It's not an end goal.
It's not a destination.
Becoming a better thinker is a process of building and practicing habits that facilitate clearer, more critical, and more creative thinking, with the ultimate goal of making more optimal decisions that lead to desired outcomes.
It's about systems. It's about consistency. It's about discipline.
And while it can sometimes be difficult to maintain our motivation on a journey that we recognize has no end, the issue there is more with the metaphor than the underlying idea.
Instead of thinking about your commitment to becoming a better thinker as a journey with no end, think of it simply as an ongoing path toward whatever better outcomes are important to you.
The path keeps going (guided by your habits and systems), the improved outcomes keep coming at an ever-increasing rate, and you get more comfortable and confident with each passing step.
What accounts for these continual improvements the longer you stay on your path of better thinking?
The power of compounding.
Because it turns out that our habits -- be they good or bad habits -- don't just build on each other day after day, they actually compound on each other. In other words, the impact accelerates and strengthens over time.
James Clear explains this concept in his book Atomic Habits.
"Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous. It is only when looking back two, five, or perhaps ten years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent."
Apply this to the way you think.
- What could happen if you took 10 minutes each day with a pen and a piece of paper to explore whatever idea is on your mind?
- How valuable of a personal resource could you build if you actually had a process for capturing and organizing your ideas for easy recall in the future?
- What positive chain reactions might you start if you committed to sharing at least one idea every week with someone whose opinion you trust?
These are all positive, proven habits for better thinking. There is value in doing them once, or intermittently.
But when habits like these are performed consistently, their value grows exponentially thanks to the impact of compounding.
It's not always easy to stick with good habits day after day after day. Life gets in the way. Distractions pop up. Motivations ebb and flow.
Why not skip one day? What is really being lost?
These are the moments when remembering the power of compounding can really help.
When you view any habit within the larger context of the person it's helping you become and the better outcomes it is guiding you toward, it's easier to remember why each instance of performing the habit matters.
Sometimes there is value in simply not breaking the chain.
"Success is the product of daily habits--not one-in-a-lifetime transformations. If you want to predict where you'll end up in life, all you have to do is follow the curve of tiny gains or tiny losses, and see how your daily choices will compound ten or twenty years down the line. Are you spending less than you earn each month? Are you making it into the gym each week? Are you reading books and learning something new each day? Tiny battles like these are the ones that will define your future self."
Are you putting the power of compounding to work for you when it comes to your thinking?
In this week's edition of the THINKERS Roundup, you'll find three articles that reinforce the impact of compounding when it comes to personal habits.
Apply these lessons to your thinking, and there's no telling how much exponential growth you can experience in the future.
First, a quick note about next week's new webinar inside the THINKERS Workshop ...
Brian is going to join us to share his thoughts on how to think clearly and make good decisions during a crisis. He has a lot of recent experience in this area, helping to navigate his company through an expansion during the COVID-19 shutdown and enduring impact.
Click here to RSVP and get the Zoom link. (Or to check for the replay if the live event has already occurred.)
Habits don't need to be "big" to lead to big results over time
If you make changes that are small and easy to do, and layer them on top of each other, like units in a fundamental system, you can get powerful results.
Watch: Why habits are the "compound interest" of self-improvement (James Clear on CBS Good Morning)
You build the identity of the person you want to become with habits
A few weeks after my first three attempts to surf, I went to happy hour at a bar in La Jolla. The guy sitting next to me had been a long time surfer who gave me a simple piece of advice that made the difference between me quitting and becoming a surfer. He told me to go 50 times because by that point I’d be too invested to quit.
While he didn’t state it explicitly, he understood that every surf session would have a compounding effect. It took more than 15 sessions before I stood up on a wave. Eventually, I worked my way down from the Costco Wavestorm to riding a 6-foot shortboard and found myself surfing at a skill level that seemed impossible when I started. I had a similar experience with snowboarding. After two seasons and close to 30 days on the mountain, I got to a point where I was able to get down a black diamond.
The progress we experience from the compounding effect of any habit isn’t immediately visible. As a result, people give up quickly. They don’t realize that every day the show up they’re building momentum. They are moving closer and closer to a breakthrough or inflection point.
Read: Habits are the Compound Interest of Self Improvement (Srinivas Rao)
Cultivate discipline and track consistently to achieve results
Most people give up on their goals and fail to achieve their aspirations because they don’t see immediate results. They interpret this to mean they can’t do it or it was a bad goal in the first place and then give up.
On the other hand, those who do manage to succeed in their long-term goals believe that results tend to only show up late in the game. Consequently, they’re able to stay motivated and committed through the long, tough middle.
That idea on its own is the stuff of mediocre self-help books. Where The Compound Effect really shines is the detailed explanation of how exactly to cultivate a belief that persistence pays off.
Ultimately, this comes down to a commitment to small, smart decisions performed on a regular basis. Over time, these decisions compound into effective habits and routines, the true drivers of discipline, confidence, and ultimately, success.
Read: The Compound Effect: How Daily Habits Create Long-term Success (Nick Wignall)
“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems."
-- James Clear, Atomic Habits