Hit a Roadblock? Five Innovative Thinking Techniques for the Win!

Sometimes it’s difficult to see the possibility, and we feel stuck!

And why not? By the time you graduated from high school, you took an average of 3,952 quizzes, tests and exams. From a very early age, you learned there is only one right answer and several wrong answers.

It’s no wonder we can freeze in the face of obstacles thinking there is only way out. 

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
Albert Einstein

Option #107 for the Win!

Optimism helps us to see the possibility even in the midst of uncertainty. It helps us to answer the question: What haven’t I tried?

To get you started, here are a few of my favorite tried and true innovative thinking strategies to help move from feeling stuck to feeling empowered.

Five Innovative Thinking Strategies


Use questions like “What if?” or “What else?” to explore the possibilities.


Problem: broken potato chips at the bottom of the chip bag. 

Food scientists at P&G  compared potato chips to leaves on a tree. When a leaf is dry, it crumbles. When it is moist, it is bendable. This comparison helped them develop a process for shaping and packaging potato chips while they were still moist to eliminate breakage. 

And the result? Pringles potato chips in a can.


Look at a situation from different perspectives and viewpoints and make note of what you see. Solicit input from others. What do they see?


Bring different ideas and concepts together in a unique way. 

Nike’s first running shoe was inspired over breakfast by combining the rubber sole of a track shoe with the grooves of a waffle iron.


Your conscious mind is only able to process one idea at a time. However, your subconscious can focus on several ideas at a time. That’s why so many people say their best ideas come in the shower!

Feeling stuck? Take a walk. Exercise. Talk to someone. Go out for coffee. Then, see what ideas start to flow.

We all hit obstacles, it’s part of life. Optimism helps you to recognize that you have choices and you can take action. It may not be the perfect choice or action, but it can be a step in the right direction.

The next time you hit an obstacle:

Consider all the possible ways to respond. 

Apply one of the innovative thinking techniques.

Pay attention to how you are feeling. What is the wisdom in the feeling? What data or information can you take from the way you are feeling in the moment?

How are your feelings impacting the way you are seeing the problem? 

What is one step can you take to move forward?

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5 Hacks to Develop Your Optimism

Studies show that a small percentage of our optimism is influenced by our upbringing and socioeconomic status. That leaves a lot of room for optimism to be learned.

In her article, How to Train Your Brain to be More Optimistic, Brianna Steinhilber states:

Many equate optimism with happiness. But while one can breed the other, they aren’t the same thing. And while optimists are usually pegged as those who only see the positive in every situation, experts say that’s not true, either.
Brianna Steinhilber

An optimistic mindset helps you to:

And the very best news…optimism can be learned!

5 Ways to Start Developing Your Optimism


Change your lens. If you are on the pessimistic side of the scale, you learned to see the negative in things. So it only makes sense that you can also learn to see the positive. 

Take for example, I had a packed schedule. Meeting after meeting, one of which that took place in the city. I was initially annoyed by the bumper to bumper traffic knowing I had so many things I needed to get done that day. While I could have chosen to sit in the traffic and grumble, I decided instead to view it as a gift of uninterrupted time all to myself. I know that may sound corny, but I had a podcast I wanted to hear, and I now finally had the time to do it!

Be as careful of the books you read, as of the company you keep, for your habits and character will be as much influenced by the former as the latter.
Edwin Paxton Hood


Consider your circle. Emotions are contagious. Pay attention to the people in your closest circles. Are they naysayers, doomsday predictors, or Debbie Downers? If so, it might be time to start connecting with optimistic people. Pay attention to how they see work challenges, interpersonal conflicts, work-life balance. What can you learn from them?


Practice gratitude. Recognize the blessings in your life and reasons to feel grateful throughout the day. According to Robert Emmons, Ph.D., a scientific expert on gratitude, gratitude has two components.

Gratitude acknowledges the good things in the world. It recognizes that although life itself is full of challenges, there is still an amount of goodness or blessing that can be identified when we look at our lives as a whole.

Gratitude also acknowledges the source of goodness. True gratitude ultimately expresses a humble dependence on others.


