Use Strategic Thinking

Use Strategic Thinking to Reach Goals

Strategic Planning is useless — unless there is first a strategic vision.                                                   — John Naismith

Strategic thinking means setting a clear goal, listing things to do (strategies) to help you reach your goal, and then actually carrying through and following your plans.

The first step in Strategic Thinking is setting a goal

Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.     –Tom Landry

1. You can accept the goals that others (parent, teachers, school administration) have set before you.
2. You can consider your future and what you want out of life or out of college and set your own goals.
3. Your goal might be to solve a problem.

Write your goal, checking to see that it is clearly stated, specific, and realistic. Some students set a goal about grades.

Girl sitting on outdoor stepsMelody, for example, is thinking about her future. She has thee goals.

1. I want to go to college.
2. I want to get a good scholarships.
3. If I’m going to do that, I need to make better grades.

Melody is still young enough that she doesn’t need to be more specific about going to college and getting scholarships. But her third goal is what she needs to focus on now. And this goal is neither clear nor specific.

What does she mean by “better grades”? We need to know what grades are good enough.

To be specific, we’d need to know what grades she plans to make in each subject.

Let’s assume that Melody gets more specific. She wants to make at least a B in every class, and a few A’s. That is certainly clear and a lot more specific. Now the question is, “Is this realistic?” It would help to know two things: What time of the year is this?  If it is the beginning of a school year, she might be able to do this. But, if it is only a months away from the end of the year, then we really need to know what her grades are now.

If Melody is failing any of her classes or even making a D at this point, it is highly unlikely that she could get those grades up enough for a B. If she is making a high C now, she really might do well on her assignments and final exams to reach her goal.

The Next Step in Strategic Thinking is listing useful Strategies

Strategies also need to be clear, specific and realistic.

Melody begins listing a few strategies.

1. I will make an A on my term paper in English.
2. I will make A’s on all my finals.
3. I will do extra credit in History.

Are these strategies? No. These are the sort of goals she should have written in the first step. Strategies are the things Melody needs to do in order to make those A’s and get that extra credit. Melody tries again.

“I will work harder in my classes.”  Strategy?  Certainly not. We have no idea what se mean by working harder. Come one, Melody. What will you really do?

It takes a little while, but Melody finally comes up with some strategies.

1. I will go to the library tomorrow morning. That’s pretty specific. We have the place, the date and that it will be in the morning.

2. I will look at three or four books on study skills, choose one and check it out.

3. I will read one chapter every night until I’m done.

Melody hesitates. Is this enough. Will reading a book make her grades go up?  She realizes she needs to do a little more.

4. I will take notes on each chapter listing things I can do to improve my grades in English, Algebra, History, Biology, and Spanish.

5. I will ask my teachers and my guidance counselor for other ideas.

6. I will make a study schedule and follow it. I will begin with three hours study time every night. I will do one hour of study right after I get home, another hour just before dinner, and the third hour in the evening. I will limit my TV watching to one hour a night.

7. When I study each subject, I will look at the list of ideas and use at least one suggestions for reading or study.

8. In class, I need to pay better attention so I will take notes in class, and ask or answer at least 2 questions. After class, I will write a short summary of the main ideas.

The Third Step to Strategic Thinking is Following Your Plan

“OK,” Melody says. I will follow my plan. Sometimes, it works this way. Your goal might have been to make a decision. Then, once you have made that decision, you have reached your goal.

Will Melody really follow her plan?  Are there ways to keep her working at it, to do what she says she will do?

One of the best ways is to tell people what you have decided to do. She needs to tell her parents. She might even ask them to look at her study schedule, and remind her gently that she has chosen to study Spanish for the next hour, not watch TV, that she really needs to get her three hours complete early if you wants to go to a movie with friends. If Melody is serious, she will follow her plan every day, making it her first priority

Another way to keep Melody on track is for her to use a Study Journal. At the beginning of her study time, she might write her plans for that time. She might decide to finish her Algebra homework and learn ten or more vocabulary words in Spanish. At the end of that one hour study period, she should write what she accomplished and what she could have done better. If she isn’t able to finish her work in the three hours, she can always add extra time later in the evening.

Melody can also identify any obstacles in her path (unexpected problems). She can talk to her parents about them or write in her journal. If she can’t finish he algebra because she doesn’t understand, she could ask a friend to help her understand or go to the teacher for extra help.  If she gets sleepy and can’t concentrate, she might try going to bed an hour earlier every night. Exercise could also be helpful.

Other Ways to Use Strategic Thinking

You can use Strategic Thinking for many different purposes . For any situation where you can set a realistic goal, you can develop effective strategies to reach that goal

If you want to do well on a test, you can plan your study time strategically and also use your time on the test strategically.

Yu can use Strategic Thinking to lose weight, to get elected to an office in a school organization, to get a part-time job, to make new friends, to get into college, to win a scholarship, to learn another language,  or even to improve your health.

The process always involves a clear, specific, and realistic goal,  a set of strategies (sometimes getting help to find practical strategies), and a lot of hard work.

It isn’t always easy. You don’t always succeed. Many businessmen start a new business with great goals and strategies and still fail. But, if you don’t set goals and list strategies and work hard, you have no chances of success.

Thinking well is wise; planning well is wiser; but doing well is the wisest and best of all.                  — Persian Proverb


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