Wednesday, October 28

Landing Your Thoughts

A fantastic article on your thoughts by Dr. John C. Maxwell. Enjoy!

Years ago, a friend of mine looked at me in a meeting and made a statement that I’ve never forgotten. “John,” he said, “ideas are like soap bubbles floating in the air close to jagged rocks on a windy day.”

What a vivid picture of how incredibly frail thoughts and ideas really are! Think about it. How many times during the day does a thought pop into your head that makes you stop and say, “I really need to write that down—that’s a great idea”? Now, how many of those thoughts do you actually remember and act upon? Unless you’ve made an intentional effort to record your ideas as they come, I’m guessing the first number is far greater than the second.

In my book, “Thinking for a Change”, I talk about the importance of “landing your thoughts.” I compare this process to landing an airplane. What is the first thing you do when the flight attendant announces that your plane has begun its descent? You fasten your seatbelt because you realize you could be hitting the runway hard and you don’t want to get hurt.

Now, if you were really afraid of a bumpy landing, you could beg the flight attendant not to let the pilot land the plane. But, in addition to attracting unwanted attention from airline security, that would defeat the whole point of being on the airplane, which is to get you to your final destination. So you fasten your seatbelt, grit your teeth and prepare for impact.

The same principle applies to landing a thought. Any idea that remains only an idea doesn’t make a great impact. The real power of an idea comes when it goes from abstraction to application.

And that’s where seatbelts (and perhaps some teeth-gritting) are needed. When you land a thought—either by writing it down so you can study it later or by expressing it out loud to the people around you—you’re bound to get all sorts of responses. The members of your audience (including yourself) might be receptive to your thought, but they also might be confused, skeptical, hostile or indifferent.

Such reactions aren’t reserved only for bad ideas. That’s why it’s so important to fasten your mental seatbelt before you attempt to land a thought. When an idea has potential, some part of the landing will probably be rough. But that’s OK, because this process has a way of honing, strengthening and clarifying good thoughts, thereby turning them into great ideas.

With that in mind, here are four observations about thinking that may help you hang tough when you’re trying to land a thought.

1. Thoughts never begin fully formed. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a complete idea come to me immediately. This certainly would be a more efficient way of thinking, but it simply doesn’t work that way.

2. Thoughts take time and others to reach their potential. Notice I didn’t say it takes time or others to develop a thought. It takes both. Thought maturation works best when it occurs over time and with input from other informed, thinking people.

3. Thoughts are very fragile in the beginning. The quote from my friend says it all.

4. Thoughts only reach their full potential in a healthy environment. In this kind of setting, criticism is constructive, not destructive. Hard questions are asked to clarify and define an idea, not to attack it or tear it apart. Thoughts may be challenged, but the overall atmosphere is positive, not negative.

Even if you’re completely prepared for bumpy thought landings, there will always be times when your thoughts crash and burn on impact. In other words, they fail to survive the landing process.

Here are two reasons why.

1. They’re not good thoughts. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with a great idea. I grab the pen and writing pad that I keep by my bed and jot it down, certain that in the morning, I’ll be able to lift the thought to a whole new level. But when I look at what I wrote the next day, all that comes to mind is, “What a stupid thought! What was I thinking?” These thoughts fail because they’re just not good.

2. An unhealthy environment. I just stated that thoughts only reach their full potential in a healthy environment. So it only makes sense that an unhealthy setting—marked by negativity, excuses, and excess stress and busyness—would be detrimental to good thinking.
Begin to think of your thoughts as delicate soap bubbles—full of possibility yet always in danger of evaporating—and handle them accordingly.

John C. Maxwell is an internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker, and author who has sold over 16 million books. His organizations have trained more than 2 million leaders worldwide.

To lead is to serve,
Coach Carolyn

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