What On Earth Are You Thinking?

Authors share some interesting concepts about the way people think while I have been listening to an audio-book called “Breakthrough Thinking.”

I have been listening to an audio-book called “Breakthrough Thinking,” in which the authors1 share some interesting concepts about the way people think. There are four main ways to think, which translate into four main ways to see the world. It may help you understand your clients and employees and colleagues (and friends and family members) It also may help you understand yourself better. What is your main thinking mode?

1. Victim Thinking

Victim thinking is inactive thinking. “We are preoccupied with the past and the things we cannot control, our mind is filled with thoughts about what we coulda, shoulda, mighta, oughta done, not what we are planning to do in the future,” writes the authors.

The thought process of the “victim” is that whatever happens, happens, and there is nothing I can do about it.

Let’s take an example. Let’s say a veterinary clinic has hired a person solely dedicated to inventory and ordering. For years, that person has been known to be inefficient, disorganized and difficult to work with. Procrastination was a chronic and painful issue.

As a consequence, the clinic routinely ran out of medications and supplies. The clinic moved on to a completely computerized system to manage inventory and generate orders. The “ordering person” position was terminated.

With victim thinking, the now-jobless person will blame the situation on somebody else’s decision, or the system, or bad luck, or the need to always make more money, or the evil boss.

They will make no effort to understand the true reason behind the decision. In turn, this will reinforce the person’s core beliefs in fate and pessimism about the future.

2. Sustainer Thinking

Sustainer thinking is reactive. The person is preoccupied with the present. The classic response to a new idea is, “We’ve never done it that way.” How many times have you heard that line?

The unspoken question is: “Why change now?” In other words, if it ain’t broke, let’s not fix it. So the prevailing belief is that something has to be broken before it can be changed. Ancient methods, obsolete therapies, antiquated systems may remain in place for years, until somebody sees the light.

Say the clinic gets new management software. “The sustainer will learn how to use it, but begrudgingly and just enough to get by.” Comments may include: “We were doing just fine with the old system, why did we have to change everything?”

Sustainers do have ideas, but safe ones. The parameters are known in advance. They want guarantees. “If I do this, then I want that in return.”

The same philosophy applies to the way we react to what our “friendly competitors” are doing. Sustainer thinking may lead someone to (reluctantly) emulate what the “vet down the street” does. “They got a laser? Let’s get one.”

3. Dreamer Thinking

Dreamer thinking is active. The person may have lots of ideas, but they never seem to be able to take action. They appear to be incapable to work out ways to turn the dream into reality.

When somebody else makes things happen, the dreamer may say “Well, I had thought of that before.” The problem is, merely thinking about it isn’t good enough, in our personal lives as well as our professional lives. Turning ideas into reality is the only way to succeed. Otherwise, such ideas remain a pipedream.

4. Innovator Thinking

(Preliminary note: The book is about thinking, but it mostly teaches features of outstanding innovators.)
Innovator thinking is “the mode we should work in, or at least, work toward,” according to the authors.

Innovators are proactive. Not only are they able to react to change, but also to create change. Like some of the personalities described above, innovators are full of ideas, but they will find a way to turn their ideas into reality.

Innovators are the catalysts which make things happen in a veterinary clinic—and elsewhere.

Hopefully this will help you define and understand the people around you (and yourself) better.

You will be able to identify your current or most common mode of thinking. Even if you are starting to realize that your attitude is not the best ever, the good news is that (willing) people can change. Yes, you can change your way of thinking to increase your efficiency, your performance and your overall happiness.

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, PA. His website is www.DrPhilZeltzman.com. He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound: How You and Your Dog Can Lose Weight, Stay Fit, and Have Fun Together.”


 1.Breakthrough Thinking: Strategies for Winning Big in Business (Hachette Assorted Authors) by Denis Waitley and Robert Tucker (2007).

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