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One simple secret to success in 2017

One simple secret to success in 2017

Today you will learn what successful people like Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss do instead of making New Year’s resolutions to kickstart their new year.

A lot of people have already failed their New Year’s resolutions by now, and there are many reasons why. Do you know what the best predictor of future behavior in sales marketing is? I’ll give you a hint: It’s not your desires, hobbies, or needs. It’s your past behavior. The interesting part is that this applies to many more areas in life than your consumer habits. For someone that promotes change (like me) that can be a bit demotivating. But does that mean we’re all doomed for rest of our lives like in Groundhog Day? I don’t think so. It simply means that real and lasting change may not occur over night.

I like to look at people that already accomplished what I want to do. Tim Ferriss and Anthony Robbins share one common practice at the end of each year. Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, they review their past year. I kind of like the idea of doing the opposite of the mainstream (I’m a rebel, I know), and thought why not give it a try? So, I took a step back and reviewed my 2016. Here’s what happened:

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Enter the fitness world

I started to work part-time as a trainer at a gym called West Side Fitness. After getting my certification as a strength coach back in 2012, I put the project aside. Fear of failure was probably one of the reasons. I was training friends tough during that period. After 3 years I felt the urge to set my foot in the fitness industry. I applied, got hired, and started to train clients. A life changing decision. More on that later.

Moving in with my girlfriend

My parents moved to Italy due to retirement (we were living together in Zurich, Switzerland), and my girlfriend and I moved together. Another life changing decision, and we’re still together (*victory*). I was a very selfish person when Sara and I met more than 3 years ago. Focusing entirely on me was kind of a normal state back then, and unfortunately, the feeling of emptiness, too. Sara taught me many lessons, such as the pleasure of sharing, giving, and basically not being the center of the world (all the time). I’ve learned and matured a lot since then, something I can’t thank her enough for. The good became better and the bad became… well, better too. I’ve still got a lot of work in front of me; but hey, I’m on my way.

My boss fired me

I was working part-time as a secretary at an accounting office (while going to university and working at the gym). I absolutely hated the job. Why did I stay there for 3 years? Because I could print all of my university stuff there (more than 200 pages per month) and ask them about matters regarding admin and taxes. Weak reasons, I know. While being there, I did what I needed to do. Not more, not less. They fired me because of the lack of motivation. My boss did me a HUGE favor. I sleep better now, and have more energy for stuff that matters, such as:

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Graduating in psychology

After 3 years of studying, I got my bachelor’s degree last summer. It was a wonderful time, during which I met amazing people and learned things not only related to my work today, but also for life. The decision not to follow with a master’s degree was a tough one, but also an important one, because it let me to the following:

Being broke and creating Muscle & Mind

Managing money was never one of my fortes. Being fired at the accounting office and not having much time outside finishing my studies and working as a trainer led me to a “financially restrictive phase.” I was broke; some students can probably relate to that. Honestly, I created Muscle & Mind out of anger, frustration, and the wish to conquer the world. At the beginning I had no clue about marketing, sales funnels, and product for prospects. I only knew that I needed a change in my life.

An amazing journey began, and with it an emotional rollercoaster. After a lot of research and procrastination, I got a running website, social media presence, and most importantly, I started to write. Becoming independent was without a doubt the most difficult decision I’ve made for years. I was scared (and still am sometimes), and doubted whether I could pull it off or not. But here I am today. Coaching clients and writing an article for one of the biggest lifestyle and productivity blogs in the world. Something I could never have imagined 7 or 8 months ago.

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“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” -Steve Jobs

Am I running a million-dollar business? Is my inbox flooded with coaching requests? No, but who knows what is going to happen in the next 7, 12, or 24 months?

Torn pectoral muscle

I torn my pec last November, and it sucks. Any kind of pressing movements are out of sight for a while. But life goes on. I’m seeing a specialist soon, and will go through rehab. Meanwhile, I’ve got more time for Sara, Muscle & Mind, squats, and deadlifts.

