It’s rarely “the thing” itself that is the problem. It’s almost always our thinking about “the thing” that makes the difference.
I remember a board meeting I was in early on in my leadership journey. There was this one guy who always asked tough questions. Every board has one of those. You just know you better be prepared because he could derail a meeting in a minute.
He used to bother me. Over time, board meetings started to feel like preparing for a court battle rather than inviting smart, successful people to help make me and the organization better, stronger, and more effective. Board meetings manifested itself into tension in my body over time.
One of my team members asked me why I always got so tense during board meeting preparation. My initial response was to brush off the comment and suggest I wasn’t stressed. But I knew he was right. My thinking had evolved to the point that rather than see the board meeting as an opportunity to get better, it had become an obstacle to my success.
Past experiences inform our current perspective and perception of any situation
I examined why I felt like I did and what might be the source of that thinking. In doing so, I realized I had allowed past experiences with people who didn’t want to see me succeed creep into my thinking and shape my perspective of this Board member and the entire Board experience.
As I reset my thinking, I learned that this Board member’s tough questions was causing me to be a better leader and our organization was benefiting from it, too. I began to appreciate what he brought to the table. In fact, we started to spend time together outside the official Board meetings.
I learned in the midst of those conversations that he had sat on many Boards over the years. He was frustrated that many Board members were just expected to be “rubber stamps” for whatever the leadership wanted to do. He resented that idea, so he started asking tough questions.
Shift Your Thinking, Change the Outcome
Even though I’m no longer at that organization or responsible and accountable to that Board, that particular Board member and I are still friends. We still get together and bound ideas off each other. He has been a source of great perspective, encouragement, and wisdom over the years.
None of that would have been possible if I had not examined my thinking about the situation itself and shifted my point of view. I believe whatever is holding you back from a successful marriage, business, ministry, etc. is your thinking about your greatest challenge rather than the challenge itself.
I’m not suggesting leaders don’t face formidable foes. That much is true. But your thinking informs how free you are to determine the best course of action rather than reacting in predictable ways based on past experiences.
Here are five things you can do to start thinking about your thinking:
1. Separate your thinking from the person, action, or event itself. Recognize that there is a difference between perception and reality. If you blur the lines, you’ll miss the opportunity to shift your thinking.
2. Invite someone else close to the situation to weigh in on your thinking. Ask them questions about their perception. If it is remarkably different from your, that’s a sign your thinking is influencing your response rather than the circumstances of the situation itself.
3. Determine what outcome you would like to take place. Then write down how your thinking would have to change to achieve that outcome.
4. Explore whether your current thinking is tied to any significant past experiences. Evaluate what impact those experiences are having on your current thinking.
5. Decide how you need to change to open yourself up to new thinking and create new outcomes. This is really when we move from survival to breakthrough.
This is going to feel awkward at first, but it will change your leadership experience and free you from limited thinking that is holding you back from the breakthrough that is right in front of you.
You have the power to create the life you want and live into your best self. You can acquire all the knowledge and experience you want, but you’ll still be limited if you don’t evaluate your thinking along the way. I’m convinced this discipline has helped me push through barriers, break down walls, and move toward breakthrough in both my personal and professional lives. I know it can help you, too.
Breakthrough requires you to be the best version of yourself
The world needs you to be the best version of you. The world doesn’t need more copycats. The opportunities ahead are filled with new and unending possibilities. It’s never been a better time to be in leadership. Whether you are currently leading a multi-national corporation or simply yourself, your success in the coming months and year will be determined by your willingness to explore your thinking.
I believe everyone has greatness inside of them. That greatness may never manifest itself as an international accolade such as the Nobel Peace Prize, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less significant. When you allow yourself to think in new ways, you’ll change your future. And if your leadership creates breakthrough in the organization you lead, the people in your organization will benefit, too.
These are unprecedented times with relentless challenges that require an unwavering resolve to lean in, push through, and position yourself for a breakout experience. If you’ll open yourself to thinking about your thinking, it will lead you to a framework that will fuel your leadership and help you go wherever it is you want to go.
CHALLENGE: Think about a situation or outcome that you’d like to change or create. What about your thinking has led you to where you are right now? How would your thinking need to change for you to create the outcome you desire? What do you need to let go of? What do you need to embrace? If you changed your thinking in a specific way, would be possible?