Most of us are raised knowing what to think, but few are raised knowing how to think.
Think about it. We’re programmed from a very young age. I was programmed. I was told how to treat myself and others. I was told that I should say please and thank you. I was told that I could drink in moderation, but shouldn’t get drunk. I was told to respect my elders. Most of my programming was helpful.
I was also told about opportunity. I was told I could do anything if I put my mind to it. I was told that opportunity waits for no man. I was told that the early bird gets the worm. I was also told that good things come to those who wait. I was told to be patient.
On one hand, told I should pursue opportunity, but also wait. Should I get up and go after it? Should I wait?
Kids ask “why should I do that?” They practically beg for the tools to process life. Yet, many times a parent responds with, “because I said so.” I get it – I’ve done it – it’s expedient. The parent pulls rank and shuts down the kid’s thinking. “I don’t want your opinion – I want your action.”
The natural outcome of that programming is then an employee who has difficulty thinking. You’ve heard employers complain that employees can’t think about how to do something. Or, you’ve heard, ‘I can’t believe they did it that way,” disregarding and shutting down any thinking that did go on.
Yes, we are programmed, and so we expect to continue to be programmed. And, that programming handicaps us. It makes us think that someone will think for us, and if we can just tap into that source, we’ll have our stuff figured out. We think we are not enough. It’s why we search out formulas for success. That may be why you subscribed to my private list. Some people think that because I’m successful I’m going to give you a magic prescription that will make you successful. Maybe you secretly – or maybe not-so-secretly – want to not do the hard work of thinking.
I’m going to tell you that the difference between people who are highly successful and the people who are not, is that the highly successful people think differently. I’m also going to tell you that different thinking will not happen overnight, or simply by reading a book, or a blog, or this email. Thinking differently develops over time through a process of education, action, and evaluation.
Here’s the typical cycle of thinking …
> I do something
> I consider what I did
> I think I can do better
> I try to do it better
> I don’t like the results
> I give up
> I complain
> I do it again, with a little more complaining
It’s a cycle that plays out all around us. It’s a cycle that leads to status quo, to average, to doing the same things knowing they don’t work. It’s a cycle that leads to blaming, and wanting someone to just tell us what to do. And it exists because we have no framework to think differently, to iterate, to get better.
Contrast with a cycle of highly successful thinking …
> I know I can always be better than I am (regardless of what I’m doing), so I find ways to learn from people who know more than me
> I intentionally try to apply the lessons learned to what I’m doing
> I evaluate what I did well, and what I did poorly
> I go back to the top and do it again, integrating my lessons learned
Consider the progressions above. There are profound differences. Here are a few of the many:
Intentionally focused on BEING instead of DOING
The disciplines of success are a matter of being the type of person you want to be – and that is portable to all areas of doing. The disciplines of success are like compounding interest. Compounding interest builds over time, and continual investment over time leads to tremendous growth. We create success through repeated investment in how we think about things. When we make the investment in how we think, it leads to continually better doing.
Intentionally EVALUATING instead of COMPLAINING
Highly successful people know that there are obstacles to progress – people, facilities, money – any resource can be an obstacle at times. What you won’t find is that successful people complain about the obstacles. Highly successful people know that ALL GROWTH comes with obstacles. We either choose to live with the obstacle because we can’t address it now, we remove the obstacle, or we go around it. Evaluation is designed to intentionally come to a conclusion. Complaining can go on forever.
Intentionally SHUTTING DOWN NEGATIVE SELF TALK
You failed? So what – it’s done – now move on. You don’t know how to do something? Not an excuse – find someone who does. You weren’t as successful as you could have been? Evaluate what you could have done differently, and take that into the next experience. If you’re having trouble shutting down the negative self-talk, consider this: negativity is a decision, and it’s pulling you backward. Every time you decide to be negative about yourself, you not only need to do the thing you need to do, but you need to spend the time and energy re-believing you can do it. You cause yourself to do more work – first digging a hole, then climbing out of it, then moving forward. Not smart. If that reasoning doesn’t work for you, try this: every time you talk negatively about yourself, a puppy dies. YOU ARE ENOUGH.
Highly successful people know these things:
I’m not yet who I will be, but I’m better than I was. Knowing that proves to me that I am enough, and can be enough as I grow.
I have an evaluation framework so I can apply and learn lessons faster. Because of that, I can modify my behavior and make adjustments quickly based on results.
I need to surround myself with people who pull me forward – like gravity. If I don’t like who I am, it is likely because of the people I hang around with.
We can go pretty deeply into these things, but I’ll leave you with that for now. Your next step is to decide what resonated with you, and what you’re going to do about it. Does something in your thinking need to change? Make it so. Do you need to understand more about evaluating your own behavior, successes or failures? Reach out to someone, pick up a book. Feel you aren’t enough? Find someone who thinks you are. Try something!