Discerning Thoughts: A Tool for Leaders

Helping leaders improve their leadership is my passion, becauses better leadership makes a world of difference. I think about all the lives that are impacted by a leader everyday, and how much even modest improvement can change those lives for the better.

One great technique that I’ve found to help you show up better as a leader is the practice of discerning thoughts.

Discerning thoughts is the purposeful act of recognizing which of our thoughts are helpful and which are not. When I say thoughts, I mean emotions, feelings, and thinking.

We all have thousands of thoughts every day but not all of them are good for us. We all have counterproductive thoughts. Sometimes we feel defensive, frustrated, angry, resentful, afraid, threatened, whatever. After millions of years of evolution, many of the warnings our thoughts send to us are about things that don’t actually pose a real danger.

In fact, the real danger is reacting to those thoughts in an unhelpful way.

We can’t expect to control our thoughts, but we can control how we think about them and our reaction to them.

Like feeling nervous about a presentation. How does this help us?

Have you ever wondered, “Why am I thinking this way? How is this helping me?” I’d think about that. And maybe there is something helpful about the nervousness. Perhaps you haven’t prepared enough. Okay, this may be helpful to you. The key is to decide and discern carefully which thoughts are helping you.

For example, the feeling of being inadequate or impostered. “Is this helpful?” Probably not, but then again, you decide.

I’m talking about this because this is something I’ve been working on myself for years. I’ve spent countless hours being upset about thoughts that aren’t at all helpful to me. I found a few keys to success and discerning thoughts.

Discerning thoughts with intended purpose. Be thoughtful about your thoughts. When you catch yourself spinning on unhelpful thoughts, come back to focusing more on those that are helpful. Apply a robust filter. Many of our thoughts are not helpful. Be very discerning that way and reassess how you’re doing. Take time to figure out, are you actually following on unhelpful thoughts and adjust your filtering.

Purposeful discerning of thought gets more effective and easier with practice and it’s a great tool to help you show up better as a leader.

Keep asking yourself, “is this thought helpful to me right now?” If not, let it go.

Becoming a better leader makes a world of difference and it takes a lot of work.

What is your plan to be better?