Thinking About Thinking

According to one of Harvard’s Top 10 articles from the last century,“Managing Oneself,” written by the late Peter F. Drucker:

“Success in the knowledge economy comes to those who know themselves – their strengths, their values and how they best perform.”

Do people really change or is it that people, having been diverted in life, simply remember who they once were or who they were really supposed to be?  As a coach, I have often pondered this question, introspectively and with colleagues, clients, friends and family.

Oddly enough, after years of asking this question, the answer is ultimately “NO,” we do not change at the core of our being and with regard to our dominant thinking tendencies. This is actually good news because it means we’re not all the same and by appreciating the value of diversity and complimenting one another, our lives are enriched exponentially. Yet, we find so few people celebrating themselves and so many desiring to be something they are not. Sure, we can temporarily adapt; but, like swimming upstream, we can only do it for short periods of time.  As coaches, we can waste a lot of time and money helping our clients become someone they’re not while the client is doing the same thing. We experience a much greater return on our time, energy and passion when we seek to understand our God-given gifts and fully develop and leverage them.

Let me illustrate this point through a true story.  My associate, mentor and friend, Jack Wilder, was asked by the CEO of Sharper Image to be a guest speaker on a panel with Michael Jordan and Walter Payton with the intent to provide leadership to the inner city school kids from the heart of Chicago, IL. Mr. Payton and Mr. Jordan both explained the importance of working hard, being disciplined and staying focused in order to fulfill their dream of being whatever they wanted to be in life.

The CEO asked Jack, “Jack, you don’t look like you believe what Mr. Jordan and Mr. Payton are saying?”  Jack’s reply was… “I do believe what they are saying is important; however, it’s not the most important.”  For example, “I’m 6’10”, and I could spend every waking hour doing every drill that Mr. Jordan does every day and still never become the center for a NBA basketball team. Mr. Jordan has taken his God-given gifts and developed them.”

I believe we must first start with who we are and then work to develop from this core.  What about becoming an agent, trainer, coach, doctor and so many other careers?  So many people waste precious time trying to be something they will never become.  Just because we work hard does not mean we will succeed.  The reality is, we can work hard, be disciplined and stay focused while looking for a sunrise in the west and it’s not going to happen.  We must start with the core person and coach them to be more of who they already are and not make someone into someone we think they are or can become.

The late Dr. Robert S. Hartman (1910-1973) was the author of more than ten books, over 100 articles, and the translator of six books.  His life-long quest was to answer the question, “What is good?” – and to answer the question in such a way that good could be organized to help preserve and enhance the value of human life.  Dr. Hartman, whose work in the area of thinking earned him the coveted nomination for the Noble Peace Prize, developed a way to measure and track thinking.  This incredible discovery allows us to very quickly understand who we really are at the core and, more importantly, measure our progress in becoming the best version of ourselves. In Dr. Hartman’s work in the science of Formal Axiology, he was able to boil down all thinking into three primary dimensions. Much like all color is derived from the three primary colors, all thinking is derived from three primary dimensions. Dr. Hartman called these three dimensions of thinking Intrinsic (how we relate with self and others), Extrinsic (what we do and the roles we play), and Systemic (the rules we apply towards the world and ourselves).  He further divided these three thinking dimensions into two categories, the internal and external worlds.  Externally, it’s how we think and view the world around us from these three dimensions.  Internally, it’s how we think about and perceive ourselves from these three dimensions.  Altogether, this gives us six thinking dimensions to measure.

With this basic understanding of what these dimensions represent, we can then measure our thinking capacity or clarity in each particular area and whether we’re attentive to or disregarding each thinking dimension. The first measurement represents our thinking strengths and weaknesses, while the second represents our thinking biases. By combining the dimensions, we can gain an even deeper understanding of a person. To help you understand, here’s some additional explanation of the terms:

1.     Clarity is like the aperture, hole or opening through which light is admitted on a camera.  A larger hole lets more light in which exposes more on film, with the opposite being true as well.  It represents how much we see within each dimension of thinking.

2.     Bias represents whether we’re paying attention to this dimension of our thinking or not and the degree to which our behaviors are determined by this dimension. The question is, are we over or under emphasizing this area of our thinking?

3.     The combination of bias patterns and clarities across all six dimensions represent our thinking DNA and who we are at our core.

In summary, no matter how great the business plans, strategies, tools, seminars, books and coaching, we will only reach our fullest impact potential when we start with who we are at the core.  Start in the beginning… starts with thinking!

Here are three easy steps to write in your journal to discover who you are and who you are meant to be.

1.     Take the MindScan and review it with a highlighter and pen.

2.     Expose your MindScan and yourself to a few people you trust and respect to get valuable feedback.

3.     Work with a coach to assist you in reading the MindScan and unfolding the greatness within yourself.

We MUST learn to Maximize our Strengths and Manage our potential Weaknesses!