Think your way to success

“No no, that’s not thinking, that’s just logic.” – Niels Bohr

Having a successful life means first knowing what you want and then working towards it.

At the end of my PhD, I and some of my fellow physicists went hiking in the Dolomites, mostly in freezing cold above the snow line. On the way down on towards the end my long-serving hiking boots began to disintegrate. Back home, I decided that I wanted to do a lot more hiking and I bought a sturdy pair of boots, good for snow hiking. I’ve hardly ever used them.

I had moved to Italy. A different set of friends, none of whom enjoyed hiking.  I began to want to do other things. Moving to Japan a year later lead to the same scenario.

Whilst these boots were ideal in the snow and ice, they were actually more tiring and disabling for kind of long hiking which I was now doing. What I hadn’t thought through when setting my goals for doing more hiking in the mountains and purchased those boots was how my life context might change in the next 4 years. I was thinking in too linearly in too narrow an area to come to a wise decision.

Thinking is distinct to just logically stringing one thought after another. In thinking, you are not just aware of the part that you are currently looking at, say hiking and my boots, but all other aspects of the whole context as well. Like my love of motorcycling through Italian countryside.

The shift  from logic to thinking, is taking into account both all of the parts I know are in my life today and the kinds of parts that are likely to make up my life in the future. In particular, thinking about how all of these come together to make up the whole of my life today, tomorrow, next year or in the future.

Had I been able to think about those properly, not just logically, keeping all of it together in my head to make sense of it, I would never have bought an expensive pair of stiff boots designed for snow and ice. I set myself a goal that was not aligned with what I really wanted with my life.

Looking back, I now see very clearly how the goals I chose for myself ten or twenty years ago were limited because I had not yet mastered sufficiently fluid, ways of thinking. I still thought in terms of either/or. I thought with the paradoxes either ‘I go hiking with good boots or I don’t go hiking because I don’t have good boots.’

Today I have come to understand the power of “and”. Everytime I see either/or I replace it with an “and” to see how that changes my thinking. My life is full of paradoxical “ands”, things that are logically disconnected, or even in contradiction.

Like Whitman said:

“I contradict myself. Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.”

So I’ve realised that for me to be successful is not enough. To define a clear goal and execute with excellence everything that would get me to that goal is what is important. Even more so is the ability to think in ways that span all of the parts of my life, all of the things that are changing and are likely to keep changing; to see the relationships between all of these things and how they influence each other to make up a whole life, a whole Graham. By taking enough time; with enough awareness of all of these parts; everything that’s changing; and their connections, their relatedness; I am now able to come up with clear goal statements that are actually close to what I really want.

How about you?

Have you noticed that as you grow older (and hopefully wiser,) the way that you define your goals is changing, becoming more able to bring together contradictory parts of your life?

So that you can better predict into the future: when you reach these goals, will they still be what you want out of life or are will they turn into something you don’t want?

What about your business goals? If you’re leading a business; in your setting of your goals, your purpose, your strategy, if you are simply using logic, if you neglect to really think; if you neglect some of the parts, or how things change over time, or the interrelatedness of elements;  then you will be setting objectives, goals and strategies that – at best – limit you. And at worst lead you down the road to failure.

As Bohr said; beware too much logic and too little thinking.

To learn more on thinking beyond logic, come to a Dojo4Life training:

and read Otto Laske’s book

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