big ideas

Thinking Conceptually &  Broadening Horizons

Understanding Character requires a certain level of ability to develop conceptual thinking; the ability to “think outside of the box.” Sometimes this may seem intimidating, but we find that most people can improve their ability to think conceptually.  If you lead other people, it’s necessary. As leaders, you must get out of your comfort zone and learn new things.

One thing is for sure, almost no one can sit in an office and really think.  Offices are for getting stuff done – not for developing deep thoughts.  Leaders must leave the office and get away from their day-to-day work and allow their thoughts to wander. Getting away from routine responsibilities allows for original ideas to take root.  If leaders don’t do this, they will try to solve problems in the same way over and over.  This, naturally, does not produce quality results and is frustrating to the folks they are leading.

Getting away should have the purpose of broadening your horizons.   It doesn’t mean a vacation to a familiar resort; it means going somewhere  that is unfamiliar and perhaps even a little uncomfortable.  Somewhere different. 

Effective leaders have to get out of their offices, leave their workplaces, and immerse themselves in experiences that sometimes may not seem to have anything to do with work.  Whether it be a walk through the neighborhood, or a journey across the ocean, the experience will create growth and fresh perspective and this, in turn, will help your conceptual thinking.  Your big ideas will blossom.




Every person feels stress differently.

clarity of thought returns with time

“When you understand that a person who is experiencing stressful circumstances is not able to access their thought processes, it makes communication so much easier. You know that you have to step out of the situation, give that person some time, and come back to it later.”

Every person has a built in part of their character that helps them shed stress.  We call this Ability to Cope – it  shelters us from feeling stress. Some people have a lot of Ability to Cope – they are protected from stress, even a lot of stress.  Some people have less Ability to cope – they are more susceptible to feeling stress even when the stress is not heavy. Naturally there is everything in between; some people have “middle of the road” or average Ability to Cope.

Think of it like a dump truck…a big truck (lots of Ability to Cope) can keep on going even when full.    The load can be very heavy but the truck withstands the weight, the axles hold, and the truck keeps going down the road.  A small truck (not very much Ability to Cope) will get overloaded sooner.  The weight is felt, the axles start to bend, and the truck cannot keep on going.  It has to pull over. 

Every person experiences stress – no matter how much Ability to Cope they have.  It’s just that it takes a lot more stress for the person with high Ability to Cope to feel it.  And, that person will be able to get through it and recover more quickly.

The person who hasn’t got as much Ability to Cope feels the stress more easily, and will not recover as quickly, they need more time.

When we feel stressed, we lose our ability to access our thought process; we become less rational.  We operate more emotionally.  It’s not that we become less intelligent, it’s only that we cannot get to our “smarts” because the stress is preventing it.

Nearly everyone can think of a time when we experienced a heavy amount of stress and were unable to get our thoughts together.  A friend of mine had a child who was in a ski accident, it was serious, and at the moment of the accident he describes simply not being able to think.  He could hear others around him making decisions but he could not absorb what was being said. He is an intelligent person but during those moments, he COULD NOT THINK.  The stress was too severe for him to access his rational thought processes.

Thinking about what happens under severe stress can make this concept a little easier to see.  In the day-to-day world, when most of the time stress is not so severe, it is still felt differently depending on how much Ability to Cope a person has.  And, if that person is unable to shed the stress of the current circumstances, he (or she) will be unable to think clearly.

Time is the critical ingredient required for recovering from feeling stressed.  Time allows a person to regain their thought processes.  If you think about it, when you have been “stressed out,” once you had some time you felt better, right?  Taking time allows us to  recover and get ourselves out from under the stress.  Our thoughts become clearer and if we need to make decisions, we can make them less emotionally and more rationally.

When we are feeling stressed, and therefore more emotional we can do or say things that do not serve us well.  Others may be wondering what in the world is wrong! And, once we recover, we may look back on that thing we did or said and feel embarrassed or wondered “what was I thinking?!”  That is just it – you weren’t thinking.

Take that needed time for yourself when stress has gotten in and you are feeling it.  Understand that others may need more or less time than you do; we are all different.  When we take enough time, we find our “smart” selves!