Be present in the moment, focused on what you can control. It’s easy to get caught up in a cycle focused on something that is out of your control. This vicious cycle is an open door for pessimism to take over. Learn to recognize and accept what you can and cannot control. Focus instead on what is within your control and the steps you can take.


Pay attention to your feelings. Our feelings give us some really good insight into what is happening around us. Often times we consider some feelings – like anger, disappointment, uncertainty – to be bad, or pessimistic. 

Instead, accept the feeling, and ask yourself this question. What is the value of that feeling? What is that feeling telling me?

You may find your disappointment is letting you know that you hoped for something better. How can you apply optimism to that feeling to motivate you to try something different, to make positive change, or to just accept the current circumstances for now?

Pay attention this week to times when it’s most difficult to be optimistic. What is happening? How are you feeling in the moment? What thoughts are circling in your head?

What triggers the pessimistic thinking? What choices do you have in these moments?

Choose one of the five ideas listed above and practice this new technique this week. 

Make note of what you are experiencing. What’s hard? What’s easy? What takes effort? What is surprising for you? Share your new insights with someone else.

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Navigating Setbacks

Optimism is a critical skill of emotional intelligence and equips you to pay attention to both your thoughts and feelings as you experience setbacks and challenges. People with optimism are able to see beyond their current circumstances and respond with hope and possibility. 

To illustrate this, let’s look at how Martin Seligman describes the differences between pessimists and optimists. According to Dr. Martin Seligman, there are defining characteristics of pessimists and optimists. 

Pessimists tend to believe bad events:

  • Last a long time
  • Undermine everything they do
  • Are their own fault

Pessimists can be paralyzed by challenges or feel stuck and unable to move forward.

Optimists tend to believe defeat is:

  • A temporary setback
  • Confined to this one case
  • Not their fault and is caused by circumstances, bad luck, or other people

Optimists are not stopped by defeat and instead will perceive it as a challenge.

Which best describes you?

Think about a current setback or challenge. With that in mind, how would you describe the setback and your reaction to it?

Pessimistic Mindset Optimistic Mindset

A pessimist believes a setback or challenge is permanent. It’s immovable and has no hope of getting better. They might feel hopeless, defeated, or guarded.

An optimist believes a setback is temporary. It’s a momentary pause that has a workaround. They might feel, challenged, puzzled, or inspired.


A pessimist believes that challenges are pervasive. Everything, always, all the time, never, are common words that pessimists use. They may feel doomed, attacked, or despair.


An optimist sees challenges as isolated. They see the possibility beyond the current circumstances. They might feel interested, hopeful, or grateful.

At Fault
A pessimist believes that they are at fault for the failure. They believe they are not good enough, incapable, and or just have bad luck. They may feel incompetent, discouraged, or overwhelmed.
An optimist sees failure as an opportunity to learn or try something different. They see an opportunity for improvement and growth. They may feel motivated, intrigued, or interested.

If you found yourself leaning more towards a PESSIMISTIC mindset, challenge yourself with these questions.

What are you learning from this challenge?

Instead of trying to remove the obstacle, what would you do to try to go around it or over it?

If you knew you would succeed, what would you try?

What are five options, even silly ones, that you haven’t tried yet? What wisdom can you take from these options?

How might time change this current situation?

If you found yourself leaning more towards an OPTIMISTIC mindset, challenge yourself with these questions.

How might your optimism be used to influence others?

How can you leverage your optimism to accomplish your goals?

What areas of your life could benefit from more optimistic thinking?

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What is Optimism?

Optimism is a critical skill of emotional intelligence. It equips you to pay attention to both your thoughts and feelings as you experience setbacks and challenges.

People with optimism are able to see beyond their current circumstances and respond with hope and possibility. 

Complete the Practice Sessions in this module to learn how you can see the possibility in the midst of chaos.

Copyright ©2018, EQuip Studios www.EQuipStudios.net

What is Reslience?

Resilience is your ability to adapt well in the face of obstacles, roadblocks, adversity, or stress.

Resilience requires you to pay attention to your thoughts and feelings as you experience setbacks and challenges.

People with resilience have a growth mindset and are able to see beyond their current circumstances, responding with hope and possibility. 

Complete the Practice Sessions in this module to learn how you can adapt well in the face of adversity.

Copyright ©2020, EQuip Studios www.EQuipStudios.net