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5 Powerful Ways to Help You Start Thinking Strategically 

There’s only one growth strategy: work hard - William Hague

Strategy builds confidence, because you have a solid framework and action plan of what to do and, more importantly, what not to do. With clarity comes power, and with power is strength. You’ll gain mental strength, because you’ll know exactly what you’re focused on and why. It’s like a pilot plotting a course to their destination. Careful and strategic planning is considered before take-off. Safety, weather, weight, fuel, and other variables come into play. For example, a pilot is skilled in the technical aspects of flying a plane. She is also skilled in map-reading, leadership, and collaborating with her team, especially the air traffic controllers. Once the plane is airborne after a successful take-off, the captain must now manage and control the plane to get all passengers to the agreed destination safely and in good time. All of a sudden,  there’s a faint shudder, and the aircraft tilts violently, with no warning.

Strategic plan(e)

What happened? 

Now to ensure the safety of all four hundred passengers, the captain must adapt to a potentially life-threatening situation with calmness, speed, and clarity.

Strategic thinking is all about using the power of your mind to execute your Strategy. ‘What is my strategy?’ you ask. Patience, my friend. We’ll get to that. But first, let’s go back to our captain, piloting the 300,000 kg flying chunk of metal hurtling through the sky at 900 km/h. What is going through our pilot’s mind? Panic? No. If this captain panics and loses control of her thoughts, four hundred humans’ lives are at risk of being lost too. So now is the time to see if the strategy works in reality. All the years of training, flight school, leadership skills, growth mindset, and technical mastery comes into play. This is it.

In a calm and controlled manner, our captain makes a critical assessment of the situation in the most effective way she knows. I leave the technical details to your imagination. Then our composed pilot delivers a clear message to the passengers:

‘Hello, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. What you just experienced was a result of a small foreign body entering one of our engines. I’m here to reassure you that everything is going to be okay and it’s under control. You may feel some unfamiliar movements of the plane. Please do your best to remain calm. Our highly trained flight attendants are here for you, as am I. Thank you for choosing to fly with ...’

You get the story. 

Now the story ends successfully, with our courageous pilot flying the plane to the nearest landing strip by following emergency protocol. You see, it’s all part of the strategy. Turns out a griffon vulture had flown directly into one of the jet engines! It was a serious emergency situation. With leadership, critical thinking, calmness of mind, training, and execution of a strategy, our captain literally saved four hundred lives from death.  The importance of strategic thinking cannot be underestimated.

How will you incorporate strategic thinking into your daily life?

5 Powerful Ways to Help You Start Thinking Strategically

1 AWARENESS

Thinking strategically is massively important because it helps you open your mind in thinking of a way that is more likely for you to reach your goals connected to your core values. So in a sense, it’s a way of thinking by zooming out and observing the observer. You are the observer. You’re  thinking about your environment, in your environment. However, when you begin to think strategically and practise strategic thinking, you begin to observe the observer. You can look and think from a different perspective, which in turn will help you realise that thinking strategically is beneficial not only for yourself but also other people. So it’s a practice. The more you practise, the better you will become.

2 GOALS

An influential aspect of strategic thinking involves your goals, what you will do?

SMART goals

S is for specific.

M is for measurable.

A is for attainable.

R is for relevant.

T is for time-sensitive.

Smart goals enable you to be specific about your goals. It’s highly likely you’ll be able to achieve them, because you have clarified exactly what your goals are, and clarity is power.

Now write down your goals on a piece of paper. Writing on a piece of paper ensures 80 percent of retention, so your goal starts to act yourself into your mind and your psyche. Once you’ve done this, you can create your strict action plan by thinking strategically.

So start to purposefully write the following letters on a clean sheet of paper or simply type them up on your smartphone or laptop.

S _______

M ______ 

A  ______

R _______

T _______

Why do you want to achieve this one smart goal?

Why is it important to you?

Then write it down.

For me, the most important purpose for my goal is, one of my goals is to spend quality time with my son, Zachary. That’s my purpose. My purpose is to spend quality time with my son, because my values are family, love, and spending time with my son. Time is more valuable than money and two children. Love equals time, time spent with them.

