The Most Important Change
As we continue our thoughts about thinking, we are beginning a several week series of Wisdom Notes during which we will stop at twelve waypoints or rest areas along the trail. At each waypoint, we will have the occasion to reflect on and change how we think. By changing our thinking, these waypoints will allow us to change our lives in a positive direction. The discussions for those waypoints will be based on the perspectives and wisdom that I have gained through a life of studying wise individuals that have trekked the trails of life and provided us wisdom and insights from their journeys.Before we reach our first waypoint, let us contemplate this question. Can changing your thinking really change your life? As I have studied and observed wise and unwise people for over 35 years now, I have found there is a distinct difference between wise and successful people and unwise and unsuccessful people. It usually boils down to how they think! Correct thinking is the one thing that separates the wise from the unwise and the successful from the unsuccessful.
Now, those individuals that are wise, many times, are also wealthy. This is because of the wise financial choices that they have made during their lives. But, there are many individuals who are wealthy financially but are not successful in the most important areas of their lives. This is because they have made unwise choices in areas that matter most. Proverbs 28:11 says, “Rich people may think they are wise, but a poor person with discernment can see right through them.”
To be truly successful we need to have achieved success in all areas of life. We need to have a well-rounded “wheel of life” so that our overall ride in life is smooth. During the next several weeks of Wisdom Notes, we will explore how to be successful in all areas of life, but for this week’s journey, let’s focus on the 1st of 12 waypoints along our trail in order to change our thinking and change our lives.
The good news is that it’s possible for you to learn how to think like a wise and successful person. But, before you can learn from a good thinker, you need to know what he looks like.
For me, the primary trait of a good thinker is a person who blends his wisdom and experience into every thought that he has and every decision that he makes. In addition to wisdom and experience, I believe that good thinking isn’t just one thing. It consists of several specific thinking skills.
Becoming a good thinker means developing those “thinking skills” to the best of your ability. Like a finely tuned vehicle with thousands of moving parts, a beautifully sounding orchestra with dozens of instruments all playing at the same time, or a smartphone or computer with thousands of integrated circuits all interconnected, you can’t point to any one 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 a masterpiece.
Good thinking is similar. You need all the thinking “pieces” in order to become the kind of person who can achieve great things. I believe that those pieces include twelve essential skills, which we will cover in the next several weeks of our Wisdom Notes
We have taken some time on our rabbit trail today to lay the groundwork for the 12 waypoints that we will investigate. As with any worthwhile and difficult trek, planning and preparation are crucial for success. We will just get started on our trek today with Waypoint #1. At each waypoint, I will leave you with a question that you can ask yourself to measure your own thinking. Let’s begin.
1. Cultivate Big-Picture Thinking
We have covered this subject matter in detail in our two previous Wisdom Notes. If you have not done so already, I would encourage you to read the previous two notes, as they will greatly help in your understanding of cultivating big-picture thinking. As we are investigating the details of this waypoint, let’s expand on the previous two Wisdom Notes.
A big picture perspective brings a level of maturity to an individual’s thinking. Big picture thinkers tend to learn continually, listen intentionally, look expansively, and live completely. Through lifelong learning, big picture thinkers are able to connect ideas that appear at first glance to be unrelated to one another.
Big picture thinking is beneficial for people who want to become leaders. Good leaders are able to create a compelling vision, map a path for attaining that vision, and seize the right moment to proceed. Big picture thinkers are better able to see things from other people’s points of view. They think of others first as mentioned in Philippians 2:3-4, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”
“Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”
Big picture thinkers exhibit the following four traits:
- They do not require certainty. When dealing with new or complicated ideas, it is necessary to accept some degree of uncertainty.
- They learn from every experience. It is essential to learn from both successes and failures.
- They gain insight from many different people. Important insights can be gained from family, friends, associates, and mentors.
- They are not afraid to expand their world. Although most people are satisfied with the status quo, big picture thinking requires people to go beyond what is commonplace.
The question that I will leave you with at this waypoint is, “Am I thinking beyond myself and my world so that I process ideas with a holistic perspective?”