The following is an excerpt from a blog post from author and leadership guru John C. Maxwell. German statesman Konrad Adenauer said “We all live under the same sky, but we don’t all have the same horizon.” If you desire to seize new opportunities and open new horizons, then you need to add big-picture thinking to your abilities. People do not become successful without that ability. To become a good thinker better able to see the big picture, keep in mind the following:
1. Don’t Strive for Certainty. Big-picture thinkers are comfortable with ambiguity. They don’t try to force every observation or piece of data into pre-formulated mental cubbyholes. They think broadly and can juggle many seemingly contradictory thoughts in their minds. If you want to cultivate the ability to think big picture, then you must get used to embracing and dealing with complex and diverse ideas.
2. Learn from Every Experience. Big-picture thinkers broaden their outlook by striving to learn from every experience. They don’t rest on their successes, they learn from them. More importantly, they learn from their failures. They can do that because they remain teachable. Varied experiences—both positive and negative—help you see the big picture. The greater the variety of experience and success, the more potential to learn you have. If you desire to be a big-picture thinker, then get out there and try a lot of things, take a lot of chances, and take time to learn after every victory or defeat.
3. Gain Insight from a Variety of People. Big-picture thinkers learn from their experiences. But they also learn from experiences they don’t have. That is, they learn by receiving insight from others—from customers, employees, colleagues, and leaders. If you desire to broaden your thinking and see more of the big picture, then seek out mentors and counselors to help you. But be wise in whom you ask for advice. Gaining insight from a variety of people doesn’t mean stopping anyone and everyone in hallways and grocery store lines and asking what they think about a given subject. Be selective. Talk to people who know and care about you, who know their field, and who bring experience deeper and broader than your own.
4. Give Yourself Permission to Expand Your World. If you want to be a big-picture thinker, you will have to go against the flow of the world. Society wants to keep people in boxes. Most people are married mentally to the status quo. They want what was, not what can be. They seek safety and simple answers. To think big-picture, you need to give yourself permission to go a different way, to break new ground, to find new worlds to conquer. And when your world does get bigger, you need to celebrate. Never forget there is more out there in the world than what you’ve experienced.