Thinking and Consequences

Posted on November 1, 2016 by Robert Ringer


I have often been asked if thinking can be considered a form of action.  The short answer is yes.  To employ Aristotelian logic, since thoughts have consequences, we can reasonably conclude that thoughts are actions.

But the whole notion of thinking as a form of action puts us on that proverbial slippery slope.  Like physical action, not all “thought action” is constructive.  For example, pointless daydreaming and dispersed attention (where your mind resembles a pinball machine) are two kinds of thinking that are unlikely to add value to your life.

Since thoughts are actions, and actions have consequences, you become a product of your thoughts.  Which is why it’s so important to be careful about the company you keep.

If you allow yourself to be in the presence of negative people too much of the time, it’s virtually a physiological impossibility to think positive thoughts.  And since most of the people roaming our planet tend to be negative, it takes a great deal of vigilance to keep them at bay.

It’s also important to recognize that just as all physical action is not necessarily constructive, neither is all thought action.  Hateful thoughts bring about hateful consequences.  Negative thoughts bring about negative consequences.  And so on.

That said, following are three of the more important types of thinking of which you should be constantly aware.


Immediate-Solution Thinking

This is the most common type of thinking — and the most dangerous.  It can bury you alive if you allow it to guide your actions rather than the other way around.  I find that the more I pressure-cook my perceived problems, the less likely I am to solve them.

I used the adjective perceived because, in truth, there really is no such thing as a problem.  “Problem” is just a word we use to describe a fact or set of facts.  Worse, it’s a word that carries with it a negative connotation.

I would therefore suggest that you stop thinking of every obstacle you encounter as a problem.  Instead, posit it as a fact that you simply need to find a way to deal with.

By far, the best way to deal with an unpleasant fact is to turn it over to your subconscious mind with instructions to resolve it in a positive manner.  The power of the subconscious mind is still a great mystery to the scientific world.  But the one thing that is pretty well accepted by all experts who study of the subconscious mind is that it tends to produce that which the conscious mind requires of it.


Opportunity Thinking

Once you’ve offloaded your perceived problems to your subconscious mind, your conscious mind is free to focus on opportunities.  Opportunities provide the means to move forward with your life.  It’s good to be a problem solver, but problem-solving is not good enough.  It’s analogous to treading water.

Try concentrating daily on how much time you spend thinking about problems and how much time you spend thinking about opportunities.  If you keep your ratio at 10:1 or better in favor of opportunity thinking, you’re virtually guaranteed to succeed at just about anything you try.

The ultimate triumph of opportunity thinking is when you become adept at dissecting your perceived problems and discovering hidden opportunities in them.  This is an invaluable skill that is sorely lacking in most of the human race.


Free-Flow Thinking

Free-flow thinking is not the same as daydreaming, which can be likened to being adrift at sea.  I’ve found that allowing my mind to “float” can be very productive, provided my general framework is clear and meaningful.

Examples would be to ask yourself such questions as:  What do I enjoy?  What am I good at?  What do I want out of life?  What’s the price?  Am I willing to pay it?

These are questions that require ongoing maintenance if you want to avoid becoming locked into a way of life that is neither profitable nor fulfilling.  Monitoring the answers to these questions is a great preventative to homeostasis (the tendency to live with existing conditions and avoid change).  And the more things change, the more often you should revisit these questions.

One last note on the subject of thinking as a form of action:  In the name of efficiency, it’s important to develop a means for capturing your thoughts, recording and cataloging them, and being able to access them quickly.  This is one of the best-kept secrets of being a good writer.

The first and simplest step in this process is to make certain that you’re within reach of a pad and pen at all times.  Don’t count on remembering a great thought, because, I can tell you from experience, you probably won’t.   At last count, I have forever lost track of 6,822 of my best ideas — ideas that I was certain I would remember.

Also, don’t be a lazy note-taker.  Date your notes (date everything!) and make them more detailed rather than less.  In an interview I once did with Hugh Downs, he told me a humorous anecdote about a note he had scribbled on a little piece of paper that read “phone bill.”  The next day, note in hand, he searched for an unpaid telephone bill.  Finding nothing, he was mystified as to what the note meant — until sometime later, when he was reminded by a friend named Bill that he had been waiting for his call.

To be an action-oriented person, you must make it a point to consciously use thinking as a regular and constructive form of action.  Your first priority should be immediate-solution thinking; second, opportunity thinking; third, free-flow thinking.

Above all, spend as little time as possible thinking about “problems,” because problems tend to evaporate when you’re primarily focused on the other three kinds of thinking — especially opportunity thinking.

You’ve undoubtedly heard the expression, “Think before you act.”  I say, “Think before you think.”  Thinking is action, and actions have consequences.

A final word of caution:  Don’t make the mistake of allowing thought-inspired action to become a replacement for physical action.  Notwithstanding anything I have said in this article, the fact remains that there is nothing on this earth as powerful as consistent, bold, physical action.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

26 responses to “Thinking and Consequences”

  1. Jack Turk says:

    I love the idea of dating your notes… that's something I've rarely done and it makes so much sense. Great post good sir!

  2. Ellis Baxter says:

    Copious note taking is the key to success, if applied to a narrow focus. Add to that a refusal to fall for the intuitive trap .. nothing is intuitive! We have spent eight long years with a president who believes it is all intuitive. His quickly removed 19 seconds of honesty "small minded people can not make these decisions for themselves"… "they must surrender their rights to a all powerful sovereign" proving my long offered and proffered statement that all democrats are: pagan, cultists, and Neo Nazis ..