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Meeting one of the strongest guys in Switzerland

Daniele Pauli is strong – REALLY strong. He competes in powerlifting. His current total: 760kg (1672 pounds), 270kg (594 pounds) squats, 180kg (396 pounds) bench press, and 310kg (682) deadlift. (Sorry Daniele, if the numbers are outdated). I met him at West Side Fitness, where he occasionally trains and coaches clients. He’s the best personal trainer I know, and simply an amazing human being. He taught me so many things inside, and especially outside, the gym. Thank you, Daniele.

All in all, 2016 has been a hell of a ride for me. Big changes, and most of them were good. Some things stayed the same. I still got a lot of work in front of me, but that doesn’t worry me; actually, I’m really looking forward to it.

Reviewing your last year can be a powerful practice if you want to make 2017 a huge success. Your past doesn’t have to determine your future. And understanding where you’re coming from can be a big help in deciding where you want to go. 2017 is still fresh, but sooner than you might think you will be reviewing this year. So, take a step back, look at what happened, find out what worked and what hasn’t, change strategies where needed, and last but not least, to end with Dan Pena’s words: Just F***ing do it!

Featured photo credit: Getty Images via huffingtonpost.com

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Roberto Corbacio

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Published on November 18, 2019

How to Think Critically: 5 Powerful Techniques

How to Think Critically: 5 Powerful Techniques

Critical thinking is the art of filtering through information to reach an unbiased, logical decision that guides better thought and action. It can be learned through powerful techniques listed in this article.

Before you read further, it is important for you to know that critical thinking is a state of mind, not a tool or strategy.

If you are bogged down in the trivial day to day matters of your professional and personal life, learning skills to develop your ability to think critically can help you rise above these issues and focus your energies where they are needed – to solve problems and accomplish objectives.

It stands to reason that the better the learning techniques, the better critical thinking and reasoning will be. My experience in helping people grow means I know exactly what is needed to teach critical thinking (hint: it’s not just pondering over the problem).

There are 5 powerful techniques that form the base of critical thinking:

  1. Analytical thinking
  2. Communication
  3. Creativity
  4. Open-mindedness
  5. Problem-solving

Once you learn the techniques listed and start employing them in your daily life, you’ll quickly start to notice a change in the way you approach problems and consequently, how you resolve them too.

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1. Analytical Thinking

Analytical thinking is the gathering and breaking down of information into small bites that help make sense of it.

To use it for critical thinking:

  • Be very clear on why you need the information. This is to recognize your limitations and employ foresight to overcome them.
  • Gather information from as many sources as you can: peers and experts, podcasts, relevant literature and any other place you can think of.
  • Rephrase questions multiple times to get different perspectives on data available and possibly arrive at different solutions.
  • Break down the data into factual subsets and relate each to the issue at hand.
  • Think on paper to make new connections. Write, doodle, make mind-maps or use spreadsheets. Data presented visually can help you make new connections make sense of emerging patterns.
  • Tidy up the workplace. Once data has been gathered, your workspace and your brain will both be cluttered with excess information. Neaten the physical space and clear your mind with meditation. The change in focus will help you view the information in a new light, potentially helping you reach newer, better conclusions.

Want more information and tips on adopting this powerful technique? What Are Analytical Skills and How to Strengthen Them For Success has all the information you need.

2. Communication

Communication is a key technique for critical thinking as it gives you access to the thoughts of people around you.

Data can be communicated through audio and visual means and in many cases, through careful observation of body language:

  • Ask for different points of view and seek justification for the same thing. When you invest in the matter, you will be able to explore all options to reach the best solution.
  • Listening without interrupting and only asking questions or voicing concerns once the speaker is done helps you make better connections.
  • Be 100% focused on a verbal or written discussion, you can better hear/read the opinions of the people involved.
  • Paraphrase the speaker/writer’s point of view and ask for affirmation. This enables you to pay full attention and use the input to think critically.
  • In a meeting, subtle communication cues are given by the body language of fellow attendees. An imperceptible frown, a small nod, pencil tapping etc. will all give you clues to what they are really thinking, just in case their actions are not in sync with their words!
  • Active observation, where you are watching and listening intently helps you know what to make of the information that is being passed around. It gives you clues to the general opinion about the topic under discussion and opens up new possibilities.

The information you gather through such communication will be invaluable in thinking critically to arrive at a decision that is holistic and unbiased.

