Your ability to set aside time for the sole purpose of thinking across the key areas of your life is easily the most important skill that must be practiced and mastered.
All of us have been pre-programmed and conditioned during our formative years and as a result, most of us operate our lives and businesses from an autonomic, subconscious level for 95% of our waking hours. 95%.
On top of this, we now have a faulty paradigm forced on us by the digital world that continues to offer quick and easy solutions, one that is predisposed to reactive thinking by default.
The truth is however that it takes thinking, mostly in solitude, away from the masses and the false messaging.
For those of you that are serious, that’s what it takes. This is always the first and most important step. No matter where you are in life, if you wish to turn things around, this is always the way out.
Think Long Term
The most effective leaders keep on eye on their true north. They spend an inordinate amount of time obtaining clarity on where they will spend the majority of their time. This requires deep thinking from the outset.
From a business perspective, executives must be clear on the long term purpose, values, and strategic direction of their enterprise, and once clear, they spend a lot of mental energy remaining on their chosen path.
Dr. Edward Banfield from Harvard concluded that “Long time perspective” was the key to upward social and economic mobility in America or anywhere else in the world.
He discovered in fifty years of research, that people who succeeded greatly had the ability to think long term, to delay gratification in the short term so that they could enjoy even greater rewards in the long term. They thought ten and twenty years into the future while making decisions for their current actions.
In fact, by far the best business leaders are both strategic and tactical. They spend 2% of their time thinking long term and 98% of their time thinking tactics.
The day – to – day focus should be on tactics and processes. By that we mean, the daily disciplines and activities that move you incrementally towards meeting your long term strategic outcomes.
You have to have the discipline to execute every day without excuse or delay.
In observation, the difference between dumb and smart humans has got nothing to do with the intelligence quotient (IQ). Simply stated, undisciplined people focus on and complete dumb things whereas disciplined people do smart things.
The key is knowing what to do, in what order, and only when it is aligned with your long term horizon.
In business, your tactics are those activities that will help you win the ‘war’, whatever ‘war’ that is for you.
It takes a lot of thinking as to which tactics you will consider and how you will integrate them into a daily process.
It takes a lot of reflective thinking as to what results in each one of your tactics is producing, and whether or not it should be eliminated, continued, or refined.
It takes time to gather all your financials so that you can extract key drivers that assist you in making better tactical decisions. It takes thinking.
The Quiet Mind
The most successful people are quiet, unassuming, humble, consistent thinkers.
They are great observers, gathering information from their environment in a perpetual, disciplined manner.
Their calendars reflect the time that has been blocked out so they can ponder on their place and advancement through time.
They are not loud like the masses. They don’t respond to bing (all the background noise) nor are they impressed by shiny objects, the bling.
They execute with more confidence than their competitors simply because they have taken the time to develop their minds and the way they deploy it.
Kick Start Your Thinking
There are many approaches to thinking. One of the most effective approaches is that of asking a better question. Ask a better question, arrive at a better answer.
These will get you started. I call them the Fundamental Questions.
1. The Zero Base Question – “Knowing what I now know, If I had to get into this situation all over again would I do it?” if the answer is no, then think of how you will eliminate this situation fast.
2. Downside Acceptance Question – “If I take this decision, am I willing to live with the worse case outcome?’
3. Bottleneck Question – ” What is stopping me from achieving this objective?” You will find that 80% of your answers will be internal (non-excuse based).
4. Brainstorm Solutions Questions – “Who can I ask, what can I read, where can I go, what do I do differently, what isn’t working on my way to this objective?”. Make a long list, choose a handful of solutions, and go.
Everything you have in your life is because your thinking brought it into being. Most of this thinking unfortunately has been subliminal and put there by others.
Take control of your mind at a conscious level by slowing down, asking better questions, and deciding that you will only advance on meaningful activities that are aligned with the life you want to lead and the business you want to run.