“WHEN FACED WITH ANY DECISION, ASK YOURSELF, ‘WHAT IS THE OUTCOME THAT I REALLY WANT?’”
In my line of work, positive thinking will get you killed faster than negative thinking will because it denies risk and is driven by emotions rather than by logic. And, this is true in every situation. So, instead of trying to always think positively, focus on how to always think critically—it’ll help you in all areas of your life. Here’s how to do it…
If you’ve ever played golf (or watched it often enough), you know that there’s a physical process for every stroke that includes factors related to grip, stance, body position and the mechanics of the swing. You can become a critical thinker by attaching this same golf-swing-like process to your decision-making. The ‘Golf Swing of Thinking’ is the four-step process through which you could run every thought. I call it thinking like CRAP—clarity, relevance, accuracy and precision. It’s funny, yes, but more important, it’s memorable.
Most of us have a difficult time communicating clearly, but that’s actually a symptom of not thinking clearly. Most tell others what they don’t want, but have a difficult time saying what it is they do want. For a golfer: Don’t hit it into the water obstacle! Where’s the ball going? Right into the water. Don’t hit it into the sand trap. Don’t spill your milk. Don’t screw this up. Don’t knock on the ball. Don’t let this fall through the cracks. Don’t lose that million-dollar account! Unconsciously, these all become the new target. The first step to becoming a critical thinker is to clearly define what it is you do want. When faced with any decision, ask yourself, “What is the outcome that I really want?”
To achieve a clearly-defined target, we must filter everything by asking, “Is this relevant?” For the golfer, are the sand traps, water obstacles or the trees relevant? What’s the target? The hole. The
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Now, drill down further. To be accurate in our thinking and our communication, we must separate facts from truth. ‘Facts’ and ‘truth’ are two completely different entities. Facts have actual existence. A fact is merely information: neutral, independent and objective. As a former policeman, I was always in search of the facts. When a case went to court, facts were entered into evidence, but the witnesses would swear to tell the truth. Which one is more reliable? Evidence (facts) or eyewitnesses (truths)? We know, for a fact, that eyewitnesses are unreliable. ‘Truth’ is our internal perception of the facts and circumstances that make up the experiences of life. To help you make an important decision, ask yourself, “Is this aspect a truth or is it a fact?”
Once we move things into the fact column from the truth column, we ask, “Can this fact be more exact?” Be precise and specific. A common occurrence at work is when the boss drops one more thing on your plate and says, “I need this ASAP!” But, is ‘ASAP’ a fact or a truth? ASAP is a truth, it means different things to different people. “Boss, when do you need this?” “I need it by Wednesday.” Now ask, can this fact be more exact? Yes, it can. “Boss, what time on Wednesday do you need this?” “By 12 noon.” Taking this golf swing approach to thinking pushes the process through your conscious mind, helping you make more informed decisions that’ll lead to greater levels of success.
“TO BE ACCURATE IN OUR THINKING, WE MUST SEPARATE FACTS FROM TRUTH.”
sand trap is not relevant to the target. Let’s take it to the office. Have you ever been in a meeting that got off target and ended up in a sand trap for two hours? Hours of your life you can never get back? Without a clearly defined target of what we want, we have a difficult time identifying the sand traps of thinking. Focus only on what is relevant by asking, “Is this a sand trap? Does this help me or hurt me in hitting my target?”