Hope is not a plan, as the old saying goes.
Instead, becoming a better thinker is a systematic process of improving your mental inputs and outputs.
- You improve the inputs by reading good books, listening to thoughtful podcasts, participating in engaging conversations, subscribing to interesting newsletters, and taking part in other similarly enriching activities.
- You improve the outputs by developing habits and processes that facilitate the ongoing synthesis of these inputs into meaningful thoughts and ideas, some of which have the power to impact your world in a meaningful way.
Generally speaking, we all seem reasonably good at choosing input types that work for us: book genres that engage us; podcast formats that fit our listening style; conversations with people we enjoy; newsletters on topics that fascinate us in some way.
But I find that some of us are not quite as good at choosing habits and processes for thinking that really work FOR US.
What I mean is that some of us are prone to looking at what habits and processes work for other people and assuming that these same habits and processes will work for us too.
Sometimes they do, but oftentimes they don't.
The reasons for this are obvious but can be easy to take for granted:
- Our minds work differently.
- Our daily schedules are different.
- Our input mixes are different.
- Our desk setups are different.
- Our biological and circadian rhythms are different.
You get the point. We're all different.
Yes, there are certain universal, foundational principles for better thinking that work for everyone. We explore those in the THINKERS Manifesto.
But things get more personal when it gets down into the nitty-gritty granularity of daily habits and processes to execute those universal, foundational principles.
So it should not surprise us when we fail to see the expected results after trying a process that has worked for someone else.
This can lead to frustration. We blame ourselves. We wonder what we did wrong. In the worst cases, we may even wonder if maybe we're such a lost cause that trying to improve our thinking is a dead-end road.
Well, I'm here to tell you that your "failure" with a particular habit or process or tool is actually no failure at all. (Hello, power of reframing.)
Instead, it's just one more step along your path to finding out the best mix of habits, processes, and tools that actually work FOR YOU.
I was reminded of this yesterday during our virtual happy hour with members of the THINKERS Workshop. We got to talking about our thinking habits, and Daniel brought up his use of a particular guided daily planner.
He mentioned how it works okay for him overall, but that it fits better on some days than others based on the way his daily routine can fluctuate throughout the week. And he said it matter-of-factly, without even a hint of regret or disappointment in his voice.
He wasn't failing by not using the planner to its full extent. The planner was failing by not integrating more fluidly and consistently into his daily routine.
I appreciated Daniel saying what he did ... because I am someone who, as I described above, occasionally experiences frustration when I don't fill out every prompt in a guided planner every day.
I feel like I'm failing, but really I'm not.
And neither are you.
Is there value in developing the daily habits that these kinds of planners guide their users toward? Yes. Absolutely. That's why they work for a lot of people. But that doesn't mean that they work for everyone.
Which brings us to this week's big idea ...
What works for you?
What habits and processes put you in the best position to do your best thinking, generate your best ideas, produce your best work, and feel the most successful and fulfilled?
You've spent more time with yourself than anyone else. What have you noticed is most likely to work?
If you haven't spent a lot of time thinking about this, maybe now is a good time to do so. Examine your habits, processes, and tools. What's working? What's not working? Where can you improve?
And sure, take a look at what works for other people. See what different tools are out there. Try stuff. But filter everything through that key question.
What works ... FOR YOU?
Because that's all that matters.
Below, you will find three articles that will provide you with ideas for habits and processes you can adopt to be more successful.
Some of these ideas will work for you, others won't. I trust you to figure out what will work and ditch the rest.
But first, I have a link to a short essay that THINKERS Notebook founder Sean Jackson wrote that you should definitely read ...
As usual, the answer is a nuanced mix of both.
Read Sean's article, which includes a few helpful charts that he drew up in his THINKERS Notebook.
Here it is: What’s more important: a great idea or strong execution?
You can read the piece, and then join the discussion in the comment section.
The THINKERS Workshop costs $499.99 per year to be a member. If you own a THINKERS Notebook, then you get a special discount. Just reply to this email and let me know you have a notebook, and I'll pass along the discount code.
Now on to this week's links ...
What can you steal from this list of 66 habits?
Steve Pavlina’s book, Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth, offers an interesting look at self-improvement.
“Perception is the most basic aspect of truth,” Pavlina writes, “If you want to improve some part of your life, you have to look at it first.”
Read: 66 Personal Development Habits For Smart People (Farnam Street)
Six habits that will help you get more meaningful living done
Regardless of your situation, with the limited time that we have in our day, it pays to make the most of that time by being as productive as possible and by managing our time wisely.
This is not always easy to do as there are factors we encounter that are out of our control but the question still remains: how do we make the most of our day? — The simple answer is that we need to tailor our habits in ways that will improve our natural productivity levels. But how? Here are a few obvious but often neglected habits that can get you there.
Read: Tailor Your Habits to Make the Most of Your Time (Medium)
The ultimate guide to becoming your best self
I fought against cultivating good habits and routines because I didn’t want to feel like I had to live my life by other people’s rules. I wanted to be my own person and do my own thing. Besides, keeping a routine was hard work.
Know what I discovered?
Having no routine or structure is so much more draining mentally, physically, and emotionally than any routine could ever be!
By not doing the things I knew would make me better — habits like exercising, meditating, and creating gratitude lists—I deprived my body and mind of the energy that these types of positive activities create. I felt tired…inside and out. And to make matters worse, my dreams and goals were just slipping away.
A few years ago I decided to take a different path…to listen to Aristotle and actually work on creating excellence in my life by establishing a positive daily routine.
Quote of the week
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Chief Creative Thinker