By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP
A recent study found that individuals with a “big picture” style of thinking made better decisions. (“Better” decisions were defined as those resulting in maximum benefits.)
If you took the Myers-Briggs (a personality assessment), and fell on the “Intuition” side of the spectrum (like me!), it’s likely you’re already a “big picture” thinker. If you’re on the “Sensing” side, you’re more apt to examine individual facts before considering the sum of all parts.
“Big picture” thinking is a practical and balanced method of reasoning. It suggests taking a step back (zoom out!)… and looking to see how all pieces fit together.
The following strategies promote “big picture” thinking:
1️⃣ Get a good night’s rest
Researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center found that sleep is essential for “relational memory” (or the ability to make inferences, i.e. “big picture” thinking).
Before making a tough decision, sleep on it; you’ll wake up with a new perspective! In addition to healthy sleep hygiene, the following strategies have been found to improve sleep:
- ✔ Participate in a fun or relaxing activity before bed (especially when you’ve had a rough day)
- ✔ Mindfulness meditation
- ✔ Exercise
- ✔ Cultivate meaning in life
- ✔ Maintain a daily routine
2️⃣ Don’t deliberate for long
Research indicates that when weighing out options, it’s ideal to take small breaks. Don’t deliberate for long periods of time or you’ll start to lose focus. If things become fuzzy, you won’t see the big picture.
3️⃣ Bay day = bad decision
One study found that a positive mood is related to a “big picture” thinking style. Good moods are associated with broader and more flexible thinking. A positive mood enables someone to step back emotionally, psychologically distancing themselves from the decision at hand.
If you’re feeling salty, hold off on making that decision. Instead, try one (or all!) of the following research-based techniques for boosting your mood:
- ✔ Treat yourself to a “good mood” food like chocolate or blueberries
- ✔ Spend time with a close friend
- ✔ Perform a random act of kindness
- ✔ Take a walk in the park
4️⃣ Get a second opinion
Ask around to learn how others’ view your situation. Every perspective you collect is another piece of the “big picture” puzzle.
Seek opinions from those you trust (only those who have your best interests in mind). Make sure you ask a variety of people (especially those with whom you typically disagree). The end result is a broader and more comprehensive awareness of what you’re facing.
Employ all four strategies to optimize your thinking style and decision-making skills!
- → American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2010, April 4). Maintaining regular daily routines is associated with better sleep quality in older adults. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100401085336.htm
- → American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2008, June 12). Moderate Exercise Can Improve Sleep Quality Of Insomnia Patients. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080611071129.htm
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