conditional thinking

The Power of Conditional Thinking

Conditional thinking gives us the freedom to change our perspective of the material world—and frees our objects from their prescribed use.

Two words provide the most direct connection to conditional thinking: “This could…”

The words create an awareness of different contexts and possibilities by creating a conditional understanding of things. As psychologist Ellen Langer writes, “A conditional understanding of the world seems to prevent mindlessness.”

Mindlessness is the biggest stumbling block in the pursuit of a more resourceful relationship with existing objects, materials, and resources. As Langer and Alison Piper write in their study The Prevention of Mindlessness:

Mindlessness is marked by a rigid use of information during which the individual is not aware of its potentially novel aspects … One deals with information as though it has a single meaning and is available for use in only that way.”

Most of us cruise through the day in a mindless state, paying attention only to work or tasks that demand focus. We fail to register opportunities that exist in our periphery as we go about our daily routine.

We lose touch with our surroundings and imagination when we are merely functional during the day and fail to recognize the value in our periphery.

To recognize and utilize the potential that exists in everyday experiences, we must avoid mindlessness and strive to have a more mindful awareness of the world around us.

“When we are mindful,” writes Langer and Piper, “we are actively drawing novel distinctions, rather than relying on distinctions drawn in the past. This makes us sensitive to context and perspective…our behavior may be guided rather than governed by rules and routines, but we are sensitive to the ways the situation changes.”

Our minds constantly take us back and forth in time. Mindlessness occupies our brain with information from the past—fixed use, fixed identities, and rote solutions, keeping us in a loop that obscures opportunities.

Mindfulness keeps us in the present. Rules and routines from the past still exist, but being mindful of the present moment lets us re-interpret and reframe past information according to the needs we have now. Being fully aware of the context and perspective of the here and now allows us to employ conditional thinking and explore opportunity.