Albert Einstein once observed that “the problems we face today cannot be solved on the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”
Look around and you’ll see that is true. The world keeps getting more and more complicated. Does that discourage you? It doesn’t have to. Many years ago, I came across a quote that made a tremendous impression on me. It said:
I am your constant companion. I am your greatest helper or heaviest burden. I will push you onward or drag you down to failure. I am completely at your command. Half of the things you do you might just as well turn over to me and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly. I am easily managed-you must merely be firm with me. Show me exactly how you want something done and after a few lessons I will do it automatically.
I am the servant of all great men; and alas, of all failures as well. Those who are great, I have made great. Those who are failures, I have made failures. I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine plus the intelligence of a man. You may run me for profit or run me for ruin-it makes no difference to me. Take me, train me, be firm with me, and I will place the world at your feet. Be easy with me and I will destroy you.
Who am I? I am habit!
The good news is that, no matter how complicated life gets or how difficult problems may seem, good thinking can make a difference – if you make it a consistent part of your life. The more you engage in good thinking, the more good thoughts will come to you. Success comes to those who habitually do things that unsuccessful people don’t do. Achievement comes from the habit of good thinking. The more you engage in good thinking, the more good thoughts you will continue to think. It’s like creating a never-ending army of ideas capable of achieving almost anything. As playwright, Victor Hugo, asserted, “An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an invasion of ideas.”
Every year, I talk to tens of thousands of people on the subjects of leadership, teamwork, and personal growth. I’ve found that many of them believe good thinking is so complicated that it lies beyond their reach. But in truth, it’s really a very simple process. Every person has the potential to become a good thinker. I’ve observed that…
• Unsuccessful people focus their thinking on survival
• Average people focus their thinking on maintenance
• Successful people focus their thinking on progress
A change of thinking can help you move from survival or maintenance to real progress. Ninety-five percent of achieving anything is knowing what you want and paying the price to get it.
Portrait of a good thinker
So, how do you pay the price to become a good thinker? For that matter, what does a good thinker look like? You often hear someone say that a colleague or friend is a “good thinker,” but that phrase means something different to everyone. To one person, it may mean having a high IQ, while to another it could mean knowing a bunch of trivia or being able to figure out whodunit, when reading a mystery novel. I believe that good thinking isn’t just one thing. It consists of several specific thinking skills. Becoming a good thinker means developing those skills to the best of your ability.
In Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras describe what it means to be a visionary company, the kind of company that epitomises the pinnacle of American business. They describe those companies this way:
A visionary company is like a great work of art. Think of Michelangelo’s scenes from Genesis on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or his statue of David. Think of a great and enduring novel like Huckleberry Finn or Crime and Punishment. Think of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony or Shakespeare’s Henry V. Think of a beautifully designed building, like the masterpieces of Frank Lloyd Wright or Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. You can’t point to anyone single item that makes the whole thing work; it’s the entire work-all the pieces working together to create an overall effect-that leads to enduring greatness.
Good thinking is similar. You need all the thinking “pieces” to become the kind of person who can achieve great things. Those pieces include the following eleven skills:
• Seeing the wisdom of big-picture thinking
• Unleashing the potential of focused thinking
• Discovering the joy of creative thinking
• Recognising the importance of realistic thinking
• Releasing the power of strategic thinking
• Feeling the energy of possibility thinking
• Embracing the lessons of reflective thinking
• Questioning the acceptance of popular thinking
• Encouraging the participation of shared thinking
• Experiencing the satisfaction of unselfish thinking
• Enjoying the return of bottom-line thinking
As you become acquainted with each skill, you will find that some you do well, others you don’t. Learn to develop each of those kinds of thinking, and you will become a better thinker. Master all that you can – includingthe process of shared thinking, which helps you compensate for your weak areas – andyour life will change.
Culled from Thinking for a Change by John C. Maxwell