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What is a ‘Strategic’ Thinker?

Personal development and self-help ideas and practices are all too easily dismissed as being too ‘businessy.’ This can be the case because the language used to describe these ideas and practices sound like they originate from that area of the world. In truth, business-people, and the industry at large, have internalised and developed ways to instil the necessity of thinking about yourself and how to try to be better. Of foundational importance to this way of being is to develop ‘strategic’ thinking.

strategic thinker

Key Characteristics

There must be a goal to achieve, when being an effective strategic thinker. Having a clear idea of what to aim towards is essential to know what must be done now. ‘Why’ is a key part of the vocabulary of this kind of approach, and, when coupled with keen observation skills, these become characteristics for developing a good knowledge of what is currently happening. Within all this, having a reflective nature helps massively to further improve practice and position. Future, present, and past must be grappled with. The goal is there to be achieved, as total as it was at its inception or in its revised form after the process deemed that it needed altering.

In more concrete terms, strategic thinkers are those who can refine their technique with (and through) learning. We think of chess players as strategic thinkers; they learn the game, and then continue to change their understanding with each new player, and each new match. Even if you are not a professional chess player, you can do this -- and observe it as it happens -- each time you play.

Gamblers, too, are infamous for their ability to think strategically. Whether you are in the Vegas big leagues, or just choosing to play slots with no deposit, your brain is forever changing its approach depending on what is going on at that moment.

This is the strategic thinking which enables athletes and competitors to do what they do, and every new attempt is like free practice. Furthering understanding, learning the game, and seeking ways to improve method and result.

Soon after these characteristics are developed, leadership, as an idea and role, becomes closely linked with this manner of thinking. This isn’t about dominating the process of achieving the goal, though. All the time, strategic thinking skills have improved and instilled themselves because they rely on being open to other people’s ideas and other people’s responsibility. Everyone can learn from each other, every day. Everyone is a leader, which is a motto Sir Alex Ferguson used to explain to his players by using geese as a metaphor. The process should be and feel communal.

Where is it Applicable?

The day-to-day application of this kind of thought -- and cultivating ‘strategic’ thinking -- is possible for more than just business-people and professional athletes. This manner of approaching problems can be used for redecorating a house, for instance, or organising finances to save for a holiday. The more we learn how to harness it, the more instances there will be in which we can notice its impact on our thought processes.

Facilitating the Process

Thinking strategically about becoming a strategic thinker is in risk of getting very self-referential. However, it is helpful because to do it and improve it, it must first be done. Think of it like learning on the job.

Strategy as Chess

‘Strategic’ – strategy in general – can conjure images of chess. A player facing off against themselves on the other side of the board or an opposition. That opposition can stand for one thing or person or more. The game is a pivotal metaphor for lots of stories and scenes in film, TV, and books: X-Men, Queen’s Gambit, and The Seventh Seal. There aren’t many noticeable ways, though, that this image is particularly helpful or healthy. While there may be direct obstacles or people to overcome, or indeed beat, finding opponents in day-to-day lifeand work, and in one’s own self, can begin to plant and grow the seed of being adversarial. In spite of how motivating it might be to be superior to someone after surpassing them, being adversarial, as a long-term strategy – a sole long-term strategy, that is – isn’t sustainable, or, in a lot areas of life, applicable. This is about being healthy and happier, and sustainably so.


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