Thinking Tools
Clarify Your Meaningful Goals by Writing Your Own Eulogies

Clarify Your Meaningful Goals by Writing Your Own Eulogies

If you are in a major transition in your life­­ ­— a career transition, or a change of phase, or an adjustment of your direction — you need objectivity about your deepest, most meaningful goals. You might want to consider writing your own eulogy to help clarify your...

The Basic Solution for Blankness

The Basic Solution for Blankness

In Tap Your Own Brilliance, I teach in-depth tactics for dealing with the three most common thinking obstacles: overload, blankness, and floundering. But sometimes you need only the basic solution. The basic solution for overload is to get ideas out of your head onto...

Color Your Thoughts

Color Your Thoughts

In my (free) Thinking Directions Starter Kit, I teach a foundational tactic called "Thinking on Paper." Whenever you need leverage to deal with any mental issue — cognitive, emotional, or behavioral — "thinking on paper" helps. The process of purposefully writing out...

Concentrate with Love

Concentrate with Love

I recently re-read The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey, a classic book on mind management from 1974. I was struck by this passage:   As silly as it may sound, one of the most practical ways to increase concentration on the ball is to learn to love it! Get...

FAQ: How Do You Save Your Mental State?

FAQ: How Do You Save Your Mental State?

A while ago, one of the Launchers came to a coaching call with a problem. He had done fabulously creative work in analyzing some financial trends — by working through the night until 5:00 a.m. In one respect, this was progress. He had come to an earlier coaching call...

Top Ten Thinking Tactics

Top Ten Thinking Tactics

My list of "Top Ten Thinking Tactics" has evolved over time. Many years ago, I sent out a postcard that listed the top ten thinking tactics as: Think on paper in full sentences. Overloaded? Make a list. Confused? Ask yourself “What DO I know?" Stuck? Complain to...

How to Dream Bigger

How to Dream Bigger

Tactic: How to Dream Bigger Thinking Tactic Overview What: This is a process to help you open up your imagination as you contemplate your future. When: Use this tactic as a first step when your life seems stuck in a rut or directionless or you have no major goals....

FAQ: How do you remember to notice something you can’t predict?

FAQ: How do you remember to notice something you can’t predict?

People often ask me how to remember to do something in the future. The answer usually is, make a plan. Then remember to check the plan. But some kinds of actions cannot be planned.  For example, I started a humor notebook at the recommendation of comedian Judy Carter....

Start the Day with a Thought Download

Start the Day with a Thought Download

I recommend "thinking on paper" * every day, on whatever issue seems important. But what do you do if you aren't sure what to think about? Start with a "thought download." ** A "thought download" is a page of thoughts--your thoughts. The page could be filled with...

What to Do When You’re Waffling

What to Do When You’re Waffling

Way back in 1998, when I wrote my first article on what to do when you get stuck on a difficult thinking problem, I offered one general piece of advice: Identify the problem. As Louis Sullivan said, "the problem contains and suggests its own solution." Although I now...

Change Proliferating Questions into Answers

Change Proliferating Questions into Answers

Sometimes when you "think on paper," you don’t get paragraphs of clarity, but paragraphs of questions. The questions proliferate in all directions as you see more and more things you don't know and feel you need to know to make any progress. Questions proliferating in...

How Much Time Is a Problem Worth? 3 Minutes, 15 Minutes, More?

How Much Time Is a Problem Worth? 3 Minutes, 15 Minutes, More?

The #1 general-purpose problem-solving tactic I teach is "Thinking on Paper." If you are not familiar with it, get my freebie, "Thinking Directions Starter Kit." If you are confused, overloaded, uncertain, blank, conflicted, or stuck in any way, I recommend you turn...

Mental Leverage

Mental Leverage

Some of you may be familiar with Wally Wallington and his techniques for moving Stonehenge-like blocks (up to 19,000 pounds) with ropes, little rocks, wood, and his own effort. No metal, no machines, no engines. Just clever use of levers and wedges. If you haven't...

Don’t Motivate Yourself, Lead Yourself

Don’t Motivate Yourself, Lead Yourself

There was a theme in the questions that members of the Thinking Lab asked me this week. They all involved some form of, "how do I motivate myself?" I've had an epiphany. This is a mistaken way to conceptualize the problem. Motivation is an effect, not a cause. When...

How Do You Know You’ve Chosen a Good Next Step?

How Do You Know You’ve Chosen a Good Next Step?

It's a truism that you should break a complex or difficult project into small steps. The difficulty in applying that truism is in figuring out which of many possible steps to take next. You need to choose a good next step, quickly and effectively, without falling into...

Add a 15-Second Check to Your Decision

Add a 15-Second Check to Your Decision

As a general rule, it is proper to trust your mind. Your conscious conclusions are based on all of your past choices, your past experiences, and the cumulative expertise you've built up over the years. However, when you make a decision based on limited information,...

Right Brain/Left Brain vs. Conscious/Subconscious

Right Brain/Left Brain vs. Conscious/Subconscious

Many pop psychologists divide mental work into "right brain" and "left brain" functioning. The right brain is supposed to be the holistic, intuitive, creative, emotional side. The left brain is supposed to be the logical, analytical, verbal side. This division was...

Use Your Listening Skills to Help You Think

When something's on your mind, talking over the issue with a friend is a real value. A good listener can gently encourage you to untangle your thoughts, without taking over the conversation and/or enforcing his own agenda. Wouldn't it be nice if you had a good...

Deja Vu All Over Again

"How did I wind up here again?" We've all had the experience: a bad situation keeps repeating itself. Maybe it's a confrontation with a particular person that keeps coming up and going badly. Maybe it's the feeling of being overloaded by routine administrative work...

How do you know you need to think about that?

Some things need thinking. Some things don’t. Thinking is a purposeful process of integrating new observations with existing knowledge and values to figure out something new. The goal of thinking is either to put something into words (conceptualize it), infer a...

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