How Successful People Think: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life

by John C. Maxwell

Our Main Take-Away:

The link between how one perceives and chooses to ponder the challenges of life is the premise for this helpful book. How successful people choose to frame their perceptions and the discipline they use to “think” through all manner questions, difficulties, and human interactions make this a highly engaging read. Explaining why thought processes make such a difference to a successful life, and how such “successful thinking” can be learned are what the reader will likely find most helpful. As an aspiring leader or a person already in a leadership role, such helpful guidance in honing one’s methods of thinking can be of great benefit to the reader and to the people that they serve.

Reasons to Read:

While the book does not suggest that there is a single measure for “success”, the author is very clear about labeling, defining and clarifying types of thinking and the effect that such strategies can have for the reader.

Thinking about, how we think about things is known as metacognition. It is defined as having an awareness of one’s own thought processes. Clearly understanding the benefits or harm that particular types of thinking can have for a person who chooses not to be mindful is one of the first impacts of which the reader will become aware. Throughout the book, the author uses many examples of how such “thinking” is applied in life situations. These stories help the reader to relate with the concepts being shared and personalize the information.

The Eleven types of thinking are:

1. Big Picture Thinking – The author first offers to the reader that being perpetually caught in the mundane travails of daily life will not allow one to aspire to success. “Thinking Big” is explained on focusing oneself on the aspects of life, work and relationships that are most important. By doing so it allows time and energy to follow the focus on that which will lead one to a fulfilling life.

2. Focused Thinking – Eliminating the constant diversion of one’s attention in multiple directions and replacing that practice with concentrated and focused attention to the project, task or learning at hand. Directing with discipline and clarity the energy of your thoughts towards tasks with intentionality.

3. Creating Thinking – The evaluating and exploring of multiple ideas and solutions to challenges by being open to those which may seem to be non-connected. Also, considering ideas that may on the surface seem not to fit. Embracing thinking that welcomes levels of ambiguity and discord to see what possibilities for potential solutions might arise. By examining many ideas successful people allow themselves to be open to solutions that may not have considered.

4. Realistic Thinking – This thought process involves the thorough evaluation of an issue or a problem and weighing the risks and potential rewards. This is not looking at a problem negatively, simply using the data and experience at one’s disposal to evaluate the potential risks and rewards of a particular step.

5. Strategic Thinking – The discipline and value of planning and considering goals and projects with a long-term view, can be a cornerstone of personal and professional success. Taking a very large challenge and being able to break it down into its constituent parts so that progress can be made through smaller more manageable steps, is explained in detail by the author. This section of the book is highly applicable in many ways to the other sections described.

6. Possibility Thinking – In some ways the author presents this way of thinking as an antithesis to a negative outlook. Believing that there are ways a problem can be solved, that “you can get there from here”, and that exploring possibilities is a helpful way to support personal growth and the growth of those you are charged with leading.

7. Reflective Thinking – Including past experiences in one’s thinking is of great value. Considering how a problem was approached and what one learned from that experience is one example of reflective thinking. Making the connection between experience and how that leads to future insight is done by setting aside time to focus and evaluate the thought processes, decisions, and the ultimate results of those decisions. The author explains that reflection is a strategy that successful people employ with regularity.

8. Popular Thinking – This process is explained by the author as one being aware of how the collective masses are thinking. While not being overtly negative toward the need to understand the perceptions and thought process of society, he does make the point that successful people often discipline themselves to think independently. It is fair to say that the author does not recommend simply thinking in a way that copies the masses.

9. Shared Thinking – Building the capacity in oneself to work collectively with a group of people and contribute meaningfully to a shared process, is explained in this section. The ability to hear clearly what another proposes and using one’s own ability to discern the quality of the analysis is quite important. Understanding that it is more likely that a focused team can accomplish much more than a single person working in isolation, speaks to the value of this portion of the book.

10. Unselfish Thinking – When one’s thinking “adds value” to the lives of others, or makes the environment in which others live and toil better, the author describes this as unselfish thinking. He makes the connection between personal happiness and the willingness to give freely. Thinking that helps one to be part of something more than themselves, or contributes to the success of the group as a whole is a thought process to be identified and nurtured.

11. Bottom Line Thinking – Considering how one’s thinking will eventually lead to a return on time and the investment of effort is explored here. This can be extrapolated to be the kind of thinking that leads to monetary profits, but the author takes this further. Determining what you will use as a calculation of success is encouraged by the author here.

This book can be very helpful for those who feel that a further level of focus and strategy will be helpful for their professional and personal growth. It will also become a reference for those in leadership positions who understand how we think about our relationships, our systems and the growth of others will have a great deal to do with our future success.

Amazon Summary:

Gather successful people from all walks of life — what would they have in common? The way they think! Now you can think as they do and revolutionize your work and life!
A Wall Street Journal bestseller, How Successful People Think is the perfect, compact read for today’s fast-paced world. America’s leadership expert John C. Maxwell will teach you how to be more creative and when to question popular thinking. You’ll learn how to capture the big picture while focusing your thinking. You’ll find out how to tap into your creative potential, develop shared ideas, and derive lessons from the past to better understand the future. With these eleven keys to more effective thinking, you’ll clearly see the path to personal success.

The 11 keys to successful thinking include:
Big-Picture Thinking – seeing the world beyond your own needs and how that leads to great ideas
Focused Thinking – removing mental clutter and distractions to realize your full potential
Creative Thinking – thinking in unique ways and making breakthroughs
Shared Thinking – working with others to compound results
Reflective Thinking – looking at the past to gain a better understanding of the future.

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