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How Successful People Think


For forty years, John C. Maxwell has studied successful people and analyzed how they think. In How Successful People Think, Maxwell discusses the eleven skills that best thinkers exhibit and explains how you can adopt these practices to improve your own success.

Key Concepts in How Successful People Think

According to Maxwell’s outline of the eleven types of thinking and the vital skills attributed to each, people succeed by:

  1.      Unleashing the potential of targeted thinking
  2.      Viewing the wisdom of big-picture thinking
  3.      Discovering the fun of creative thinking
  4.      Recognizing the significance of realistic thinking
  5.      Releasing the energy of strategic thinking
  6.      Questioning the acceptance of famous thinking
  7.      Embracing the lessons of reflective thinking
  8.      Attracting the participation of shared thinking
  9.      Experiencing the pleasure of unselfish thinking
  10.    Feeling the energy of right thinking
  11.    Enjoying the returns



To replace your current thought process with an excellent one, you must commit time to adapting an ongoing process comprised of six steps:

  1. Find best input to begin the thinking process

You can begin the thinking process by absorbing best ideas from magazines, books, lectures, or any other sources. When an idea catches your attention, Maxwell advises keeping it in a place where it will generate further thinking, such as jotting it down onto a sticky note and placing it by your monitor.

  1. Spend time with best thinkers

Maxwell posits that, to become an excellent thinker, you must spend time with smart people and learn how they think.

  1. Think best thoughts

The thinking process requires discipline. Therefore, make it a priority to regularly take time to produce and develop your thoughts.

  1. Act on best thoughts

Since thoughts are often fleeting, your window of opportunity to act on promising thoughts is a small one. When a best thought arises, act fast on it.

  1. Don’t generate best thoughts based on your emotional state

You cannot wait to begin the thinking process until you feel the urge; instead, you must fully engage in trying to achieve best thoughts at all times.

  1. Repeat excellent thinking processes

Continuous generation of best thoughts requires that you repeat the thinking process over and over again.

Maxwell has found it helpful to designate a place to shape, think, stretch, and land your thoughts. To create a best thought, you must examine and tune it perfectly.

Some key points of thinking include:

Big-Picture Thinking

Employing big-picture thinking will help you become a successful leader. The best leaders are capable of making a compelling vision, mapping a path for achieving that vision, and seizing the best moment to proceed. Big-picture thinking also keeps your job in focus. When you view activities in the context of the big picture, you can more easily identify the best tasks to target next. Maxwell trusts that big-picture thinkers are better capable of seeing things from other people’s points of view and also better capable of performing a job in a team.


Creative Thinking

Successful people employ creative thinking; however, few people possess this skill. When you think creatively, you generate worthy ideas, embrace ambiguity, explore options, celebrate the offbeat, link the seemingly unconnected, and reject the fear of failure. Creative thinking is of particular importance when considering a large number of ideas.

To learn to think creatively, explore the world around you. People who are forever seeking fresh ideas tend to learn more, and with that learning comes the ability to think more creatively. Maxwell explains creativity as intelligence having excellence.

Focused Thinking

Employing focused thinking will permit you to think correctly about an issue. This skill helps you direct your attention toward a specific aim, bring more clarity to problems, and take ideas to the next level. When you engage in focused thinking, Maxwell advises that you target areas or challenges most likely to result in a big payoff.

Realistic Thinking

Realistic thinking is essential to your business success. It decreases your downside risk by determining in advance the consequences of various actions. Acknowledging possible results enables you to easily plan for them. In addition, developing contingency plans allows teams and individuals to feel safer. Realistic thinking will also lead you to better define your targets and develop a plan for achieving those targets.

Strategic Thinking

Using strategic thinking will permit you to take a long-view of your situation. This kind of thinking has numerous advantages. For instance, it can help you simplify ideas by breaking them down into convenient pieces, and it can lead you to more accurate thinking by forcing you to move beyond unclear ideas and identify specific ways to address a problem. By aligning your actions with your aim, strategic thinking improves your chance of success.


Unselfish Thinking

This type of thinking facilitates personal fulfillment, improving your worth to others and increasing your standard of life. When people engage in unselfish thinking as a group, they become part of something bigger than themselves, creating an ongoing legacy by investing in others.

Shared Thinking

When you seek out and value other people’s thoughts, you can accomplish more than what you could have completed alone. Shared thinking is quicker, more innovative, and more powerful than solo thinking. Ideas that come from shared thinking benefit from more exposure and result in greater worth.

Changing the way you think and view the world around you can drastically improve your chances of success in the business world, as well as in your life in general. Breaking the thinking habits of a lifetime takes time, so do not feel discouraged if you fall back into your old routine after a few days or weeks. Simply begin again with renewed vigor and you will soon find that your efforts to change the way you think will reward you in ways you could never have predicted!


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