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3. Creativity

Critical thinking is an art, and like any art form, its lifeblood is creativity. To really learn critical thinking, you need to include elements of creativity in the process!

  • Brainstorm with your team in an all-new location or work-shadow an industry expert to step out of your comfort zone. You could be surprised by the ideas that flow at a picnic or a game of billiards!
  • Gather data and tabulate it in the form of colorful, eye-catching charts, graphs and mind maps. The simple exercise makes your mind bring data together in different ways and presents them so multiple unique conclusions can be reached, giving you the flexibility to choose the best one.
  • Play brain games such as Sudoku or chess to appreciate how different factors can be manipulated to reach a preferred outcome. These games help make connections between previously disconnected nerves, giving your brain the power to find multiple pathways to answering problems.
  • In a similar vein, you can forge new neural connections by learning a new skill, a new language or even a new recipe!

I break down creativity in my other article What is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It. If you want to be good at critical thinking, you need to adopt creativity!

4. Open-Mindedness

It’s easy to say you’re open minded but is your mind really open?

To get an idea,

  • Be brutally honest about your strengths and weaknesses, and how these will impact the matter at hand.
  • Hear an opinion that conflicts with your own without forming a response before the opinion is fully voiced.
  • Acknowledge that there may be more than one approach to solving a problem and that they may all be right in some way.
  • Consider your true feelings when you will implement any required changes.
  • Disregard your long-held beliefs and assumptions and let go of habits.
  • Imagine the decision-making factors placed on weighing scales. Are they balanced?

Open-mindedness is a powerful technique for critical thinking. New possibilities can be uncovered, helping you resolve personal and professional matters in a manner that doesn’t frustrate you or alienate the other party.

5. Problem-Solving

Critical thinking is heavily dependent on problem-solving. An effective critical thinker will be a problem solver with the foresight to anticipate roadblocks and negative outcomes, and the experience and presence of mind to resolve them quickly and move on.

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One of the most effective problem-solving methodologies is the 5 Whys Analysis. Invented by Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota Motors in the 1950s, it has been used successfully by the automobile giant to get to the root cause of problems.

The idea behind this is simple: start with the end problem and keep asking why until you get to the root cause of it.

The general idea is that asking why 5 times from the effect is enough to get to the cause, hence the name. However, the methodology does not limit the questions to 5, and why can be asked as many times as need to peel away the layers until a satisfactory answer is reached.

To use the 5 Whys Analysis, start off by listing the problem and writing why in front of it. The next point in the list should be answer to the first why with another why in front of it. Continue answering the question asked above followed by a why until you’ve asked the question 5 times and answered it six times. 99% of the time, the last answer will be the root cause of the problem stated in the first point.

For example, consider the a commonly given scenario where a vehicle does not start.

  1. Vehicle will not start. Why?
  2. Battery is dead. Why?
  3. The alternator is not functioning. Why?
  4. The alternator belt has broken. Why?
  5. It was old and worn out. Why?
  6. The car is not maintained according to manufacturer’s recommendation.

By this example, it is clearly demonstrated that 5 whys were asked to reach the root cause of the problem.

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The 5 techniques discussed here are important for effective critical thinking. When employed regularly they will become a habit and will definitely improve your critical thinking skills so you can get better at predicting and resolving issues that concern you and your environment.

Over the years, the 5 Whys Analysis has been adopted by millions to reach the root cause of their personal and professional problems. Industry giant Six Sigma has also incorporated the 5x Why Analysis in the Analyze phase of their DMAIC methodology.[1]

Final Thoughts

Is critical thinking a new-fangled notion? Not at all. Its history can be traced back to Socrates who questioned commonly held beliefs. This practice was carried forward by leading scholars and thinkers from different times such as Aristotle and Plato, Colet and Moore, Descartes, Galileo and Newton.[2]

Today’s world is dependent on critical thinking to resolve all sorts of issues. It is now indispensable for issues ranging from personal relationships to professional jobs and those involving the global community.

The 5 techniques discussed here are important for effective critical thinking. When employed regularly, they will become a habit and will definitely improve your critical thinking skills so you can get better at predicting and resolving issues that concern you and your environment.

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Featured photo credit: Mariya Pampova via unsplash.com

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