How to Engage in Thinking

Author and Speaker John Maxwell says, “Great thinking produces great progress.” If you want to be a more effective leader then you must engage in thinking. Being intentional about thinking can be challenging though. This is because you have to stop leading, separate yourself from distractions, and take time to think. Maybe this is why so many people and leaders do not invest in thinking.

However there are many benefits that come when a leader engages in thinking. Some include:

  • They have relevant and fresh ideas.
  • They can better bring solutions to problems or issues.
  • They are more effective in communicating with others.
  • They increase creativity.
  • They can produce more in less time.
  • They can better adapt to the changing world.

Below are 6 ways that will help you engage in thinking:

1. Chose to think- Thinking always starts with a personal choice to think. Making the choice to think requires discipline in setting time to think and then following through with it.

2. Associate with great thinkers- I believe you become like the people you associate with on a regular basis. If you’re around great thinkers then you increase your thinking and gain wisdom from those who are already great thinkers.

3. Have an inflow of good thoughts- Having a personal growth plan can be a catalyst to good thinking. This is because when you grow and learn you gain good and new thoughts. A daily inflow of good thoughts can ignite your thinking.

4. Have a place to think- This is one of the most important things to consider when engaging in thinking. One of my personal favorite places to think is at the beach (I live about 10 minutes away from the beach in San Diego, CA). I’m able to frequently go to the beach and engage in thinking. The important thing is to find a place that’s that is free from distractions so you are able to think.

5. Be able to capture your thoughts- What’s the point of thinking if you don’t capture your thoughts. Being able to place your thoughts on paper or digitally allows you to remember and go back to your thoughts at a later time. I personally use Evernote to capture my thoughts.

6. Have a place to unleash your thoughts- After you have taken the time to think and capture your thoughts then unleash them to your followers, tribe, community, or the world. This might take place through your leadership or in a blog.

Questions:  How important is thinking as a leader? How do you engage in thinking?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Garbage in, Garbage out! That’s what went through my mind as I read this.

    What we allow into our thoughts will eventually come out. So we must guard our brains by reading things that uplift us and others. We must surround ourselves with positive people and we must make sure we learn from our mistakes and when possible from others mistakes.

    Great post!

    • TC Avey,

      Great analogy. It’s so essential to guard our heat and thoughts. Because like you said what we think about will come out through our actions and attitudes. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • To be a leader you must be thinking and churning new ideas in your mind. You’re a leader, you’re supposed to be leading people to new heights. Can’t do that without thinking.

    • Amen to that. Great leaders take time to think. Thanks for reading and sharing.

  • Thinking is definitely underrated in our world now. There was a time when schools taught people how to think, not what to think.

    As a leader I think, (see – I’m doing it again!), to not think is certain death to a mission or cause. The world changes and the people in it do as well. Life is a moving chess match, if we don’t think – we lose.

    For me the most important tool in learning to think, gain insight and wisdom, is studying the Bible. I think God uses HIs word and The Holy Spirit to give us intelligence and wisdom far beyond what could be captured otherwise.

    Good post!

    • Floyd,

      Great thoughts. I agree, schools don’t teach people how to think anymore. It’s often uncommon but such an important practice to apply into our life.

      Great ways to think and gain wisdom. Thank you for sharing.

  • I think you definitely have to choose to do it. I think you have to set aside regular time to get away feom everything else, away from the noise of life to do it.

    • Larry,

      I totally agree with you about needing to “set aside regular time to get away and think.” I think the key word is “regularly.” I appreciate your thoughts, thank you for sharing.

  • Though Leaders should “think before they speak,” or anyone really .. I have found through personal experience at work that it helps to talk out our thoughts together collectively.

    Think out loud.

    I think every level of leader is different & I have found that when Leaders keep their thoughts to themselves about areas that can severely impact everyone on the team, it does damage.

    Perfect example:

    This week has been hectic at work due to poor planning. We’re renovating our entire building for the next three months and everyone is going to be displaced ‘temporarily’ due to this change. Though we knew the renovation was happening, we thought we’d have more time. Unfortunately this isn’t the case. So everything from next week onward will be hectic because information wasn’t communicated effectively.

    As a result, in our meeting on Tuesday, myself and our committee expressed our concerns. So, the Dean decided to have a staff meeting in the morning & afternoon for everyone to bring their thoughts openly about the renovation and express their concerns.

    Thinking out loud produces more results and immediate feedback than milling over thoughts about a situation you don’t agree with. Ultimately it just ends in unnecessary argument, assumptions and stress.

    Thinking and talking openly is more effective.

    • Great example and points Julie.

      I believe thinking out loud is a great way a team connects and moves forward together. It also puts everyone’s ideas and thoughts out their. This allows the leader/team to determine the best choice. Thank you for adding value to the post.

