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Rule 7: Be Flexible in Your Thinking

Once your thinking gets crystallized, rigid, formed, you’ve lost the battle. Once you think you have all the answers, you might as well call it quits. Once you get set in your ways, you’re already part of history.

To get the most out of life, you have to keep all your options open, keep your thinking and life flexible. You have to be ready to roll as the storm breaks—and it always breaks when you least expect it. The instant you are established in a set pattern, you set yourself up for being knocked off-course. You might need to examine your thinking pretty closely to understand what I mean. Flexible thinking is a bit like mental martial arts—being ready to duck and weave, dodge and flow. Try to see life not as the enemy, but as a friendly sparring partner. If you are flexible, you’ll have fun. If you stand your ground, you’re likely to get knocked around a bit.

We all have set patterns in life. We like to label ourselves as this or that and are quite proud of our opinions and beliefs. We all like to read a set newspaper, watch the same sorts of TV programs or movies, go to the same sort of stores every time, eat the sort of food that suits us, wear the same type of clothes. And all this is fine. But if we cut ourselves off from all other possibilities, we become boring, rigid, hardened—and thus likely to get knocked around a bit.

You have to see life as a series of adventures. Each adventure is a chance to have fun, learn something, explore the world, expand your circle of experience and friends, and broaden your horizons. Shutting down to adventure means exactly that—you are shut down.

The second you are offered an opportunity to have an adventure, to change your thinking, to step outside of yourself, go for it and see what happens. If this thought scares you, remember that you can always go back into your shell the second it’s over, if you want to.

But even saying yes to every opportunity isn’t set in stone as a rule, because that would be inflexible. The really flexible thinkers know when to say "no" as well as when to say "yes."

If you want to know how flexible your thinking is, here are a couple of tests. Are the books by the side of your bed the same sorts of books you’ve always read? Have you found yourself saying anything like "I don’t know any people like that" or "I don’t go to those kind of places?" If so, then perhaps it’s time to broaden your mind and clear out the cobwebs in your thinking.

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