by Jerry Rhodes, Founder
We all learn through feedback. Whether you know it or not, you are always on some kind of plan, even if your plan is to do nothing, chill out and just ‘be’.
Proactive plans, beyond chill out, need feedback, “How is this going along?” You will have some idea about what should happen, what is actually happening and what you should do to get better.
As soon as you see a divergence between should and actual, you have a problem. “What’s up” you say. Now it may be that things are going worse than they normally do, so there is a gap or threat opening up between should and is. In that case you need to find the cause or causes so as to get back up to how things should be.
Or else you notice things are going much better than you ever thought: this time the gap that opens up is one that you could exploit – instead of pulling back up you can push on to something better.
This sort of action is reactive, correcting what has gone wrong or exploiting what went better than you expected. You can, however, take a proactive stance.
You could say “What if things were to go wrong? What can I do about it now in advance, whether to stop it happening or to make it less serious?”
Equally, you could form an ambition to become much better than you are at the moment. “How could I do that?”
This means instead of finding the cause of something going wrong you need to find the cause that might make things go right. In either case you can be in charge if you know what you’re doing with your mind.
This simple example of what you do all the time can also be followed when determining how to think about things.
What to do when you are stuck?
It’s very normal to have some kind of thinking plan, quite spontaneously telling yourself, “This is how to do it.” There is no reason why you shouldn’t keep going on that, reaching your goal or getting an outcome you find satisfactory.
Sometimes, however, you find yourself stuck. You don’t know how to think next, or what to think about, and you don’t know what questions you have not asked yet, or even what they are. You panic a bit? You hope for inspiration? You turn to others for help?
What you are really doing at this point is looking for the questions you need to ask, to yourself and to others, in order to get you through.
Where do you find those questions? Sometimes they come to you when you wake up next morning. Sometimes other people give them to you. Or you refer to a well-worn set of questions which you have used for years! All of these are good possibilities.
Are they always the best?
Questions that cover past, present and future
When you are stuck it is a normal reaction to beat yourself up for getting it wrong, blame someone else for not doing their bit, or immediately rush to do something different to get out of the muddle. This last one is a favourite of our politicians, especially when public opinion is blaming them
I want to suggest that you might improve on what you currently do. What is needed is to have a reference bank of questions you could ask in a crisis which cover the past, the present and the future. Is that what already have? Possibly not.
The mistake would then be to follow a list rigidly, without deviation. Quality thinking doesn’t happen like that. It operates more like scanning a map of possible questions that could help.
Feedback from one step of the map informs another, and that then feeds back and so on as you consider, reflect and discuss with others what to do.
You will recognise that the words in the islands of the ‘map’ are familiar to you – it is a normal decision process. What is different is that it uses colours which are coding how to use your thinking: in which direction to send your mind. – should, is/was, might be. And by the way, when you stop and think in this way you have entered the realm of your metacognition.
Build your own questions – or draw on our research
Your job now is to build the questions you would ask within each island. Or, if you would like to draw on our expertise, our long years of research into what the really good questions are and why, join our online course which begins with the Rhodes’ Thinking-Intentions Profile. Your receive personal results into your inbox with access to the online course “How you Think”. There you can choose the goals you want to reach, how much time you want to spend and who else can benefit.
We charge for the course in order to fund the work of this Trust. If you have difficulty in paying for the course, please contact us here. Our Trust aims to reach people who cannot afford to pay as well as those who can.
When to use a Thinking Map
Feedback is supreme in learning, by which I mean improving on how you would naturally do it. If your spontaneous approach is working perfectly okay, then keep doing it.
It’s when you either think, “I could get better” or “I don’t know what to do” that you should turn to a Thinking Map, borrowing the experience of thousands of people who have managed to get their problems solved effectively.