The Value of Thinking

One of the hardest habits a leader can have is taking time to think. This is because a leader’s responsibilities and tasks require action and forward movement. Influencers can be so focused with the everyday functions of leading or managing that they overlook the value of thinking.

Dictionary.com defines thinking as to “consider for evaluation or for possible action upon, having a certain thing as the subject of one’s thoughts, forming in the mind in order to know or understand something, and to call something to one’s conscious mind.”

To maximize our leadership potential, results, and production requires initiating and forming the habit of thinking. Author John Maxwell says,

  • Poor thinking produces negative progress.
  • Average thinking produces no progress.
  • Good thinking produces some progress.
  • Great thinking produces great progress.

During a conversation you can usually identify if the person you are talking with takes time to think. Those who think have fresh, relevant, and creative ideas and thoughts. They are people who raise us to a new level of thinking and toward positive change. However, you can clearly know if a person does not take time to think. These are people who have a difficult time solving problems, generating innovated ideas, or having fresh and new content. It’s important to remember people are drawn to those who think because of the value they bring to conversations, meetings, teams, and work environment.

The bottom line is that you have to choose to engage and form the habit of thinking no matter how busy your schedule becomes. In Ngina Otiende post “Want a Powerful Life? Own Your Choices” she says, “The truth is, no matter what happens to you, you still have the power to choose. That ability cannot be taken away from you.” No matter how busy we might become we should intentionally chose to separate from the busyness of life and leadership. To find a place to think, clear our minds, and Engage in Thinking. David Schwartz said, “Where success is concerned, people are not measured in inches, or pounds, or college degrees, or family back-ground; they are measured by the size of their thinking.”

Questions: Do you need to re-prioritize your responsibilities and tasks to include more thinking? What are some other characteristics of a thinker?

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

  • I am not a “I am going to sit here and think” type of thinker. I think when listening to music and driving…but not much. I think when studying…but that is focused. I do a lot of thinking when with others, when I can run stuff by others and brainstorm.

    • I hear you. I often think while driving or while studying as well. Great idea about collaborated thinking, it maximizes our ideas or desired outcome. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  • I often think, but I also work in phases. For instance, right now I’m in a “doing” mode, getting lots of posts completed and technical stuff done. But when I write books, I’m thinking. I often ask questions and consider those questions as part of the entire theme of a book. Walking, running, hiking, and driving all provide great atmosphere for thinking.

    • Great points Dan. Thinking is valuable and needed but it should turn into action. Those are great place to think. I really enjoy thinking while walking, especially when it’s by the beach. It just sparks my thinking. Thank you for reading and adding to the conversation.

  • I budget time to think. The key is to plan “what” I will be thinking about. Otherwsie, I might start day dreaming.

    • So true. It’s easy to let our thoughts run wild as we begin to “think.” Having a set objective makes it much easier to stay on track.

    • I like that Todd, “Budgeting time to think.” Powerful points, thank you for sharing them with us.

  • Hey Dan! I “think” this to myself all the time, lol. I try to set aside time just to think on a regular basis, but it is sooo easy to get caught up in taking action without taking time to reflect and concentrate on key concerns. John Maxwell talks about how he has a practice of thinking on a regular basis and how much it helps him innovate and take strategic steps. This is such a great reminder. Thanks!

    • I’m the same way Marlee and am trying to discipline myself to spend more intentional time to think. John Maxwell is a perfect example of a person who spends time thinking, the rewards show in is life. Thank you for stopping by to read and comment.

  • DS

    Dan great thoughts about thinking. How many times have we read or heard about some athlete that took to twitter without thinking?

    In life we usually just need to stop and think. I have a long commute, and I recently realized that I had a lot of noise going on. I wanted to think, but couldn’t. Then I turned off all the noise. Instant thinking time!

    Another important aspect about thinking for leaders is this – give your team the opportunity to think. Countless times my team and I have been invited to a meeting only to find out that it’s a “brainstorming meeting.” The only problem is we didn’t find out until then! What if our team had been given time to simmer over some ideas?

    • So true about people saying things without clearly thinking about it.

      I also have a long commute and make it a point to turn my music down(a little sound helps me think) and take time to think. That’s great you are finding time to think, keep it up:)

      I agree, collaborated thinking is essential when it is planned and the people have time to “simmer over the ideas” that will be discussed and brainstormed.

      Great points and thank you for adding your insight and wisdom to the discussion.

  • This is an interesting post – I love to think about things but I never thought of it as a positive trait that would bring value to conversations, etc. I can see that it does though. I think best while I’m writing – not for publication but just for God and myself. I’m hoping to become a person who also learns while writing for publication.

