You know who they are–the people who can view any situation and somehow pick it apart in ways that make you see solutions in a whole new way.
They’re the people you call for advice. They’re the people that seemingly have a deeper understanding of work, and the world. You might call them “profound thinkers.” And, whether you want to believe it or not, they all share some similar habits–ways of viewing a hurdle, a goal, or a challenge differently than most of us.
Through my travels, interviews, and research conducted around the world with leaders from countless organizations in just about every industry, I’ve noticed a few of the common habits of profound thinkers. I’ve asked them their process, and I’ve witnessed their results.
Here are the 10 habits I’ve noticed about people and leaders who seemingly think through situations more clearly:
1. They pause.
Time is, of course, money. But profound thinkers are willing to pause and truly view a situation from every angle, because they realize that money, or success, will come in time if they approach the situation from right perspective. Einstein probably covered it best by saying, “I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and then five minutes solving it.”
2. They ask prodding questions.
Profound thinkers aren’t satisfied with the status quo. They want to challenge shortcomings, create change, and improve things.
Research supports many of the interviews I’ve had with leaders around the world. The Great Work Study, which my company conducted, showed that work is three times more likely to be considered important when someone adds or subtracts something. They change it.
3. They intend to do it right, instead of just get it done.
If you don’t have time to do it right, you must have time to do it over. This is what profound thinkers believe. They approach tasks with a mindset of making their work spectacular rather than just checking a box that it is finished.
4. They understand story.
Many of the best thinkers comprehend context. They know that one path may arrive at an outcome faster, but another path will give them clarity, experience, insight, and story–the context which makes the outcome more interesting to other people.
5. They seek disagreement.
It’s great to have buy-in and applause for everything we do. But, profound thinkers want to hear and discuss the arguments because they understand that other people will also share dissenting viewpoints. Negative feedback leads to greater understanding, and eventually better results.
6. They don’t talk about it.
They are it.
We all know someone who talks a lot about the goals they wish to achieve, the ideas they have, and the results they will create. Profound thinkers don’t talk about these things–they become these things.
They act. They do. They are.
7. Mistakes add perception.
Nobody hopes for failure. However, profound thinkers view mistakes differently.
Mistakes, to them, are simply part of the process of figuring out what doesn’t work. They look for holes and flaws in ideas because they show them where exactly they need to improve.
8. They think they are unqualified.
This might seem to be a contradictory statement, but truly profound thinkers don’t assume they are the smartest, the most innovative, or the best leader. Instead, they assume they need to go gather more information to make the appropriate decision.
9. They need only one.
Profound thought is the process of boiling down one situation into one brilliant approach, strategy, or idea. People who are profound thinkers realize they only need the one right solution to solve the problem.
10. They are not alone.
If I’ve learned anything from interviews with leaders around the world, this is it: Profound thinkers know that they didn’t arrive at their position in life without the help, insight, and advice of others. They appreciate their mentors, their naysayers, and the people who support them day in and day out.
Maybe you read through this list and thought about those people in your life who seem to be the best thinkers. Or, maybe you thought about iconic thinkers who seemed to challenge common thought and achieve fantastic results–Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Madame Curie, or Elon Musk.
No matter who crossed your mind, it’s important to realize one commonly shared intention of profound thinkers: their desire to improve the lives of other humans.
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