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By: Bob Dearing

Strange question… What do I think about what?

Okay, let me ask the question a different way … “How do you think?”

Are you approaching issues as one-off problems, or do you view them as opportunities? Do you take a short-term approach, or do you take the time to think about how you can develop long-term solutions and then put them into practice?  Is thinking in your day to day life always centered around an immediate problem?  In short, are you thinking about just solving one issue at a time or are you taking the time to fully develop ideas that can be acted upon to make a lasting contribution?  The question again… “How do you think?” 

What is a thinker?

When I talk about thinkers, I am not talking about history’s noted greats like Plato, Aristotle or even Confucius. Their contribution is unquestioned. Let’s talk about more contemporary thinkers like Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Martin Luther King and Norman Vincent Peale. These are not political philosophers, but business and social thinkers who have made documented changes in the world. They are all visionaries who had ideas, acted on them and followed them to fruition. MLK gave his life for an idea that is even today shaping thoughts and actions around the world. 

So how should we think? 

Our world today is filled with bold words like goals, focus, creativity, vision and big picture thinking.  These words have different meanings to different people. Is your goal to climb the ladder in your company to Vice President by age 32 or is it to find someone to cut your grass by next Friday?  Clearly, they are both goals, but one requires thought, hard work and determination while the other is a short-term objective with no real sense of lasting value.

When do we start thinking?

You come into this world with the ability to think.  You can think positively, negatively, strategically, creatively and dozens of other ways, but the reality is the choice is yours. Your personal demographics have nothing to do with your ability to think.  You can have a 5th grade education or a master’s degree, be rich or poor, athletically active or inactive, it just does not matter. It does matter, however, how you use your thinking ability. Studies have shown that the one thing that all successful people have in common is the way they go about thinking. They have learned to cut through the clutter and become “Big Picture Thinkers.” Watch this short video to learn more about the value of thinking.

Let’s talk about changing how you think

The good news is that thinking successfully is a learned skill.  It’s not easy, but it can be done. It starts with desire and demands dedication and discipline.  John C Maxwell outlines six steps to change your thinking in his book “How Successful People Think”. Those steps are:

1. Expose yourself to good input – Always look for things to get your thinking process moving. Read books, trade magazines or listen to tapes. Find things, or people, to get the thoughts flowing but remember, what you put in affects what comes out. 

2. Expose yourself to good thinkers – Spend time with the right people. Look for people that challenge you with their thinking and actions. If you want to be a good thinker, be around good thinkers. Chances are that as you survey the good thinkers you expose yourself to you will discover they are all highly successful in their field. 

3. Choose to think good thoughts – Thinking is a discipline. It’s your decision to think good thoughts.  Find a place away from the hectic pace of daily life that discourages you from intentional thinking. Set aside the time every week, two weeks or month to do nothing but reflect and think about what you are doing. Choose to think good thoughts!

4. Act on good thoughts – Ideas tend to fade away quickly. Learn to act on them before they fade away with the daily rush of life.

5. Allow your emotions to help create good thoughts – Your emotions occupy an important space in your thinking process. Engage them to feed the process and create mental momentum. Be careful you do not wait until you feel like thinking to get started.

6. Repeat the process – One good thought does not make you an accomplished thinker.  Critical thinking is an ongoing process and becomes a part of your life Always be searching for the next best idea. Be a big picture thinker!

Changing your thinking is a worthwhile investment of your time, energy and effort. When you take the time to learn how to change your thinking and become a better thinker, you are investing in yourself and your future.

So, what’s next?

Changing your thinking is not automatic. It will not happen on its own and if you want to find a good idea you must search for it. Changed thinking is difficult. Albert Einstein once said:

“Thinking is hard work; that’s why so few do it”.

John C. Maxwell authored the book “How Successful People Think” and is a noted authority on leadership and successful thinking. He summarizes the value of thinking people as follows:

“Good thinkers are always in demand. A person who knows how to think may always have a job, but the person who knows why will always be his boss”. Good thinkers solve problems, they never lack ideas that can build an organization, and they always have hope for a better future. Good thinkers are successful.”

Bob Dearing

Bob Dearing is a Certified Franchise Executive with over 30 years of management experience. He is a highly skilled executive that delivers informed management assessments while providing practical P&L financial analysis. Bob is an invaluable asset to many organizations. Bob can be reached at


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