    • Writing is a great way to think and get it down. it’s great you take time to write for God and yourself and not just publication. I’m glad your seeing the value in intentional thinking. I appreciate your comment.

  • Great post, Dan! I’m fascinated by this subject. It seems in our new society that the people of learning is majority have been taught what to think, not how to think. Then again, our core values are will determine our perspective on life and what type of conclusions we come to. We’ve been so captivated by technology that it too has robbed the true magic of the mind. The people who invented the technology weren’t sitting mindless in front of the devices of technology, they were truly thinking. We need to use the tools in order to think better, not think at all.

    Alone time with no technology around us is one way to ponder, or “muse” as King David put it. That is my practice. I also believe that true wisdom comes from God and the time spent seeking Him will lead us to be the greatest thinkers that He born us with the potential to be… It is endless because He is endless…

    • Great and wise thoughts Floyd. Powerful statement you wrote, “The people who invented the technology weren’t sitting mindless in front of the devices of technology, they were truly thinking.” So true. Those who think take time to get away and think so they can better create and invent. I agree about true wisdom coming from God. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about thinking with us.

  • It’s just smart to think and especially right before you talk. We tend to get catch up in our emotions and most of the time don’t think. I like the post by Ngina, thank you for sharing it.

    • Thanks for reading Kimanzi, am glad you enjoyed it :)

    • It sure is. Great point about taking time to think right before a speaking engagement. I’m going to have to remember that one. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Dan, I’m re-reading David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done” and it’s really challenging the gaps in my thinking and planning!

    • That book is on my bookshelf. Got to get to it one day. Is it a game changer?

      • It is, it’s a classic for sure. I like the premise and hierarchy or project/thought distinctions toward the beginning. I wish the techniques were more up to date with electronic/sync-friendly devices. Will probably take multiple reads/references to get the most out of it.

        • Thanks for your opinion. I’ll make sure it’s one of the next books I read.

          • It is not an easy read though – I can only handle a little bit at a time!

          • DS

            It’s worth moving to the front of your list.

          • You guys have me convinced to buy and read the book soon.

            • I realize that I am late to jump in on this conversation, but I wanted to let you know that this is a must read. Sure, some of it may be outdated from a tech standpoint, but he admits that in the book. He recognizes that some of that will change. His point is that there is a system that works across multiple platforms.
              Two of the ministries I served in made it required reading for the staff. It really is a must read – even if you skim it and get the most important parts.

              • Thanks Matt. Your never to late to jump into the conversation. I appreciate it your feedback.

    • I’ll have to read that book. Anything that will challenge and encourage us to think is worth reading.

  • A great thinker has the ability to be able to look at ALL the events that occur in our life from an objective perspective. The ability to be to see both sides of the same equation is especially important. A CRITICAL THINKER. Great post Dan! Thanks!

    • Great points Micky. It’s an important aspect for leaders. Thank you for sharing.

      • Always a pleasure my friend! Thanks for posting!…:-)

        • Thank you for your friendship and support. Have a blessed weekend.

  • I’ve heard of several successful people who schedule time during the day to just sit and think. It seems to work for them :)

    • Same with me. Do you schedule thinking time? I’m starting to become better at making time to think on a regular basis. I think the investment is worth the benefits it brings.

  • The David Schwartz book is on my top 5 list. I recently re-engineered my morning routine to include purposeful thinking time, and that has been beneficial. You hit the nail on the head – people who don’t regularly think aren’t problem solvers. Not only do you have to think, but you have to think about thinking….what I mean is you have to be intentional about it.

    • That’s great Tom. What benefits have you seen so far? The key is to make it a habit so we consistently engage in thinking. Have you read John Maxwell’s book Thinking for a Change? It’s worth reading.

      • It is on my bookshelf (mocking me) and waiting to be read. The morning routine change has put me in a good place going into the day – got the idea from Michael Hyatt’s blog.

        • I have a few books mocking me:) Michael Hyatt’s post about morning routines was great. Thanks for the discussion.

  • I take time to think about my plan of action once I have the action plan in place. I think (no pun intended) that you should do some thinking on strategy. Where it gets overbearing is when some people think and make it an avoidance behavior.

    • DS

      I know I can struggle from time to time with planning and thinking – and not doing. I like the “action plan.” Makes me think of a “game plan.”

      • Agreed, we can’t allow thinking or planing to cause us to to act and do.

    • Great point about “thinking on strategy” and preparing for your future. It’s important to think and plan. Thanks for sharing.

  • Not really. I do a lot of thinking while driving to and from work. With 20-30 minutes each way, it’s a great time to ponder.

    Now, focusing and applying my thoughts. That’s a different beast. I lose so many great thoughts because I haven’t created a discipline of recording them.

