Avoiding Mental Flabbiness
Can you imagine what would happen in your life if you practiced big-picture and reflective thinking? You would stop wasting time on things that don’t really matter, which would give you more energy for the really important activities. You would be more organized and efficient. You would experience less stress. Most importantly, you would [learn] more each day that would enable you to lead better lives in the future.
The all-important task of “thinking”
When we fail to make thinking a priority, we develop what one author called “mental flabbiness.” This may not sound like a life-threatening condition, but in some ways, it can be quite dangerous.
Fortunately, there is an antidote to mental flabbiness: making time to think. I realize this can be a daunting assignment for people whose schedules are already bursting at the seams. And yet, when we don’t make thinking a priority, we’re actually sabotaging our own creativity and success.
8 things you should know about CREATIVE THINKING.
1) We’re all creative. It’s a myth that some people aren’t creative. We all have the capacity to innovate; it’s just that some of us are not expected or asked to be creative. One of the first things creativity experts advise … is to want and expect good ideas.
2) Creativity seldom comes easily. A study found that it took most great musicians and painters years of hard work before they produced a masterpiece. “Chance favors the prepared mind,” said Louis Pasteur. Albert Einstein added: “I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent. Curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism, have brought to me my ideas.”
3) Few innovations are completely original. Innovators get their ideas the same way everybody else does: Some they dream up and some they borrow.
4) Ideas are fragile. Experts advise fighting the judge in us that kills ideas before they hatch. Protect and nurture new ideas until you’ve thought them through. Then test them on your closest teammates or friends. Don’t expose your infant ideas to negative people. “Ideas are like babies,” says Peter Drucker. “They are born small, immature and shapeless. They are promises rather than fulfillment.”
5) The more ideas, the better. The person who is capable of producing a large number of ideas, has a greater chance of having significant ideas. When brainstorming, write down every idea, no matter how crazy it might sound. One “bad” idea might trigger a great one.
6) Work on problems, not symptoms. Professor Daniel Yovich, who teaches “Applied Creativity” at Purdue University, believes the most important first step to creative problem solving is to accurately identify the problem.
7) Be aware of killer phrases. Eliminate telling yourself and others any of these killer phrases: “It doesn’t fit within the system,” or “It will never be approved,” or “The timing just isn’t right.” Or: “It didn’t work before,” or “It’s too wild,” or “We’re not ready for that.”
8) Fight mental sclerosis. We can choose to be creative, just as we can choose to exercise. Always read and listen with the question in mind: “How might I be able to use or improve this?” Engage in hobbies, games, crossword puzzles, etc. Read. Travel. Choose to be courageous and confident.
“Nurture yourself,” writes Michael Ray and Rochelle Myers in their book Creativity in Business. “Be determined about experiencing a creative life. Be light and joyous and curious. Give yourself times of peace and silence, even on a busy work day, even if they are very short. Every time you experience [creativity], you increase the probability that it will happen again. Eventually, you will simply be creative.”
Think about it. One of the highest commodities in a person’s life is a great idea. A great idea has transforming power. It can take you places you may never have dreamed of going. But great ideas don’t come out of nowhere. They begin as thoughts.
So it stands to reason that the more time we spend thinking, the more great ideas we’ll have.
The good news is that it doesn’t take hours of thinking each day to generate ideas and stay in good shape. You can accomplish a great deal in a few moments of concentrated, intentional thought.
Big Picture Thinking
Mama: The exercise [of big picture thinking] can help you to put things back in perspective in your life if there are things that have become more important to you than you feel they should be. It can help draw your mind and thoughts toward the things that are really important.
[Try this:] Focus intently on what things really are the most important to you in your life. List a few of them.
Intentionally pull your thoughts out of the details of the day or your current circumstances and focus on the big picture, what’s really going on. As you do so, pray and ask the Lord to help you see things the way He sees them and be able to place importance on the things that are the most important. When you get to Heaven and look back on your life on Earth, what do you see as still standing and productive from your efforts today?
[In addition to] “big-picture thinking,” which I devote three minutes to every morning, at the end of the day, I spend another five to 10 minutes doing what I refer to as “reflective thinking.” I go to my thinking chair and spend time reviewing my whole day. I ask myself questions such as, “Who did I see today? How did I add value to those people? What lessons did I learn?” Reflective thinking doesn’t take long, but it’s an incredibly valuable exercise because it turns experience into insight.
Jesus: People often equate meditation with reflection, but reflection has more to do with careful thought on past happenings, decisions, and events in your lives, or even something you’ve read.
Reflection, especially when you’re reflecting on something that you’ve read in the Word, is extremely beneficial. So take the time for both in your personal time with Me as often as you can.
Get a “thinking” chair
The best way to start the thinking process is to designate a specific place to think. It doesn’t matter if your “thinking chair” is in your den at home or your office at work. It just has to be a spot where you can do nothing but think for a few moments twice a day.
I have a designated “thinking chair” in my office. I don’t sit in it when someone drops by to talk. I don’t take power naps in it. I use it only for thinking.
This chair doesn’t think for me, but it does “speak to me” every now and then. If I’ve gone a few days without sitting in it, its presence subtly reminds me that I’m not devoting enough time to the all-important task of thinking.
Jesus: Find that quiet place where you know you can’t be disturbed and get completely quiet in body, mind, and spirit. Do it every single day. It might come easy to you, or it might take some practice.
You need at least a little time every day where you’re completely quiet in voice and mind. A time where you’re not even getting direct answers from Me about your work, or pouring your heart out in prayer, or confessing your sins to Me. A time of absolute peace and quiet in body and spirit.
…and if you’re not already used to getting quiet before Me, it might take self-discipline for you to learn to relax and let Me take over your mind and spirit.
The bottom line is this: If you find a place to think your thoughts, you’ll have more thoughts. If you find a place to shape your thoughts, you will have better thoughts. And if you find a place to stretch your thoughts, you will have bigger thoughts.
All this, from just three minutes in the morning and five to ten minutes at night. As you can see, the results far outweigh the time investment.
Why not make the effort to take small steps of progress in thinking and being creative every day and enjoy the results!