Aug 5, 2011


Larn How to Become a Strategic Thinker?

  • Aug 5, 2011
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  • Are you one of those people who formulate a master plan -- to manage your time or to lose weight, and so on but it never seems to turn out the way you planned?  If you are, it may be time to step back and learn how to think more strategically.  Thinking about what you really want first works much better than a laundry list of solutions, or goals with action steps.

    I notice as a coach that a common mistake people make in going after what they want is failing to think through what they are really after, confusing strategies with their objectives (or outcomes), goals and the actions they need to take. They end up falling into a trap of continuous activity without ever really shifting out of the problem.

    Single people do this when they take actions "to meet people" without really thinking through what aspect of their lives they want to enhance, what type of person might fit the bill, where this person might hang out, and what changes they might actually have to make when that person actually does enter their lives. Though they actually may meet many people, it doesn't necessarily change their lives - or causes a host of new problems! - because they've failed to identify the actual outcome they want to achieve.

    You might think of strategic thinking as holistic problem-solving.  It's a comprehensive way of looking at a situation that focuses your priorities inside a framework in which you can set goals and take actions. It promotes clear thinking by identifying the approach you want to take towards moving forward to get what you want.

    Some basic strategic questions are:  how can I achieve my outcomes in a more efficient, clever, satisfying, less effortful, more profitable or elegant way, and in a way that encompasses all of who I am?  Perhaps I can achieve multiple outcomes with the same strategy?

    1.    The first step in formulating a strategy is to define what you want to achieve. Ask:  What do I really want?  Define this broadly, including how you'll feel when you've reached it. The approach that you use to reach your desired outcome is your strategy.
    2.    Set goals. Goals are a way to mark your progress in achieving your outcomes.  Create goals by working backwards from the end result you're trying to achieve.
    3.    Take action. Break down your goals into doable, bite-sized pieces, to determine the specific and systematic actions you'll need to take to reach your desired outcome.
    A recent client's Deprivation Strategy towards weight loss may be instructive. She wanted to lose twelve pounds, and cutting out sweets and snacks, and walking two miles a day wasn't working.  She wasn't sticking with it.

    "What's your objective?" I asked her.  " Who will you be and how will you feel when you lose 12 pounds?"  She responded that she'll be someone who's more in control, and that she'll feel healthier and have more energy. While losing weight may have achieved her objectives, she was actually looking for a Feel-Better-About-Myself Strategy.  When she understood what she was really after, she realized she had other options.  She chose to make healthier food choices rather than to diet to lose weight. She enlisted a buddy to walk with her three days a week to feel more energized and in control -- and she got support to boot.  Indeed, by focusing on feeling better about herself, rather than on losing weight, she's been successful in feeling better about herself - and the body she has.

    Another mistake people make is failing to set measurable goals to let them know how their strategy is working.  Remember the elements of SMART goals:  Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reproducible, Time-Sensitive. Business owners and professionals who neglect to define their measurables, often work too hard for the results they are getting.  They would do well to employ the Work-On-the-Business, Not-Just-In-the-Business Strategy.

    Lastly, if optimum performance or personal effectiveness is your objective, the Know-How-You-Operate Strategy is pure gold.  Many people operate on creative cycles.  I have a Ground-Zero Strategy that engages whenever I complete a series of tasks. I know that I naturally gear down, or "empty out" after a cycle of creative work. I know I don't have much juice left, so I schedule in down time to 'go to ground" between projects.  For me this is a time and stress management strategy that works wonders. I don't fret that I'm not 'accomplishing', I feel rewarded for a mission accomplished, and I naturally replenish my creative energy.

    Make strategizing into a game, and let the flow of excitement and momentum it generates stimulate your creativity. You'll expend less effort, be more flexible, flatten your learning curve and have more fun getting what you're really after.

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