Friday, August 16, 2013

The Thinking Chair

The Maxwell Daily Reader, in the August 16th reading, quotes poet James Joyce as saying, “Your mind will give back to you exactly what you put into it.”.  Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  We’ve all heard the computer acronym GIGO: garbage in, garbage out.  And this starts to look like a well worn topic headed down a worn out path.  But John Maxwell took it in a different direction.  And we’re going to follow, then veer off some more.

Mr. Maxwell used the Joyce quote to point out that we need to think through things when making our decisions.  And he talked about having a “Thinking Chair”, a place specifically dedicated to thinking and meditation.  That place or chair has no other purpose.  The idea was described in Maxwell’s book “Thinking for a Change” was where he originally mentioned the idea.  After that, at several conferences, people came up to him and said it didn’t work for them.  It turns out that John hadn’t described a key part of the process.

The people who were unsuccessful with the process would go unprepared to their “Thinking Chair”, sit, and expect something to happen.  There’s a saying that nature abhors a vacuum.  If there’s a vacuum, something will come in to fill it.  But, as in this case, there’s an intellectual vacuum and we’re trying to fill it with a vacuum, the end result is still a vacuum.  The key element that had been left out was that Mr. Maxwell always had something to start the process.  It might be notes about something he wanted to consider, or it might be rehashing a recent decision.  Nonetheless, there was something to get the thought process rolling.  And that idea got my thought process rolling.

Whether we use this in intellectual pursuit, in improving our leadership skills, or in taking our walk with God to a new level, there are two important aspects to this idea.  The first is described in Job 11:13, “If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands toward him;”.  That speaks of how to get back to a healthy relationship with God.  Notice that, along with reaching out, there’s also preparation.  Whether it’s the “thinking chair”, a seat of leadership, or the throne of God, we have to come prepared.  That preparation could just be a readiness and a mindset to receive the thoughts that we need.  In business and other areas of leadership, we don’t expect some miraculous instant insight.  We’re already thinking of principles, ideas, and situations.  We bring those and an expectation of growth to our pursuit.  The same must be true for spiritual enrichment.

There’s a second principle described in that verse.  Notice that it doesn’t say “if thine heart be prepared”.  It says “If thou prepare thine heart”.  In the business environment, we bring something to every situation we deal with.  It may be education or expertise or merely a willingness to solve a problem.  The same with thinking for a leadership role.  On a spiritual level, we talk about coming to God with a prepared heart.  That preparation may be God working on us, but we’re still at least sufficiently active participants to willingly let God work on us.

Whether it’s the “thinking chair” or the heavenly throne, there are a few requirements to make the visit worthwhile.
  1. We must come.  If we’re not there, it’s somebody else’s party.
  2. We must come prepared.  We can’t go into the process empty handed and expect success.
  3. We must come prepared and active.  We must be active enough to at least bring the right attitude that we don’t hinder the process.
  4. We must come prepared and active, and coming with expectation.  Even in the spiritual realm, God won’t violate our free will and our thinking.  If we expect negative or no results, we increase the likelihood that we’ll fulfill those expectations.  If nothing else, our thinking and attitude effect the preparation.
Whatever we allow to come with us to any “seat” we approach will determine what comes out of that approach.  How are your preparation and expectation, today?

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