The Art Of Thinking!

by Paul Castain on October 11, 2010

Depending on which person you want to believe on the internet, we have anywhere from 40,000 to well over 65,000 thoughts a day.

Unfortunately, the bulk of those thoughts are the same thoughts we thought about yesterday and the day before. Additionally, we’re all so busy running that we aren’t conscious of most of our thoughts.

I thought today would be as good a day as any to get you thinking about  thinking.

First, a non negotiable: You need to carve out time, daily for this activity. The more you do, the better you become at it. You’ll notice a huge improvement in your creativity, the speed in which you can make a decision and your overall level of awareness.

Train Your Mind To Give You Answers

1)    Have your journal open with your pen on a blank page. It’s a friendly reminder to your brain that you expect to put something on that paper.

2)    Ask better questions of yourself. One of my favorite brainstorming questions that I’ve shared on this blog many times is “In what ways can I (fill in the blank)?”

3)    Jim Raffel shared a way cool idea on his blog recently. “When making a numbered list always add one number at the end and leave it blank. By doing so you encourage your mind to keep thinking. Instead of the ‘that’s done’ mentality, your thinking will be ‘what else?’”

4)    Pause and Ponder: Whenever I read a book or an article, I will intentionally stop and ponder the concept they are presenting. Even if I disagree I like to have a clear articulation as to “Why”. I can’t tell you how many ideas I get simply because I stopped and gave my brain an opportunity to work its magic.

5)    Music can be instrumental (pardon the pun) in stimulating your thinking. For the longest time I found great results from listening to classical. It was something I started doing in High School when studying for exams. During the last year, I’ve switched to more meditative music and found the relaxed state made a huge difference in my productivity.

No Rules Thinking!

When you are looking for options, answers, creative solutions etc try attacking it from an “it’s all good” mentality. By having too many rules or restrictions you miss options.

Just let your pen move and don’t allow yourself to judge on the first round.

Did you know: Thomas Edison trained himself to fall asleep standing up while holding a metal ball. Just as he would fall asleep the ball would drop, waking him up. He would then record what he had been thinking about.

Immediately before and immediately after you sleep your brain goes into Theta Waves which is where some of the greatest creativity occurs because you are relaxed and you don’t really have any rules for your thinking.

Suggestion: Falling asleep standing up will freak people the hell out so instead, keep a digital recorder and your journal on your night table. Try jotting down your ideas right before and immediately after you sleep.

Applying Rules

This is when you are allowed to judge your ideas and narrow your focus.

By all means, be critical during this type of thinking and use process of elimination.

The Funny Thing About Ideas . . .

They never make appointments because they just show up!

To that end, you need to make it priority #1 to capture ideas the moment they happen.

At a minimum, you need to have a digital voice recorder and your journal with you at all times. I use the digital recorder when I’m driving or in a situation where there’s no time to write. Then I get it into my journal because it helps me crystallize the thought.

Tip: Create holding patterns for your ideas:

This is where the journal comes in handy again.

I have spots in my journal for blog ideas, training ideas, ideas for my book, etc. and they are created as a working list of possibilities.

Let’s take the blog ideas. Each evening, when I sit down to write my blog post for the next day, I go to my journal and either select from an extensive list of ideas or I let those ideas prompt a better one.

This way, I don’t really have to start from scratch each day.

Let me leave you with a final thought on thinking:

Right about now, someone either agrees with me and then proceeds to not embrace the new behavior or they push back because they don’t have time to embrace the new behavior.

This is one of those areas where you simply must make the time!

As the title of the song so eloquently states . . .

Free Your Mind And The Rest Will Follow!

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  • http://JimRaffel.com Jim Raffel

    Paul,
    Thanks for the mention. Lots of good ideas here to work into my idea curation process. In addition to listening to music I sometimes listen to a podcast as background. It’s interesting what you hear and how it turns your think time into an idea mashup.
    Jim

  • Michael Grandinetti

    Good morning Paul, as an avid believer in taking time to think, organize, and control those great things we call ideas. I have tried many ways to invoke great ideas; from complete quiet, to all genres of music, to starring at planes near the airport. Once you find that so-called happy place the thoughts and ideas seem to flow freely. I have been blessed with two great places. Micky D’s in the morning gets those very creative ideas popping out of nowhere while you ponder “what the” are these people thinking and the Ft Lauderdale beach put your toes in the sand and your mind becomes instantly free.

    To free thinkers and rock stars “write it, keep it, use it”

  • http://askjohncharles.com John Charles Steinmuller

    Paul.. asking ourselves questions is a great way to “think” about what our day is going to be about. You reminded me of an daily exercise to write out those questions on a 3 x 5 index card to review first thing in the morning.

    I got this time from my friend Dr Phil Humbert…. he teaches a simple method of reviewing goals and asking yourself questions … if interested…here’s a link to his latest ezine-> http://www.philiphumbert.com/TIPS/20101010.htm

    He mentions that strategy again and again. You are really doing your readers a great service by reminding us of this daily activity.

  • http://www.yoursalesplaybook.com/ Paul Castain

    @ Jim: Thanks and great idea regarding the Podcast in the background!

    @ John: Awesome idea and I’ve been following Dr Humbert for about 3 years now.

    Thank you both for stopping by!

  • http://www.thenewhandshake.com Barbara Giamanco

    Great post, Paul, as always!

    Yesterday was my quarterly peer advisory group meeting, which reminds me to update my progress and plan, as well as get ready for the upcoming months. Sooo…I’m in thinking/planning mode as I type:).

    I especially like your tip for keeping a journal to capture ideas for blog posts and articles, because I do, at times, find myself struggling for a topic idea. I’m going to follow your lead on this one.

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