The Power of Neutral Thinking

| Published by Mark Akerley under Newsletters |

Not to pooh-pooh the self-help gurus, abundant thinking consultants, and the you can do anything coaches (some can be quite entertaining and even inspirational) but “just believe” or “the universe will provide” just doesn’t cut it for me when trying to improve business results. Thinking positively of course is a good thing if it makes you feel good. But by itself it won’t really solve your problems or grow your business. However, neutral thinking will – by driving objectivity, keeping emotions in check and causing you to respond rather than react. So can you learn and practice neutral thinking for better results? Absolutely. And here are three tips to do so:

Stop Thinking Negatively

Regardless of how you rate the power of positive thinking most agree that negative thinking is a complete waste of time and energy – your time and your energy! Moreover, negative thinking creates both physical and mental fatigue, which in turn reduces your ability to communicate effectively and think creatively, which of course are two very important ingredients for solving problems and improving results in your business. So when negative thoughts do enter your head (and they will) – e.g. when a colleague lets you down, when your new system crashes, or even when a car cuts you off on the highway – immediately shift to neutral thinking by asking questions rather than rushing to conclusions. For example, “What don’t I know about this event?” “What causes such behavior?” “What are all the possibilities that could cause such a result?” etc. Neutral thinking will stop negative thinking in its tracks and keep your mind functioning effectively.

Insist on Alternatives

Negative thinking is often characterized by a lack of satisfactory options, or any options at all, to address a problem or challenge. However, there is always another and maybe even better way to do something – you just may not know it! If you find yourself thinking negatively because the only option you have happens to stink, switch to neutral thinking immediately by brain storming as many alternatives as you can. Be sure to focus on quantity of options not quality (that comes later), solicit ideas from others, and even attempt to redefine the problem (you might be very surprised to find a change in perspective after doing this). Once you have a list of alternatives prepared, review them objectively and determine which ideas you can eliminate, combine or simplify. You will most likely have a new or revised option, maybe even several.

Focus on What You Can Do – Not on What You Can’t Do

Solving problems and taking advantage of opportunities can be difficult to say the least. But thinking negatively about difficult tasks all to often leads to procrastination, more negative thinking and the lack of any action at all – a vicious cycle. However, there is always something you can do constructively even if it’s a miniscule action – you just have to look for it. So if you feel stuck with a problem or challenge because you don’t have the resources you need, your supplier doesn’t agree with you, the HR department doesn’t have time to help you, etc., make a list of those little things you can do regardless of their individual impact on the problem. Start doing them now, one at a time, and keep looking for more. By focusing on what you can do and taking action, you will stimulate your creativity, increase your confidence and discover more solutions to the problem – a virtuous cycle.


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