ARE YOU AFRAID OF EXPRESSING YOUR OWN IDEAS AND OPINIONS? You struggle to find the right words. You try to be smart but feel like nobody’s paying attention. I used to feel awkward at social gatherings. I struggled to come up with something valuable to say. And when I thought of something, the conversation had […]
The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and though they are reviewed for adherence to our guidelines, they are submitted in their final form to our open platform. Learn more or join us as a community member!
ARE YOU AFRAID OF EXPRESSING YOUR OWN IDEAS AND OPINIONS?
You struggle to find the right words. You try to be smart but feel like nobody’s paying attention. I used to feel awkward at social gatherings. I struggled to come up with something valuable to say. And when I thought of something, the conversation had moved on. So, I decided to become smarter – not by learning more necessarily, but by becoming an original thinker. Wanna join me?
Over the last few years, I have spoken to many people who feel their ideas have no value, they don’t know how to come up with ideas of their own, or are so caught up on other people’s ideas they don’t give themselves an opportunity to come up with and express their own.
Let me ask you, are you consuming too much information? Over the last decade, I’ve noticed how more and more of us are spending any available time we have reading books, listening to podcasts, watching shows, attending workshops and devouring social media non stop. I fear information is now becoming another drug of choice, filling every moment.
I remember the good old days when all I had available to keep me busy was a bunch of books, a TV with very selected channels, and a wild imagination. What I liked about that time was the fact that I’d watch something on TV and then I’d have a period of hours or days to help me form my own ideas about what I had read or watched. I remember so vividly having constant conversations with myself, inside my head, trying to figure whether I agreed with what I had learnt or not, if I felt comfortable about the situation, or whether I could imagine different ways in which the situation could be improved. Thankfully, that inner dialogue has stayed with me ever since, and I thoroughly enjoy looking at different topics from a variety of angles to allow me to form my own ideas and opinions.
Unfortunately, newer generations have been blessed with a myriad of gadgets and ways in which to stay busy and distracted, which is hindering their ability to create the quiet space that’s required to come up with the kind of creative, innovative, original ideas that the world so desperately craves.
I see it all the time in my practice. Clients will come to me wanting to find clarity, ways in which to be, do and feel better, hoping to become a better version of themselves, wanting to inspire others to do the same. The internal calling is always there. Most of them will spend decades educating themselves in the most impressive way. I feel honoured to be able to work with such impressive creative, highly intellectual minds. Their knowledge can at times seem intimidating, so why the conflict?
Having a passion for learning myself, I used to joke at times that “the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know! My mum watches me in disbelief and tells me, “when will it be enough Isabel? why do you keep learning? why put yourself through the added responsibility of trying to find the time/ energy for it?”. I laugh at her comments, but deep down I know she’s not entirely wrong.
Often, what’s missing is not a PhD, Master’s Degree or certification. What’s really missing is our ability to come up with our own original ideas and opinions that we can proudly express to the world.
Allow me to clarify, consuming information does not equal learning. Consuming information is passive, and if that’s all you do, you’ll forget the most of it, and rarely apply in your life.
If all you do is consume the ideas and facts and creations of others, you don’t leave your mind enough time to do its thing—think. You have to form your own opinions, to structure ideas in your own way, to let your imagination get involved.
Imagine cooking. Reading a processed idea is like cooking a dish by following a recipe. The food might be great, but you don’t learn to cook. A seasoned chef doesn’t need recipes. He knows why different ingredients are put together. He understands how to combine them to form a delicious dish.
If all we’re doing is reading other people’s ideas, without forming our own, we often feel as if there’s still more to learn. In my experience what’s missing more often than not, is forming your own conclusion, doing your own thinking, even creating a different type of option that reflects your own experience.
The best way to improve your ability to think is to spend time thinking.
Thinking means concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it. Not learning other people’s ideas, or memorizing a body of information, however much those may sometimes be useful, but developing your own ideas, thinking for yourself.
I love when my clients tell me: “That’s a great question. I’ve never thought of that before!”. That’s when I know that we’re about to uncover some original ideas, and I’m never disappointed.
You must learn to express yourself. It’s nerve-wracking putting your own material into the world. You don’t know how people will respond, you don’t know if you missed something, you don’t know if you could have made it better.
You have ideas that no one else has. The best thing about creativity is that when you make something your own, it will be unlike anything else, setting you apart from everyone else.
If you spend hours each day consuming other people’s information, it’s time to take a break. This is one of the top habits that can make you feel intimidated, overwhelmed, and like there can’t possibly be anything you can add. Instead, create some space to come up with your own.
Creativity and original ideas are like a muscle. You must work them often in order to keep it in good form. Ask “What’s missing? Do I feel that there are still some unanswered questions? If it was up to me, what would happen next? What obstacles may come up and how could we overcome them?” There are gaps in every story. Find them, and you have a new idea that brings the topic forward.
I find that most of us do have good original ideas. The issue is what we do with it. Most of us are lazy. We can’t be bothered with writing down our thoughts. We take a mental note and continue with our day. Only to find out later that we can’t remember what this great idea was about.
I often have great ideas when I least expect them. They pop up in my head while I’m working out, taking a shower, being stuck in traffic or trying to go to sleep. Having a way to write them down immediately is a great way to track your best thoughts and insights. You’d be in shock if you saw the endless pages of notes that I keep in my smartphone. Don’t lose your ideas. They’re invaluable.
One of the most important things an original thinker needs is an inner belief that what they are doing has value. If you think you’ve got something, don’t let any negative thoughts or external critics stop you from pursuing it. Instead, begin to express your ideas. Speak up in a meeting, challenge a teacher in class, push back against stereotypes in a conversation, or write a book about it. Life will present you many opportunities to share your ideas, but you must be willing to do so.
Question everything. Think about a topic and ask yourself:
– Do I agree about the ideas presented so far?
– What’s my own take on it?
– How does it relate to my own personal experience?
– How could we bring the conversation forward?
– What’s missing?
– How could we improve / make the situation better?
Stop consuming endless information. Start producing original thoughts.
We live in an information-saturated world. Make room to explore your own thoughts and ideas. Spark your creative thoughts and watch every area of your life improve.
Become an original thinker. Come up with your own creative ideas and share them with the world. Your ideas matter. Your voice matters. Your truth matters. You matter.
Isabel is a Peak Performance Strategist and experienced ICF Leadership Coach with over 20 years of international work experience holding senior positions within the hospitality industry in countries around the world, as well as Executive and Leadership coaching, mentoring and training. Isabel specializes in high performance strategy, leadership development and building organizational culture. More available on www.isabelvalle.com
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.
The one thing you have been told not to do your whole life, was the one you actually needed to focus on the most. Whoops…
Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter
“People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.”
- MARCUS AURELIUS