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FOCUS: Thinking

DISCIPLINES: : Personal Mastery, Mental Models, Team Learning, Shared Vision, Systems Thinking

"Few people think more than two or three times a year.
I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once a week."
- George Bernard Shaw

THOUGHTS

When my son Gordon was 8, one day I came upon him sitting on the couch doing absolutely nothing. He wasn’t watching TV or playing a game or reading. I asked, somewhat accusingly, “What are you doing?” His answer was quick. “Thinking,” he said. “Is that OK?” The event stuck in my mind. How unusual it is in our culture to just stop and think.

I love long plane trips because they give me time to think. I’ve just returned from such a trip and although my body is tired, I feel refreshed and grounded because of all that thinking time.

TIME TO THINK

James Hackett, President and CEO of Steelcase, has described his company’s examination of a product launch failure. A key discovery was that the team put all its energy into execution before thinking the idea through. “When people told me that the one thing they could use more of was time, what they were really saying was that they needed more time to think.” (Harvard Business Review, April 2007, p. 46.)

Though many people yearn for the time to think things through and to have deep, thinking conversations, it would be surprising to see “think time” scheduled on anybody’s calendar. Yet, why not? One reason I think coaching is so popular is that it builds in time specifically to stop and think and reflect and connect thoughts. Ahas often come from slight shifts of thinking or seeing new connections between things.

TWO KINDS OF THINKING

There are two kinds of thinking I find particularly useful: Thinking quietly by myself, and thinking together with other people. I once heard this prescription: any personal problem can be solved if you’re willing to sit with it for four hours. Ask a very clear question, the guideline said, and then be still as your brain, conscious and unconscious, plays with possibilities. By the end of four hours you were promised an answer. I did it only once – sitting at the ocean – and it was practically magic. After feeling absolutely lost, at about 3 hours, I suddenly had an Aha, clarity, and a plan of action.

Thinking together can be exhilarating. You know this if you’ve had deep, thoughtful conversations with one or more people about something that matters to you. The World Café is a way to encourage such conversations in groups. It often leads to breakthrough thinking. (See www.theworldcafe.org.)

IF WE DON’T THINK

If we forget to stop and think, one common result is that we hurry toward a destination, busily doing everything it takes to get there, without really considering whether this is where we want to go.

COACHING QUESTIONS

  1. How often do you think deeply about things that matter to you?
  2. When was the last time you stopped to think about whether the things on your to-do list will get you where you want to go?
  3. Who are your best thought partners?
  4. What would you love to spend some time thinking about deeply?
  5. What would it take to schedule some think time into your life either alone or with others?

Winnie the Pooh asked, “Did you ever stop to think and forget to start again?” I recommend it!

INVITATIONS

Please join me for a 45-minute telegathering to explore the importance of thinking. Call Tuesday, May 8 at noon Eastern (11:00 a.m. Central, 10:00 a.m. MT, 9:00 a.m. Pacific) 1-641-678-3400 x912. No need to register...just call at that time!

Read an excerpt from Liberating Greatness, the Whole Brain Guide to an Extraordinary Life, the book Hal and I wrote, at www.LiberatingGreatness.com.

Sharon Eakes | 720 Maple Lane | Sewickley, PA 15143

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