Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Is your mind flabby?

something i picked up from Leadership Wired



I have a designated "thinking chair" in my office.

I don't sit in it when someone drops by to talk. I don't take
power naps in it. I use it only for thinking.

This chair doesn't think for me, but it does speak to me every
now and then. If I've gone a few days without sitting in it, its
presence subtly reminds me that I'm not devoting enough time to
the all-important task of thinking.

When we fail to make thinking a priority, we develop what author
Gordon MacDonald calls "mental flabbiness." This may not sound
like a life-threatening condition, but some ways, it can be quite
dangerous. Here's how MacDonald explains it:

"In our pressurized society, people who are out of shape mentally usually fall victim to ideas and systems that are destructive to the human spirit and to the human relationship," he writes. "They are victimized because they have not taught themselves how to think, nor have they set themselves to the lifelong pursuit of growth of the mind. Not having the faculty of a strong mind, they grow dependent upon the thoughts and opinions of others. Rather than deal with ideas and issues, they reduce themselves to lives full of rules, regulations, and programs."

You can't be an effective leader with a mindset like that—it's
just not possible.

Fortunately, there is an antidote to mental flabbiness: making time to think. I realize this can be a daunting assignment for
people whose schedules are already bursting at the seams. And
yet, when we don't make thinking a priority, we're actually
sabotaging our own creativity and success.

Think about it. One of the highest commodities in a person's life
is a great idea. A great idea has transforming power. It can take
you places you may never have dreamed of going. But great ideas
don't come out of nowhere. They begin as thoughts. So it stands
to reason that the more time we spend thinking, the more great ideas we'll have.

The good news is that it doesn't take hours of thinking each day
to generate ideas and stay in good mental shape. You can
accomplish a great deal in a few moments of concentrated,
intentional thought.

Let me give you two examples of how this works in my life. Every
morning, I devote three minutes to what I call "big-picture thinking." I look at my schedule for the day and ask myself one
simple question: What's the main event? Of all the things I'm going to do, of all the people I'm going to see, of all the experiences that I'm going to encounter, what's the main event?

You can't prioritize your day if you don't see everything in your
day. That's why I practice big-picture thinking in the morning. I
have to pick out my main event early, because whatever it is,
that's where I had better be at my best. I'm human, and I don't
always hit the ball out of the park. Sometimes I don't hit the
ball at all. But at the main event, I had better hit a homerun.
Big-picture thinking helps me achieve that goal.

At the end of the day, I spend another five to 10 minutes doing
what I refer to as "reflective thinking". I go to my thinking
chair and spend time reviewing my whole day. I ask myself
questions such as, "Who did I see today? How did I add value to those people? What lessons did I learn?" Reflective thinking
doesn't take long, but it's an incredibly valuable exercise
because it turns experience into insight.

Can you imagine what would happen in your life if you practiced
big-picture and reflective thinking? You would stop wasting time
on things that don't really matter, which would give you more
energy for the really important activities. You would be more
organized and efficient. You would experience less stress. Most
importantly, you would also take more away from each day that
would enable you to lead better the next day.

The best way to start this process is to designate a specific place to think. It doesn't matter if your "thinking chair" is in
your den at home or your office at work. It just has to be a spot
where you can do nothing but think for a few moments twice a day.

The bottom line is this: If you find a place to think your thoughts, you'll have more thoughts. If you find a place to shape your thoughts, you will have better thoughts. And if you find a place to stretch your thoughts, you will have bigger thoughts.

All this, from just three minutes in the morning and five to ten
minutes at night. As you can see, the results far outweigh the
time investment.

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