. Similarly, in real life, we generally assume things get increasingly complicated, but we start the effort to solve problems by looking at similar, seemingly analogous situations as models. We do this because our thinking has been trapped in this box (framework) without our realizing it.

When I tried to solve the four problems above, the first and second ones were easy, the third one took a little more time, but then I found myself trapped. I was curious as to how others would do. So I picked two doctors (a male and a female), one successful real estate agent (male) and two young MBA graduates (male and female) as candidates. Can you believe that the results were the same? Like me, they were trapped by the same restricted thinking – that things start out simply and always grow more complicated. None of us could answer the last question correctly.

Then one day I went to an automobile dealership to have my car serviced and spoke with the manager, a middle-aged woman. I thought it would be useful to add her to my experiment. However, because of time constraints, I accidentally skipped the next-to-last question. To my surprise, she answered the last question correctly. Because I had not led her through all these problems one after another, she had not been trapped in the thought pattern that had tripped up the rest of us, and she solved the problem quickly.

To further demonstrate the existence of the habitual thought patterns that keep us from solving problems, I decided, in administering this test to additional subjects, to skip all three preliminary questions and go straight to the last question. Sure enough, everyone easily solved it. In fact, some subjects could not understand why I was asking them such a simple question.

Once we recognize the existence of the habitual thought box and understand how it affects us, we begin to see how to keep it from trapping us. In the case of the questions above, if we can discipline ourselves and mentally get out of the “box” after finishing every question, I think we can find the answer. By getting out of the box, we give ourselves a fresh start for any challenge. As a result, we will not be chained to “habitual thought.” Without habitual thought patterns to blind us, I believe, our body, mind and spirit will be freed. We’ll be better able to overcome the challenges we face, and our life’s journey will naturally become more relaxed, cheerful and beautiful!

Note:
The square problem was emailed to me by a friend, and I have been unable to locate the original author.

This is a modification of my article “Go Back to Simplicity”, which I posted earlier in this blog and will include in my book.

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