  • Thinking is huge. Besides faith, no other element of a leader’s life will take them where they want to go. I’ve heard we need to have a plan for reading if we are to really read the books that matter. The same is true for thinking; we need to have a plan for thinking. The steps you lay out above are a great way to go about doing so.

    • Grayson,

      I totally agree with you about faith then thinking being among the most important aspects of a persons/leaders life. Great point about “having a plan to think” if we don’t plan to do it then it won’t get done. Thank you for taking the time to read and share.

  • My mentor says “you have to think what you think”. Other words, be deliberate about thinking.

    I capture my thoughts through evernote as well. I often think best right after spending time with God. I think my mind is sharper then, energized.

    • Ngina,

      Great advice. Spending time with God is a great way to ignite your thoughts. Thank you for sharing.

  • I try to get in my “thinking” mode by 1) reading my Bible and 2) listening to people I think are creative

    • Great ways to get in the “thinking mode.” Thanks for sharing.

  • If we aren’t thinking, we aren’t really leading. We’re just being mindless drones churning out a to-do list without looking to the future to see where we are going and what we need to do now to reach where we want to go.

    I like to spend time with people who think drastically different than me. It challenges me to widen my thoughts and helps me to see things form a new perspective.

    • Jason,

      “Mindless drones,” Nice:) and so true.

      Great idea about spending time with people who “think drastically different” then us. I think this can help us expand our thinking. Thanks for reading and sharing.

  • Your leadership tips are top notch, keep up the good writing Dan!

    • Thanks bro, Let’s keep moving forward together!

  • I think in addition to a place to think, I believe it’s a good idea to devote solid blocks of time to thinking. It’s powerful just to get away, get silent, and think.

    • Great point Loren. Setting aside “solid blocks of time to think” is so important. Have you found a good place to go and think?

  • Engaging with other great leaders and thinkers. That’s why I love mastermind groups!

    • It’s so important, right?:)

      What’s “mastermind groups”? Am I missing something. For some reason I don’t recall the name or what it is.

      • I’m a part of a couple of standing “mastermind groups”…we meet pretty regularly to sharpen one another and share ideas.

        I also have an official 12-month coaching and mastermind program I do with people who want to get into the speaking business. This mastermind program is connected with http://www.speakitforward.com

        • Kent,

          Associating with like minded people is a must. It’s great you have a group like that.

          Thank you for sharing about your program. I’ll have to check it out more down the road.

          • Would love to have you join us Dan. It’s a great program!

  • Dan wow.. This is embarrassing but I think best in the shower or when I am alone. I also think best when I am in a good calm relaxed mood. My best posts have come when I am in the shower. Has anyone invented a waterproof computer yet?

    • Lincoln Parks,

      If we took a survey I think a lot of people would say they think in the shower, I know I have thoughts some good thoughts while in the shower. It’s like holy ground for thinking, right?:)

      Thanks for reading and sharing.

      • The shower would win hands down Dan. Thank you for sharing.

      • The shower would win hands down Dan. Thank you for sharing.

  • Great ways to engage in thinking. I’ve known for a while now that I need to spend more time in thinking. You are right, since thinking takes away from our day to day activities many of us do not set time aside to think or set a little time. I fall into the second group. I need to be more intentional on thinking and reap the benefits.

    • Juan Cruz,

      I think most people do, myself included. Thank you for reading and commenting. Let’s start being more intentional about thinking.

  • Really well thought-out post. In the workplace especially, I’ve seen people who believe that you must put in your 40, 50, 60 hours of work because that’s just how it is. Yet, few stop to consider that this actually stifles creativity because it leaves no time for thinking in order to generate those much-needed ideas that will drastically improve our work. Hopefully, culture is slowly beginning to see the importance of taking time away to unplug. Unfortunately, we live in a world that tries to impress others through showing people that we can put our nose to the grindstone without the need to stop and engage in thinking, as if it’s a badge of honor.

    I like to think at the beach too; I just live on the opposite coast from you. I’ve been to San Diego – it’s such a beautiful place. Great beaches there for you to think!

    • Chris,

      I totally agree with you about people who work long hours often lack creativity and often don’t take time to think.

      I think our society is starting to understand the value of thinking. Though it’s hard with all of the distractions(Internet and TV) we have that can cause us not to think. Hopefully the area of thinking will be more widely taught and adapted.

      The beach is great, right:) The next time your in SD let me know, it would be great to grab coffee. Thanks for reading and sharing.

      • Coffee would be awesome. Not sure when I’ll be back, but it will be in my lifetime. :)

        • and if I ever go to Virginia Beach then I will let you know.

  • Turn off the TV and go for a walk.

    It’s amazing how many ideas and thoughts will seemingly come from nowhere when we make the space for them to happen!

    • Andrew,

      Great point about “turning off the TV and walking.” So many people waist time and don’t think because of the TV.

      Taking a walk is so valuable because you can exercise while thinking or growing yourself. Thank you for stopping by and commenting.