GREAT Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi said: “A man is but the product of his thoughts; what he thinks, he becomes.”
We have a very sophisticated thinking mechanism in our head. According to research by the University of Alberta, the average “clock speed” of neurons in the brain is 200 firings per second (fps). If we have 100 billion neurons in our brain all firing around 200 fps, this will give a capacity of 20 million billion fps. This is a staggering number of thoughts being generated per second.
The brain never stops thinking. It is constantly working 24/7, even while we are asleep. The brain is busy processing the day’s information as it runs through recently formed memories, sorting and organising the information so that they will be useful the next day. We think for answers to complex questions, look for solutions to daily problems and find new ideas to help resolve our longer-term issues.
Many of the most successful people started with an idea and then put their thinking into action. Bill Gates thought about putting a computer in every home. Michael Dell wondered whether he could make computers cheaper by bypassing the middleman and selling directly to the customer. Steve Jobs lived most of his adult life thinking about how he could apply technology differently in our lives.
If we want to accomplish big things in life, then we have to start small with a little thinking. What do I mean by this?
When our brain is engaged in purposeful thinking (not to be confused with daydreaming), it should not last too long, typically for 10 minutes or so. It happens usually for a reason — to find answers, resolve an issue or to generate new ideas. The question here is: How can we make our little bit of thinking become more effective for us?
I have been using mind maps for about six years and they have helped me capture all my little bits of thinking. A mind map is a visual thinking tool that helps to structure information, enabling you to better analyse, comprehend, synthesise, recall and generate new ideas.
I have three simple principles when it comes to doing my own little thinking:
Due to our busy lifestyles, we often spend more time doing things than engaging in thinking. The mind map helps me to think quickly and easily because of its branch-like structure.
I keep a notebook and multi-coloured pen in my pocket so I can mind-map my thoughts and ideas when they occur to me at any time of the day.
It is like an “idea bank account”, where I make small deposits of my ideas during my little thinking moments. I believe that the more ideas I can regularly deposit from thinking more, the higher my rate of return when there is a need to withdraw these ideas for my work.
Being creative is important in almost any type of work and job scope. I use the mind map to brainstorm and think of new angles to a specific problem.
The mind map format (resembling a brain neuron) enables me to radiate my ideas from the central theme by using associative thinking and branching out indefinitely.
It also encourages the use of colours and images to stimulate visual thinking and creativity. This method is useful for brainstorming as it produces more ideas than traditional linear thinking.
In his book, How Successful People Think, John C. Maxwell said that thoughts need to be “shaped until they have substance” and must stand the test of “clarity and questioning”.
Many of my mind maps are like works in progress, and I refer to them from time to time when I want to think more deeply about a specific topic.
This is also the time when I make withdrawals from my idea bank account to further enhance my thinking.
Mind mapping is an effective thinking tool because it is brain-friendly and easy to apply.
It captures our little bits of thinking and helps us to make sense of it all.
Article by Eric Cheong, a WDA-certified trainer and ThinkBuzan instructor in Buzan Asia. He is responsible for developing new business and partnerships in the region. For more information, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.braincapitalgroup.com.