3 WRITE

Then you write your results. What results do you want? Be specific. For example, I would like to spend two hours every other day with my son outside in nature. Be as specific as possible, and then you can write one to three results—specific results—you want to achieve. Then you write your purposeful action plan. So what specific actions are you going to take with respect to purpose and results you want to achieve? What actions are you going to take? For example, schedule time in your calendar at 4 p.m. I’m going to spend time between 4pm and 6pm. I’m going to pick my son  Zachary, up from the daycare. I’m going to go and play football with him in the park for two hours. That’s the action plan. 

You can create one to three actions that you’re going to take, then from those actions, you can break them down into priorities. You can prioritise the action, to most important meeting and least important, and then you can categorise them into two times. Then you can schedule them. What gets scheduled gets done.

Thinking strategically is massively important to reaching your goals. Use your SMART goals to realise your strategy. Execute your strategy to get to your goals, whether they are short-term or long-term, and they’re really purposeful and important to you. By thinking strategically, it increases your motivation—relentless motivation—and increases your energy. And energy is awesome.

Strategic framework 

4 QUESTION

When you think strategically, it’s massively powerful in how you create your reality, your personal reality, and your personality. It improves focus, because you’re focused on where you want to go, what you want to do with your life. Your daily life for your entire life. This includes, business, relationships, and financially. Clarity is power. So what is strategy, and what is thinking strategically? It’s opening your mind to a way of thinking about how you’ll get to where you want to go. What you will do and what you won’t do determines your long-term strategy. It’s a dynamic action plan focused on a long-term future outcome or result.

Ask yourself these questions:

What’s most important to you?

What are your core values?

Where do you want to be in five years’ time or even ten years’ time or

beyond?

Building a foundational structure helps you plan out your strategy, what you will and won’t do. Here’s an analogy. An aircraft and pilot leave the airport. They know the coordinates. They know where they need to get to, and know their destination. Beforehand, they have a strategy and a goal. There are various situations and variables. For example, the weather. The weather could change. For example, slight adjustments need to be made during the process, so the pilot might have to adjust the route slightly. However, he’ll still get to the destination, being adaptable and making slight adjustments, focusing on the process to enable the outcome to happen which is the destination.

Benjamin Franklin said ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’, so make sure you have a great plan in place by thinking strategically about what you can do. Once you’ve answered your questions honestly and authentically, you can reverse-engineer an action plan, your dynamic action plan, your strategy. Work backwards, say, in five years’ time, four years, three years, two years, one year, up until today. Then you’ll have a great framework to execute your plan.

5 MEDITATE

Start to meditate. Meditating regularly gives your mind and body a gap of time and space, some space and time to connect with who you are, your mind, and your body, and it really helps you zoom out of all the noise, of all the chatter that’s going on in the world, in your world, and all the distractions. This helps you refocus and gain balance in mind. It helps creative thinking and being able to execute your strategy. Thinking strategically is massively important in realising your life goals by implementing a dynamic action plan with what you will do and what you won’t do, connected to your values and goals. Have fun with it and be patient and enjoy the process.

Three challenges for you:

1. Meditate for two minutes in silence, focusing purely on your breath, simply inhaling and exhaling. If thoughts come to you, racing thoughts, observe them and let them be. Imagine your thoughts are wispy clouds that are moving across the sky with a gentle breeze.

2. Think of a creative idea. Think of a random object. Do your best to connect two seemingly random ideas together. To create a new idea, write down on a piece of paper two random items that come to mind. For example, it could be a banana and a cloud. Then think of an idea from those two items.

3. Think of your last argument with someone. It could have been a colleague, or it could have been a family member or partner. Think about how it made you feel, and then think in hindsight about how you could have implemented a strategy. How you could’ve thought strategically to create a better outcome for both parties to create a win–win outcome. Write it down. It’s one for your archives.


Thank you for reading!

Adam Bowcutt

Please feel free to also read: 5 Simple Ways to Become More Creative; Boost Confidence & Add Value

Adapted from Confide: The New Psychology of Confidence. How to Power Up after Experiencing Depression

WORK IS MENTAL: Rethinking Future Workplace Mental Health  (Out May 2021)
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