Change your thinking and you will change your life. So says my friend John Maxwell. I’ve been working with him directly for the last 15 years, and love many of the books he’s written. I just finished re-reading, and lecturing on “Thinking for a Change.” In this book, Maxwell looks at the power and importance of how we think and gives practical steps for developing our thinking skills. It’s filled with wisdom and practical insights, I highly recommend you read the entire book yourself, but here’s a synopsis of it for you. Enjoy!

No matter how complicated life gets or how difficult problems may seem, good thinking can make a difference—if you make it a consistent part of your life. The more you engage in good thinking, the more good thoughts will come to you. Success comes to those who habitually do things that unsuccessful people don’t do. Achievement comes from the habit of good thinking. The more you engage in good thinking, the more good thoughts you will continue to think. It’s like creating a never ending army of ideas capable of achieving almost anything. As playwright Victor Hugo asserted, “An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an invasion of ideas.”

Skill 1: Acquire the Wisdom of Big-Picture Thinking

Big-picture thinking brings wholeness, maturity and perspective to a person’s thinking. Get in the habit of bringing together diverse concepts, accepting seemingly opposite points of view at the same time, and embracing what authors James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras call the “Genius of the AND”. In business, for example, pursue purpose AND profit, embrace a fixed core ideology AND vigorous change and innovation, be highly visionary AND execute the details well.

Skill 2: Unleash the Potential of Focused Thinking

No one achieves greatness by becoming a generalist. You don’t hone a skill by diluting your attention to its development. The only way to get to the next level is to focus. Whether your goal is to increase your level of play, sharpen your business plan, improve your bottom line, develop your subordinates, or solve personal problems, you need to focus.

Skill 3: Discover the Joy of Creative Thinking

Creative thinking works something like this: Think -> Collect -> Create -> Correct -> Connect. Once you begin to think, you are free to collect. Ask yourself, what material relates to this thought? Once you have the material, ask, what ideas can make the thought better? That question takes an idea to the next level. Then, correct or refine it by asking, what changes can make these ideas better? Finally, connect the ideas by positioning them in the right context to make the thought complete and powerful. The whole process happens more readily when you have a framework or picture of where you want to go. If you go to the ideas, soon the ideas will flow to you.

Skill 4: Recognize the Importance of Realistic Thinking

The essence of realistic thinking is discovering, picturing, and examining the worst-case scenario. If you picture the worst case and examine it honestly, then you’re ready for anything. Take the advice of Charles Hole, who advised, “Deliberate with caution, but act with decision; and yield with graciousness or oppose with firmness.”

Skill 5: Realize the Power of Strategic Thinking

When using strategic thinking to solve a problem or plan a way to meet an objective, many people make the mistake of jumping the gun by trying immediately to figure out how to accomplish it. Instead of asking how, they should first ask why. Asking why helps them think about all the reasons for decisions. It helps them open their minds to possibilities and opportunities.

Skill 6: Feel the Energy of Possibility Thinking

People who embrace possibility thinking are capable of accomplishing tasks that seem impossible because they believe in solutions. The first step in becoming a possibility thinker is to stop yourself from searching for and dwelling on what’s wrong with any given situation. When you find yourself listing all the things that can go wrong or all the reasons something can’t be done, stop and say, “Don’t go there.” Then ask, “What’s right about this?” That will help to get you started.

Skill 7: Embrace the Lesson of Reflective Thinking

Greek philosopher Socrates observed, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” For most people reflection and self examination don’t come naturally because it can be a fairly uncomfortable activity for a variety of reasons. But if you don’t carve out the time for it, you are unlikely to do any reflective thinking. As much as any other kind of thinking, reflection requires solitude. It’s not the kind of thing you can do well near a television, in a cubicle, while the phone is ringing, or with children in the same room.

Skill 8: Question the Acceptance of Popular Thinking

Many individuals follow others almost automatically. Sometimes they do so because they desire to take the path of least resistance. Other times they fear rejection, or they believe there’s wisdom in doing what everyone else does. But if you want to succeed, you need to think about what’s best, not what’s popular.

Skill 9: Encourage the Participation of Shared Thinking

Good thinkers, especially those who are also good leaders, understand the power of shared thinking. They know that when they value the thoughts and ideas of others, they accomplish more than they ever could on their own. We tend to think of great thinkers and innovators as soloists, but the truth is that the greatest innovative thinking doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Innovation results from collaboration.

Skill 10: Experience the Satisfaction of Unselfish Thinking

The spirit of generosity created by unselfish thinking gives people an appreciation for life and an understanding of its higher values. Seeing those in need and giving to meet that need puts a lot of things into perspective. It increases the quality of life for the giver and the receiver.

Skill 11: Enjoy the Return of Bottom-Line Thinking

The process of bottom-line thinking begins with knowing what you’re really going after. It can be as lofty as the big picture vision, mission, or purpose of an organization; or it can be as focused as what you want to accomplish on a particular project. What’s important is that you be as specific as possible. If your goal is for something as vague as “success,” you will have a painfully difficult time trying to harness bottom-line thinking to achieve it.

I hope you have enjoyed our journey together through the kinds of thinking that make people successful and I hope you have learned more about yourself and how you think. Your thinking, more than anything else, shapes the way you live. It’s really true that if you change your thinking, you can change your life.

Interested in purchasing this book? You can get it here: