Posted by : Halima Khait Thursday, October 16, 2014

Lately I've been looking at the characteristics of my professional role models. The one thing they all have in common is the ability to think strategically, an area where I can definitely stand to improve. So, I've been asking myself, how can I think more like them??

And as the universe would have it, I was provided two things. The first was a renewed interest in chess. My father always had an interest, so there was always a chess set in our house when I was growing up. Of course it only attracted me because the pieces could be used as little dolls. But it's funny how genes work; in my mid 20s the same desire my father had to learn the game awoke within me. I'd like to say it was because of classic movies like Fresh, the story of a young New Yorker who takes down a drug dealer and escapes the lifestyle by using a chess-like strategy. But in reality my interest was probably more fueled by pretty things again; I bought a mother of pearl, inlayed chess set with wooden pieces. Hey, a zebra can't change its stripes. Anyway, I started learning the game and talking about it with people. The one thread of thought that ran through all of the conversations was that chess develops life strategy skills.

I got it, but I didn't really get it until the universe provided me with its second gift in response to my question of how I can be more strategically effective. A couple of weeks ago, I checked my inbox and an email with the subject "How to think strategically" was sitting there. It contained a link to a Harvard Business Review blog titled, Strengthen Your Strategic Thinking Muscles. Perfect, right?? Except the article didn't contain anything groundbreaking. What I will give it credit for is making me think about if I am a planner or proactive and if there is a difference. I decided there is. Not saying this applies to me but, a person can make plans all day but it does no good unless action is put behind it. In my case, I am at my best when I have the luxury of having time to thoroughly plan something. In contrast, when put in a situation where I have to move quickly from one task to another AND be ahead of the learning curve, situations that call for being proactive, I sometimes drop the ball.

And so, when playing chess on my tablet today, I had that proud moment when I was able to anticipate my opponent's goal three moves out while also developing my strategy. That's like thinking of six things at once - not only how to stave off something conducive to someone else, but harmful to me (reactive), but also how to position myself for my best end result (proactive). It was my aha moment.

~With ♥ from Halima

What is something you need to work on? What steps are you taking to improve in that area?

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