How we think is very important. As John Maxwell says, “Your life today is a result of your thinking yesterday. Your life tomorrow will be determined by what you think today.”
I agree with him. Great leaders are disciplined in staying focused in their thinking.
On this week’s episode of the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast, we unpacked this concept of Focused Thinking.
Focused thinking is the ability to center in on something and stay there until you bring it to its greatest fruition.
John believes it is impossible to think a thought completely and maximize it fully without being focused on it. Many good thoughts never become great thoughts because they have been cut off by someone who was unable to remain focused long enough.
Think of it like an iceberg.
When you see an iceberg, you only see the small percentage that is standing above the water. The majority of the iceberg is below the surface. It takes years for that iceberg to materialize and become big enough to stand above the surface. John Maxwell encourages us to be iceberg thinkers.
Most people are not iceberg thinkers; they are ice-cube thinkers. Just like dropping the ice into a glass of tea, their ideas create a splash, rattle around making a lot of noise, and ultimately dissolve because they lack substance.
That’s what happens when you’re not a focused thinker—you produce a bunch of ice-cubes.
So how do you become an iceberg thinker? John shared his “homemade formula” on the podcast:
1. Think the thought
2. Write the thought
3. Rethink the thought
4. Verbalize the thought
5. Table the thought
6. Practice the thought
7. Think the thought some more
8. Launch the thought
9. Land the thought
Now, this may seem strenuous to you. It may seem like a lot of work. That’s because it is! But that’s the requirement for greatness. Success, in anything, takes time and effort. Never forget that everything worthwhile is uphill!
Steve Jobs was right when he said, “Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
Focused thinking takes a complex thought and transforms it into something that can be understood and applied.
I should admit to you, remaining focused on one thing is very difficult for me. Even though I don’t believe in multi-tasking, I love to attempt it. More is better for my personality! But being proactive in focused thinking requires me to shut everything else out.
So in order to help me remain focused I started doing something you might find helpful as well.
When I sit down to focus on a thought, I have a separate notepad with me. As distracting thoughts come to mind, I dump them on the notepad and jump back in to my focused thinking. Sometimes these distractions are important and may even need my attention, but my priority in that moment is to protect my focused thinking time.
This strategy allows me to remain productive by recording those distracting tasks, while also protecting my creativity as I work to create icebergs for our enterprise.
I want to encourage you to familiarize yourself with the discipline of focused thinking. Find an hour (maybe two for you overachievers!) and do some focused thinking over the next week. This discipline will work wonders in your leadership.