How to Think Better
Have you ever considered thinking about how you think and how well your current ways of thinking are serving you? So much of our thinking is habitual and automatic. Research shows we have as many as 50,000 – 80,000 thoughts per day. And with that much going on in our heads all the time, it can be a challenge to actually notice and become aware of the thoughts that are running our lives. Sometimes the automatic and habitual thinking, the shortcuts our brain has created to “help us out” can actually get in our way. They can cause us to say or do things without thinking, behave in ways we’d rather not, or prevent us from accomplishing things we’d like to achieve or living the kind of life we really want.
The good news is that learning how to think better, even a little bit, results in better decisions, creating better results for yourself AND others. And just a little bit better can create a SNOWBALL effect that can really add up over time!
Your Thinking is on Autopilot
Most of the time our thinking is on autopilot, driven by habits that serve us pretty well most of the time. These habits help us navigate life with minimal effort, And without these habits we’d be literally lost, getting from point A to point B. These habits help us get through our days, accomplishing routines, such as brushing our teeth, making a meal, writing our name, operating a computer, or driving a car without consciously being aware of doing it (as well as too many other tasks to name).
These thinking habits happen below the level of conscious thinking. Like a computer program running in the background. Your life experiences shape your mindset, and how you filter everything you see through this lens.
As we go through life, when things happen that don’t fit this mental model or mindset we’ve developed, we think something is WRONG. We may feel threatened, or uncomfortable. We may not even recognize WHAT is happening, but nonetheless, our mental model and mindset are still filtering everything that is happening around us.
Reacting Without Thinking
The problem arises when we REACT without ever “thinking” about what we are about to say or do. And while these mental shortcuts can be helpful, they can also be problematic.
You’ve probably experienced this yourself when you reacted in a way that was unexpected even to you. Afterward, you thought “Where did THAT come from?” You may have been short-tempered or behaved badly with a family member when you were actually upset by something unrelated. You may have found yourself shouting, or honking your car horn when you’re normally a mild-mannered person.
This happens when something is DIFFERENT than our IDEA about how it SHOULD be. We often use the phrases RIGHT or WRONG, or SHOULD, ALWAYS or NEVER when we get stuck in this kind of thinking We’re so CERTAIN about how something SHOULD be, that we often react BEFORE we even get a chance to THINK! Before we even think about THINKING!
How Can You Think Better?
So, what can you do? How can you learn to THINK better and create more value when you’re NOT really sure IF or WHEN your shortcuts (habits of thinking) may be sabotaging you at the very same time?
That’s a tickly question, because you, your thoughts, and your mindset have been partners getting you through this life journey for a very long time. And together, they’ve done a pretty good job helping you get right here, to this moment. But, depending on where you’re headed next, the question shifts to “Will your current thinking get you THERE?” to where you really want to go?
Develop a Valuegenic Mindset
So you have at least two options to learn how to think better, the first is self-study. You can begin to develop a valuegenic mindset using the Ultimate Guide to Living a Richer Life and the One Question that Changes Everything. This includes learning to ask and answer the Central Question frequently to begin developing NEW mental habits and a more valuegenic mindset. If you haven’t watched Becoming More Valugenic, check out my video to learn about developing a new kind of mindset.
As a reminder, The Central Question was developed by Peter Demarest and Harvey Schoof, founders of Axiogenics, a Leadership Development company – and co-authors of the book Answering the Central Question.
What CHOICE can I make, and ACTION can I take, in THIS moment, to CREATE the greatest NET VALUE?
This simple question holds the key to learning how to think better and create more value for yourself and others in everything you do.
Create a New Mental Habit
When I first started using this question, my goal was just to create a new habit. I practiced asking myself The Central Question by scheduling an alarm or timer using my phone, set for every hour throughout the day. The alarm disrupts my thinking and provides a PAUSE. I ask and answer the question, which helps me stay on track with my goals. Right now that includes taking care of myself, stretching, drinking water, and eating healthy!
During emotional or stressful times, I may just PAUSE and pay attention to how I am thinking and feeling. Sometimes I set another timer for ONE MINUTE to sit quietly, and then get back on track. I may also remind myself, “You don’t have time to think about that right now, you can think about it later”.
Practicing this question creates a new mental habit that helps gain control of your automatic thinking and creates a PAUSE to THINK and think BETTER. You can establish this practice to accomplish whatever is important to you.
Asking The Central Question
In addition to scheduling The Central Question throughout the day, I also make a habit of asking myself this question whenever I need to:
- Discuss something important. It helps me get my head and heart in the right place.
- Work intently for long periods of time. I lose track of time. I have to remind myself to pause and consider the needs of others around me.
- Bring me back to the present moment. On occasion, I find my mind wandering when I’m with others, this question (along with a few others) helps me stay present, bringing my best to each moment.
- Shift gears when my schedule is “interrupted” by a fellow human. I’ve learned to pause and consider what choice and action will create the greatest NET value. Usually, I take a break and spend time with that human, shifting my thinking from being interrupted to seeing this “interruption” as a welcome opportunity.
While I don’t always get it right, because I am a work in progress, for the many times I remember, on occasion, I still forget too!
Hire an Axiogenics Coach
So, In addition to the self-study option, you can work with a certified Axiogenics coach. We have a simple way to measure and help you uncover the thinking that is supporting or sabotaging your efforts. We can help you THINK BETTER by teaching you how to maximize your natural strengths to accomplish whatever matters to you most.
My Less-Than-Best Thinking
And lastly, I want to wrap up by sharing with you a story about what happened recently with MY less-than-best thinking. As a coach and a content creator, I spend a lot of time thinking by myself. I was talking with my husband about my latest and greatest thoughts on thinking when he got distracted by a sound outside.
Well, you might imagine where my LESS than best thinking took me. I was frustrated and upset by his lack of interest in the ideas I was sharing. My mindset continued to create a story about what his “inattentiveness” meant, that clearly my ideas were not valuable.
PHEW, that’s a whole lot of crap going on for someone in the middle of writing about your LESS than BEST thinking. It took me about 30 seconds of quiet afterward to realize what had happened, and a little longer to apologize and explain the irony. As I said, I’m a work in progress!
We ALL have thinking patterns that get the best of us from time to time. Luckily I KNOW about my thinking patterns and can watch out for them. And because I’m human, I don’t always get it right. But I am doing BETTER than not knowing about them at all.
If you would like some help for yourself, or for your company in learning How to Think Better and create more value, contact me, and let’s chat. And if you’d prefer the self-study option download The Ultimate Guide for Living a Richer Life; And The One Question that Changes Everything, or see our new YouTube channel for videos and more resources.
Kristin Clark is a certified Axiogenics Coach and co-author of Living a Richer Life; It’s All in Your Head. Kristin has coached hundreds of people from a wide range of backgrounds and beliefs, industries, and professions. She teaches Valuegenic Self-Leadership, a powerful development program engaging, empowering, and igniting leaders’ potential to help improve their performance, relationships, and quality of life.