The Importance of Mental Flexibility

Will Shortz: Keep your mind flexible. Any challenge you have think of all the possible ways you can solve it or go about accomplishing what you want to do, and figure out which one is the best.  

I find having mental flexibility helps me all the time. An example that jumps to mind, this was about 20 years ago, something really important to me.  I was flying cross-country.  I was going to JFK Airport.  I was a little late.  I was parking my car in the long term lot. I pulled into the lot and a ticket was supposed to come out of the machine automatically, but it got stuck inside.  I heard the whirring sound.  I looked in and saw the little horizontal bar and my ticket is stuck in there.  The bar won’t go up.  Meanwhile cars are piling up, are stacking up behind me.  I can’t go into the lot.  I'm about to miss my plane.  What do I do? 

Well I got out of the car, looked around and saw a paperclip, so I picked it up.  I untwisted it, reached in, poked it in that hole in the machine, hooked in one of the holes of the card, extracted my ticket, raced to the airport, and I literally got to the plane as they were shutting the door. So I made my plane because of my puzzle solving ability.  

Crosswords and Sudoku aren't just a nice way to pass the time; they could train you to think more flexibly about the problems that come up in your everyday life.

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