When I say Strategic Thinking, what comes to your mind? Planning? Getting ahead of one’s opponent? Business? Politics?
Most of us have an idea of what we think it means to think strategically. Simply put, strategic thinking is the process by which one analyzes critical variables acquired through intellectual, emotional, physical, conscious, and unconscious resources to achieve an identified goal. But, let me ask:
Can you learn to think better strategically?
Yes! You can absolutely do things to improve your ability to think strategically, and this article teaches you how to do so in a few simple steps.
In order to do your best thinking, you need to prepare your brain. Movement helps you do this.
I tell my clients, “Jumping Jacks are your friend.” By this, I mean do things that engage large muscle groups to get the blood flowing throughout your body. This not only helps bring oxygen to your brain, but also helps rid your brain of cortisol, norepinephrine, and other stress hormones. However, it’s not always convenient to do jumping jacks. Going into a bathroom or other semi-private space and doing air squats can accomplish the same thing. The goal is to calm your mind.
“A calm mind is a mind that is able to perform at its best”
Just breathe. In through your nose, out through your mouth. This helps engage the parasympathetic nervous system which is the part of your nervous system that helps to calm your body.
Research shows that not only does a calm mind send signals to the body to relax, but that when our body is calm it sends signals to the mind to help the mind relax.
“A calm body helps to calm the mind”
Sitting upright, without bending or leaning forward, improves circulation and breathing (see steps 1 and 2). Place your chair as close as possible to the table or desk at a comfortable height. By doing this, you avoid strain on your spine, allowing the free flow of blood and spinal fluid.
“A brain and spine without strain or constriction are prepared for optimal performance”
- STOP BEFORE YOU START
Think of the problem and let your mind wander. Stare at something, gaze out the window, or simply close your eyes. Give yourself some mental space before trying to think. By doing this, you are inviting your conscious mind to quiet so that your unconscious mind can engage.
If you are pressed for time, as many strategic thinkers are, think of the problem and count backward, from 100 to 50.
“A quiet conscious mind allows the unconscious mind to work for you”
- FREE WRITE
Don’t dive into strategizing about the problem right away. Take advantage of the fact that you have given your unconscious mind a chance to engage.
Begin writing, without pause, whatever comes to your mind. Do not stop. If you have time to write for three minutes, great! If not, try to write for at least write for one minute. By freewriting, you’re encouraging your unconscious thoughts to pop through to consciousness. Don’t force, simply allow the words to come from your mind to come out.
Even if your freewriting produces only gibberish, you are still inviting your mind to bring unconscious thoughts to consciousness.
I always suggest writing by hand instead of using a computer or device. Writing by hand is a projection directly from the unconscious mind, forcing the mind to engage with the information. I bet you are starting to notice that I am a fan of using the unconscious mind!
- SET A TIMER
Set a timer for 15 to 20 minutes. When it goes off get up walk around, and drink some water. Studies show that even 10% dehydration can negatively impact cognitive ability.
I also believe there is a bump in motivation when you make your mind stop before it wants to, so even if you want to continue writing when the alarm goes off, stop and disengage for at least 3 to 5 minutes.
Repeat steps 1 through 3, and pick up where you left off.
Do I have more methods, techniques, and tips to help you perform at your peak? Absolutely! However, start here and watch your strategic thinking improve.