My friend just sent me some working sketches for her next paintings. I am impressed that although we see the same sights, she is able to create something new and fresh and interesting by using her thoughts to organize and interpret what she sees.
Thoughts are amazing things. Two people can have the same experience, but interpret it in two entirely different ways. Experiences shape us, but the use of our minds ultimately makes us who we are.
While I don’t believe that merely thinking positively about something will cause it to materialize, I do believe that you are unlikely to reach your goals if you don’t imagine them.
What kind of thinking can you engage in that will help you to achieve what you want to achieve?
1. Study others
By studying other people who have done something similar to what you want to do, you can begin to see patterns of what works and what doesn’t work.
If you want to climb a mountain, studying accidents that happened to other mountaineers can help you to avoid similar mistakes. If you want to write, you must read a lot. You will see what appeals to you, and get a feel for the style and rhythm of other authors.
The same idea holds true for businesses or careers. If you study other people, both successes and failures, you will build a bank of knowledge that will help you in your journey.
2. See things in a new way
After you have studied what other people do, take a step back, and allow your personal thoughts and experiences meld with what you have learned.
Steve Jobs allowed his love of typography to mix with his love of computers, creating the Apple computer. Your own personal experiences and thoughts will affect your interpretation of the facts.
Perhaps some seemingly unrelated concepts will come together to create something new. Perhaps you will notice something that people who went before you missed. Perhaps you have strong moral or religious beliefs that will cause you to do things in a different way.
It is one thing to study others and merely copy them; in that case you would only be a pale imitation. The real strength is to study other people or ideas, and use that knowledge as a stepping stone to be or create something that is more and better.
3. Be optimistic
By being optimistic we are more likely to come up with ideas that can help us toward positive outcomes. When we think that a goal is possible, we begin to see paths toward that goal that would be hidden if we started with the notion that the goal was impossible.
When I ride a bicycle and want to go through a narrow opening, I must focus on the clear path through the opening. If I slip up and focus instead on one of the barriers that I need to avoid, I invariably hit that barrier.
The same is true with goals. We need to focus on the clear path toward success. When obstacles arise, we must focus on the path around them, and not on the obstacles themselves.
4. Don’t be bounded
There are so many rules, both written and unwritten, that we follow every day. Drive on the correct side of the road, dress a certain way, pursue the right career. We need rules for society to function.
But, if you want to achieve your goals or do something new in the world, you need to question your assumptions. Don’t take them for granted.
Do we really need to drive on the right side of the road? Why is the rule there? It’s purpose is to provide an orderly flow to traffic so that people don’t run into each other. But what if there were no roads? Or separate roads based on which direction you were traveling? Or eastbound traffic went on a different level than westbound traffic?
When you dig down to the roots, to the reason for a rule or an assumption, then you can become creative and begin to get beyond the limitations.
5. Set your own interpretation
In his play, Hamlet, William Shakespeare points out that nothing is really good or bad in itself. It is our interpretation of the events that make them good or bad.
“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” — William Shakespeare
You may not have control over the events, but you do have control over your interpretation of them. Most of the obstacles and misfortunes that we suffer in the ordinary course of life are only as bad as we believe them to be.
There are fates that are truly bad, for example being held hostage or starving in the wilderness. But we still have control of our thoughts. John McCain, while being held as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, said that he would write books and plays in his head to keep himself sane.
Take control of your thoughts. Use them wisely, to make the best of every situation.
6. Do good for others
Turn your thoughts to how you can best help other people.
Benjamin Franklin’s philosophy was that the highest virtue was to do good to other people.
When you turn your thoughts to how you can to the most good for the most people, you become very creative. You start to solve some of the problems of the world. A successful product is really a good solution to a problem.
In service industries, “delighting the customer” has become a buzz-phrase for a path to success. Customers are delighted when we do the most good for them.
If you want to get ahead in your career, one of the best paths is to make your supervisor more successful. When your supervisor sees that you have his or her best interests at heart, he or she is more likely to help you.
Your life takes on more meaning as you do good for other people. A meaningful life is a successful life.
7. Listen to your inner-self
Your gut feelings or intuition often come about because of things that you perceived on a subconscious level. You may not be fully aware of why you feel a particular way, but you should listen to yourself and your intuition.
Don’t take your feelings on blind faith, however. Some things that frighten us, like public speaking, are not actually as dangerous as our instincts lead us to believe.
But do take your feelings seriously. Investigate more deeply, for example, if you feel that you don’t trust somebody. You may have picked up some subtle cues in body language that indicate the person truly is untrustworthy.
Use this deeper part of your mind to your advantage, taking it seriously, and probing more deeply.
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Careful attention to your thoughts is important to achieving your goals. Take control of your thoughts, and become successful!
I am excited to announce the release of my new eBook, “19 Tips For Overcoming Procrastination”. Get the free eBook here!