INTELLECT…Am I challenging my mind?

LEADING THINKERS AND THINKING LEADERS
LEADING THINKERS AND THINKING LEADERS

Man cannot live by bread alone. He also needs some facts. Did you know your intellect craves facts like your body craves food? And just as there are all kinds of foods to choose from, there are all kinds of “facts” available for your consumption. But I’m wondering…

Has your mind been fed intellectual junk food? 

Remember the commercial ad campaign that made this tagline famous: “Because a mind is a terrible thing to waste”? I do and I believe it.

The life of a leader’s mind is important. So many skills converge to make leadership work, but the intellect is the source and head of that fountain. These days, I’m concerned that this fountain is in danger of drying up.

When was the last time you read Jesus? Shakespeare? Plato? Aristotle? Homer? Thoreau? Emerson? Whitman? Tolstoy? To name only a few… 

Barren. This is the word many critics would use to describe the intellectual life of the average American today. And what about our leaders? Are our leaders engaging their minds in ways that move beyond task-thinking or project-managing? Do our leader’s thoughts venture out in search of beauty or are they controlled merely by the grind of duty?

I’m talking about leading beyond behavior modification. We leaders are preached to about changing the culture where we work, ad nauseam. But I want to go deeper into the minds and hearts of those we lead, including myself. As leaders, we don’t just aim to change culture, we aim to change the thinking that creates the unwanted culture.

“The biggest puzzle is not solving and fixing problems, per se, it is fixing the thinking that causes the problems.” – Michael LeGault

We don’t just need more leader-doers, we need more thinking leaders; with the ability to use logic and reason to draw meaning out of the complexities of modern-day living. This is not a luxury! As leaders, we need better critical thinking skills to guide us and our followers through the turbulent waters of globalism and topsy-turvy economic times. Real consequences are attached to stupidity and poor thinking!

How can you and I become better thinkers?

1. Read

Read. Widely.  J. Oswald Sanders quipped, “Leaders are readers”. Take into your mind great literature, poetry, sacred scripture. Lessen the time you spend consuming t.v. and trash culture.

2. Reflect

Ask yourself questions about what you read and learn. Examine claims and counter-claims, concepts, opinions. Also ask yourself questions about what you’re experiencing in your life. Cull from them life-lessons.

 “He who learns but does not think, is lost. He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.” – Confucius

3. Reason

“Leaders are so action-oriented and have so many responsibilities that they are often guilty of moving all the time and neglecting to stop and take time to think. Yet this is one of the most important things leaders can do. A minute of thought is worth more than an hour of talk.” – John Maxwell  

Now I need to go take my own advice!

 

 

 

IMPRESSIONS…What is God saying to me?”

What is God saying to me?
What is God saying to me?

When the devil gives us an idea it’s called temptation. When God gives us an idea we call it an impression. An impression is not a feeling, but more like an inner sensing, an inward urging or pressure, an internal breeze of wind rustling the leaves of your spirit, emotions and will, inviting you to listen with your heart to God’s still small voice.  How do you know when it’s God speaking to you?

Like gravity, I can’t see God but I experience the results of His actions. I confess this makes it hard sometimes. I wish I could see God like I see other people. How can we get to a place where we become sensitive enough to know when its God speaking to us? Here’s the reality…

YOU HAVE TO FIGURE IT OUT

Figure it out means think it out. Thankfully, not by yourself. God knew that we humans would struggle with the subjective nature of our relationship with Him. So, not only did God come to earth in human form in Jesus, but He also gave us a book, The Bible, to be an objective source of authority where we can go to find true information about Him.

Figuring it out means going to God’s Word, the Bible, and reading and studying what it says. God will never contradict His Word. God will never tell you to do something that goes against what He’s already told us in The Bible. One way of figuring out if it’s God’s voice I’m hearing is to check my impressions (what I’m sensing on the inside) with the truths of God’s Word. As you do this…

YOU HAVE TO WORK IT OUT

Very often, when Jesus Christ would teach and preach, people failed to understand His message. The Gospel of John records this insight: “Jesus gave this illustration, but they did not understand what He was telling them.” Jesus was teaching and even using stories to make clear the meaning of his message…and still people didn’t get it.

Knowing what Jesus said and what He meant are two different things. What He said is easy enough, but knowing what He meant is the part where we work it out. Paul, the Apostle, instructed first century Christians: “So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

Thankfully, God has given Christ-followers His very own Spirit to live within us and to teach us the truth. Working out your own salvation with fear and trembling means working with God’s Holy Spirit to understand truth. The Apostle John explains this when he says, However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He (God’s Spirit) will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. – John 16:13 (NKJV)

Once we begin figuring it out and working it out…the natural progression of this process means…

YOU HAVE TO LIVE IT OUT

John also connects these spiritual dots for us in his book 1 John 2:27 (NLT):

“But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.”

The third person of the Holy Trinity, The Holy Spirit, lives and dwells inside every true believer empowering us to figure out our own inner impressions, working out our own understanding of what God is saying to us and to live out the faith we possess.

THE IDEAL LEADER…

THE IDEAL LEADER
THE IDEAL LEADER

There is no such thing as ‘The Ideal Leader’, but there are leaders with ideals! Ideals guide our lives like rudders direct ships. The captain chooses which way to turn the rudder (which ideals to live by) and then that rudder (ideal) steers the ship in the set direction. Our ideals are the rudders in our lives. We choose our values, then our values steer us.

