Hi, my name is Jonathan MacDonald.

More information about me is here, but I’d like to tell you why I created Think Up!

Everything starts with thought, including our perception of reality. Every decision that we make, generates our behaviour and performance. Despite thought being the driver of all this, I’ve observed a distinct lack of prioritisation about how thinking happens. In personal life we prioritise fashion, technology and socialising. In business we prioritise our competitive approach, office location and our product range. However, we don’t tend to prioritise the deep analysis of what is driving our decisions. We tend to assume that thinking just ‘happens’. In contrast, if thinking was seen as a muscle, we would spend as much time building its strength as we do at the gym.

Our brain is constructed of about 100 billion neurons. These nerve cells, individual bio-computers with about 60mb of RAM, are interconnected by trillions of synapses which are the connection devices. On average, each one of these trillions of synapses transmits one signal per second, although some send up to 1,000 per second. These transmissions become thoughts and we think around 60,000 to 70,000 of them per day, every day.

“As an energy-consumer, the brain is the most expensive organ we carry around with us,” says Dr. Marcus Raichle, a distinguished professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. While the brain represents just 2% of a person’s total body weight, it accounts for 20% of the body’s energy use, Raichle’s research has found. That means during a typical day, a person uses about 320 calories just to think – and just like our traditional muscles, the harder you think the more calories are burned.

Our thinking influences the way we feel and behave. Events and situations that occur in the outside world do not usually cause feelings or behaviour; rather it is an individual’s interpretation (via thought) about those events that will directly lead to feelings and subsequent actions. In some cases, the thoughts we have about a particular situation can be quite unhelpful, and lead to us make decisions that are less likely to have a positive outcome.

Often, the unhelpful thoughts happen so quickly in response to trigger events that we may not even realise what is happening. That is why these thoughts are often referred to as ‘automatic’. These feelings are often a signal that they have slipped into automatic pilot and allowed a trigger situation to lead to an unhelpful thought about that situation, which has then resulted in a decision that may be totally unsuitable for the context at that time.

The psychologist Daniel Kahnmann, described automatic (fast) thinking as ‘System 1’ and deliberate (slow) thinking as ‘System 2’. He has also written a very successful book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ showing how fast or automatic thinking can lead us to make many mistakes in everyday life. Automatic thinking (‘thinking fast’) means that we can get on with life for most of the time without too much effort. Automatic thinking helps us make decisions quickly, recognise patterns, fill in gaps in information, and carry out well-rehearsed behaviours. Psychologists have also noticed that automatic thoughts can have a direct and really immediate impact on our feelings or emotions, and on our behaviours.

The link between our thoughts, our emotions or feelings, and our behaviours was highlighted by an American psychiatrist Dr Aaron T. Beck. In his clinical practice, Beck worked with individuals with depression and noticed that negative thinking was a core aspect of depression. He proposed that negative thinking both made people feel depressed and made it hard to recover from depression. Beck also proposed that the relationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviours was inter-linked – changing one of the parts would have an effect on any of the others.

As a result, Beck developed a new form of psychotherapy for depression. Rather than focusing on the past, he aimed to use psychotherapy to help tackle depression by changing people’s cognitions (or thoughts) and their behaviours. By changing one, or both, of their cognitions or behaviours, Beck proposed that this would also change their emotions, and improve depression. The new therapy was therefore called Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, or CBT.

What I’ve found fascinating from my decades in business, is that the decisions we make as leaders and executives, are viewed by many stakeholders as being reasonable, rational and considered, but instead the decisions are very often being made in alarmingly sub-optimal ways. I would go as far as to say that the reason so many decisions end up being mistaken, in hindsight, is that we haven’t really been thinking clearly at all. Science appears to back this supposition.

As Dr. Joe Dispenza discusses in “You Are The Placebo”, around 90% of our thoughts are exactly the same as the day before. Thinking the same thoughts leads to the same decisions being made, the same behaviours being demonstrated and largely, the same outcome being realised. We are creatures of habit and we feel comfortable repeating the same patterns each day.

It is for these reasons I see thought as the highest priority to focus on right now. The Think Up! Facebook Group is where the main conversations are happening, but every video conversation can be found here at https://thinkup.tv

I hope you find this of value and if I can be of any help, please don’t hesitate to contact me by clicking here.