    • DS

      My wife was laughing at me last night because of all the places I take notes. I had 5 notebooks lying across our kitchen table while working on some of my speaking notes. Zig Ziglar recommended index cards. I use kleenex boxes, sticky notes, notebooks, napkins, anything and everything so I don’t lose it – the voice memo on my phone.

      • That’s funny. I’m the same way. I have notebooks, legal pads, and index cards everyplace. I found index cards are great. But will use anything around to write down a idea or thought. Thanks for expanding this conversation/topic.

    • I have a 30-45 minute commute and also use that time to think.

      I have Evernote and use the voice recorder system to record my thoughts while driving and I always have a piece of paper with a pen in the car. I found the thought or idea is usually gone if I try and wait to record/write it down. I highly recommend you taking the time to start getting your ideas and thoughts on paper/recorded.

  • I probably think too much (and thus the name of my blog, I’m Just Thinkin’), but I get this great post on pausing and thinking. Good stuff Dan!!

    • Do you find so much thinking prevent you from doing? I know it’s not a big factor with your writing. Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Thank you for the mention Dan..truly an honor.

    I like that part of how one can tell apart thinkers from non-thinkers. I had not seen it like that before. So true. I find that am on top of my game when I’ve taken time to meditate, read, wrestle with thoughts, taken a few courageous steps.

    Now when it comes to my daily life in the home – i don’t feel like a thinker much of the time!..lol. I guess it’s got to do with routines and comforts – some of which is good. maybe we need some grounding and familiarity in life, a place that our hearts call ‘home’. I think :)

    • Your welcome:)

      I relate with you about feeling like I’m on top of my game when growing and thinking. It brings energy and passion into our life. Great points and thank you for sharing.

  • This post brings 2 things to mind:
    First is that I know more than one college educated person who can regurgitate college text books but can’t do actual critical thinking or come up with an original idea outside what’s taught in the classroom.

    Second is that I get irritated when I speak with people who can only tell you what’s going on in Hollywood. Entertainment is good, but there’s more to life than entertainment and scandals.

    • TC Avey,

      I know a few of those as well. Knowledge must be turned into thinking and action.

      Those people are not good thinkers they just watch TV and read gossip magazines to much:) Did I really just say that. Just speaking the truth.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • In healthcare, it is truly a NIGHTMARE to work along side someone who does not take a few moments to think. It can affect people physically…and their coworkers emotionally! No matter how busy, I make every attempt to prioritize my patient work list, as well as think about the people counting on me in the room…both patient and coworker!

    • I’m sure it’s frustrating. I’m sure it effects the patients as well as other co-workers. You have it right, keep up the great work Scott.

  • InciteFaith

    I read an article earlier that said people who take walks are deeper thinkers. For me, I do most of my thinking in the car or at the gym while I’m working out. I’m a better thinker while moving. I noticed when I’m inactive, my brain tends to shut down and I try and silent my surroundings and focus less on thinking so much.

    Here’s a quote from the article:

    “There is something about walking that stimulates and enlivens my thoughts,” he wrote. “I can only meditate when I’m walking. … When I stop I cease to think; my mind works only with my legs.”

    • I agree with that. I enjoy walking and thinking. I feel that same way one of my favorite thinking places is at the beach while walking or while driving. It sparks my thinking.

      Great quote and thank you for sharing it. Do you have the link to the entire article?

      • InciteFaith

        The link can’t be seen by people who aren’t subscribed. The article is called “Long Walks, Deep Thoughts” By Robert E. Manning. If you don’t mind, I’ll e-mail it to you, at least the text.

        • Got your email. Thank you for sending it to me, I appreciate it.

  • Such a challenging post. ‘Getting time to think’ I think that has to be intentional.

    I understand fully what you mean about telling apart those who take time to think from those who don’t. John Maxwell has done a great job in his book, “Change your thinking, change your life.” Thanks for the reminder Dan, we need it often.

    I need to re-prioritize my tasks to think more. Characteristics of thinkers are they adapt better to change, they are creative, they take clearer about their decision making and oddly they tend to be unpopular – I think primarily in their beginnings.

    • I’m glad the post challenged you. John Maxwell is a great example of a thinker. Yes, we all need the reminder to take time to regularly think.

      I’m doing the same thing right now, making time to think more. Thank you for taking the time to read and add to the discussion.

  • Antoine Martiano

    I agree with this. being very busy people that they are, leaders rarely have time to think, but all the more they are the ones who need to think considering the weight on their shoulders. Decision making is a must on them so they need to think rationally and come up with good decisions. http://www.52techniques.com – Sales tips from a business development Expert

    • I totally agree, thinking is essential for a leader. Thank you for taking time to read and share.