While there is no such thing as ‘The Ideal Leader’, there are leaders with ideals. Socrates lived for his ideal of wisdom. The founder of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, lived for his ideal of “justification by faith alone”. Gandhi lived for his ideal of freedom. Martin Luther King lived for his ideal of justice. President Reagan lived for his ideal of a restored America. Billy Graham lives for his ideal of salvation in Jesus for every person in the world.

“The great men and women of history were not great because of what they earned and owned, but rather for what they gave their lives to accomplish.” – Dr. John Maxwell

So, what ideals are you living for? Perhaps when you hear the word ‘ideal’ you’re tempted to blow it off as pie-in-the-sky, ivory tower, only for dreamers kind of non-sense. You’ve heard the label ‘idealist’ thrown around as a criticism against someone and you’ve concluded that ideals just aren’t practical. “There’s the ideal” you say, “and then there’s the real.”

We all have to deal with the gap between what’s real and what’s ideal; with what is and the way we wish things were. Ideals, for some, feel more like wishful thinking.

A practical way for you and I to think about ‘ideals’ is to see them in their solid form, as when water freezes and turns to ice. Ideals (liquid concepts) harden into solid substances the way water turns from liquid to ice. Ideals in liquid form are concepts. But in solid form they become our expectations. For us, the ideal becomes what’s real.

Let me explain. When I was growing up, my mom taught me to hang up my clothes in my closet in a certain way…the hanger was hung in a specific direction. When I got married, my wife hung my clothes in my closet one day in the exact opposite way my mom had showed me. When I mentioned it to her (NOT the ideal thing to do:), she said, “Well, then, you can just do it yourself!”

What happened here? The way my mother showed me how to hang clothes in my closet had morphed into a solid expectation for me. I came to see the way my mom hung clothes as ‘the ideal’. Without realizing it, I had made my mom’s method ‘ my ideal’ and it had solidified into a solid expectation. The ideal (Brad, here’s how you can hang your clothes in your closet) became my expectation (Here’s how clothes SHOULD be hung in a closet).

NOT ALL IDEALS ARE CREATED EQUAL

I’ve matured since then, and now understand that not all ideals are equally important. I choose my family over my career. I try to choose what’s right over what’s wrong. I value what’s true instead of what’s false. I prefer to honor people rather than dishonor them. I decide to be better not bitter. These are just a few of my ideals. What are some of yours?

 “Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.” ― Louisa May Alcott

IF-THEN THINKING…THE MOTHER OF ALL LEADERSHIP SKILLS

INFERENCES...'IF-THEN' THINKING

Just as a golfer picks which club to use based on the kind of shot he’s facing, leaders choose which type of thoughts they’ll use depending on the situation facing them. Of all the types of thinking, perhaps none are more important than ‘If-Then’ thinking.

“A man cannot directly choose his circumstances, but he can choose his thoughts, and so indirectly, yet surely, shape his circumstances.” – James Allen, As A Man Thinketh

What is ‘If-Then’ thinking? To think ‘If-Then’ is to infer.  ‘If-Then’ thinking is inferring something from something else. For example, when my young son enters the house sweating profusely, face beet-red, huffing and puffing and plops down on the couch, I infer something from what I observe. I infer that his sweating means its hot outside, that he likely ran to get here and that he needs a little rest. Brilliant, I know:)

But what happens if I’m wrong? If I mis-think, then what? I’ve listed below 15 ‘If-Then’ mental mistakes every leader should avoid.

  1. ‘If-Then’ Filtering: IF I get one B on my report card, THEN I can’t be happy.
  2. ‘If-Then’ Black or White: IF I’m not totally good, THEN I’m  totally bad.
  3. ‘If-Then’ Overgeneralization: IF this date doesn’t go well, THEN no dates in the future will go well either.
  4. ‘If-Then’ Jumping to Conclusions: If she doesn’t smile at me, THEN she’s mad at me.
  5. ‘If-Then’ Catastrophizing: IF a thief robbed my neighbor’s house, THEN they’re sure to rob mine.
  6. ‘If-Then’ Personalization: IF we arrive late to the party, THEN the hostess will overcook the meal.
  7. ‘If-Then’ Control Fallacies: IF my work is poor in quality, THEN it’s because my boss is demanding too much over time from me.
  8. ‘If-Then’ Fallacy of Fairness: IF I don’t make the basketball team, THEN I’m not being treated fairly.
  9. ‘If-Then’ Blame: IF I feel bad about myself, THEN it’s because you made fun of me.
  10. ‘If-Then’ Shoulds: IF I enter the race, THEN I should win.
  11. ‘If-Then’ Emotional Reasoning: IF I feel stupid, THEN I must really be stupid.
  12. ‘If-Then’ Fallacy of Change: IF I say the right thing, THEN that will make him give me what I want.
  13. ‘If-Then’ Labeling: IF I fail, THEN I’m a failure.
  14. ‘If-Then’ Always being right: IF I say it’s true, THEN it’s true.
  15. ‘If-Then’ Reward Fallacy: IF I pay my dues, THEN I’ll be recognized eventually.

Gauge, guard and guide your ‘If-Then’ thinking as a leader. Pay attention to it. How? Go deep inside yourself and discover what you’re telling yourself. You’ll come to better understand yourself as you practice 3 Disciplines:

1. Meditation – Go to a quiet place. Get into a comfortable sitting position. Slow your breathing. Quiet your mind…

2. Introspection – Begin to focus on how you’re feeling. Hear what you’re saying. Ask yourself questions. Have a conversation with yourself. Commune with your spirit and with God…

3. Reflection – Sense what you’re experiencing. Consider what you’re learning. Review what was revealed to you during your time of introspection. Record your insights in a journal.

The ancient proverbs reminds us, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” As you think ‘If-Then’ thoughts, so you will be!