  3. TheLookOut says:

    Great article Robert, Thanks I needed that.

  4. larajf says:

    I use Evernote to capture ideas. I just nee to set up a process to go back around and review the ideas regularly.

  5. Richard Van Der says:

    Back in the 70s we called our "inner jabber" "monkey mind". Chatter, chatter, chatter. Yes, regarding jotting notes, it is as you say. I am a poet and a writer, so I am forever making notes. I have notepads AND PEN in my bathroom, under my pillow in bed, in my carry bag when I am out, on my dash in my car and… Handy Pen n Pad has caused me to include material in my writings that I surely would've forgot. Good analysis and reminder, Sir!

  6. Serge says:

    I have another form of thinking that could be categorized as free-flowing. It's when I' doing something very mechanical or manual labor. Anything from gardening, painting, or anything around the house. Thoughts come and go and solutions come to mind. Next time I'll have paper and pencil on hand.

  7. Reality Seeker says:

    Enjoyable reading. Good advice. Classic RJR.

    Now, back to the Greatest Show on Earth! Trump! Trump! Trump!

  8. Bill says:

    John Maxwell has some great ideas about thinking. I encourage everyone here to sample his work

  9. Jurgy says:

    I think, I think I am, therefore I am, I think. – "In the Beginning" by Graeme Edge

  10. Ulrich Seufert says:

    Grerat advice! I remember reading about this in your book "Looking Out for Number 1".. Great book.. read it for the first time when I was 19 and have reread it several times since. A classic.

  11. James Parker says:

    I must respectfully disagree that "pointless daydreaming" and "dispersed attention" do not have inherent value.

    "Pointless daydreaming" is often an extension of free-flow thinking. Limiting such thought to some framework or goal can cut off useful innovative thinking by paring down a solution space prematurely — even though the problem(s) (I insist on using the word, although I freely admit that I apply different connotation to the word than Mr. Ringer suggests) such thinking can be applied to may not be consciously apparent or even known beforehand. Such daydreaming can result in detecting patterns or implications that can be of great value at some point in one's future when a problem to which the results of such thinking can be effectively applied. In my career (software research and engineering), I have often found that having such pre-discovered "solution kernels" incredibly useful tools for solving problems that come up later — even years later! Granted, many of these may go completely unused; however one does not know which solution kernels will be applied, and having them at hand has, over the years, exceeded the cost of generating them.

    Similarly, "dispersed attention" allows one to find make connections between disparate problem spaces, which provides a toolkit of predetermined solutions (proven in other fields) to problems which present themselves. These connections (or mappings) can yield rapid (even near-instantaneous) solutions to what would be (or have been) considered problems of arbitrary (and often high) difficulty.

    I do suspect that these approaches may have some other self-imposed structure that I am not consciously aware of, since I and those I know who have also successfully used them generally have a background in the disciplines required in formal mathematics; since I have not yet discovered them, however, I can only hypothesize their existence.

  12. Mike Sherzan says:

    Reality will be here next Tuesday.

    Clinton wins the college-educated segment by 25 percentage points, 59 percent to 34 percent. Trump’s edge among those without a college education is 10 points, 52 percent to 42 percent.

    Sorry folks but your non fact based predications will soon prove wrong.

  13. Pitch Pitchford says:

    @ Mike Sherzan: The poll you refer to has been proven to be fraudulent and void…my poll says TRUMP BY A LANDSLIDE among the college educated who have finally awakened from their deep hypnotic trance as they begin to receive their astronomical bills for their fraudulent and worthless degrees with very few to no job opportunities and apparently you are not aware that crooked Hillary will be indited by the FBI.

    College education (Marxist Indoctrination) has been devalued to the point that higher education degrees no longer hold any or at best, very little value for employers and the spoiled rotten and very gullible students are easily swayed to vote against their own best interests by hard core radicals. An excellent article here by Carmen Dorobăț who has a VERY VALUABLE PhD in economics from the University of Angers, and is assistant professor in International Business at Coventry University.

    If you doubt the validity of my claims watch a young female NH math teacher dressed as Donald Trump dance while listening to Black Rap Crap song F*** Donald Trump in her class room here:

    Watch our next President live in Florida now:

    • Jim Hallett says:

      That NH teacher is prima facie evidence of what passes for "higher" education in the "progressive" run forced schooling establishment. Your stolen tax dollars at work! As Robert says in his article, thinking has consequences . . . and so does NON-thinking stupidity which is prevalent everywhere!

  14. Nasdaq7 says:

    Check how much Clinton has received in illegal donations.

    $140 million.

  15. zach says:

    As almost always some surprising insights, like 10:1 opportunity to problem thinking. Many people like me probably do the opposite, especially as we get older and opportunities seem to dry up.

    As for the election I still cannot see myself voting for either of the major candidates. If I skip it altogether it would be the first time since 1988.

  16. Annie Walton says:

    For answers – is not answered by frantically seeking solutions, but by dissolving the artificial self which asks the question. (Vernon Howard) The subconscious mind takes all in and is not capable of judgment. In other words, listen to your gut. Thanks Robert. It's always a pleasure to read an Author who is capable of having an original thought.

  17. Martin MARTIN says:

    think before you think. great advise for anyone especially if you have OCD.

  18. TN Ray says:

    As a sales rep I tried to see "problems" as "opportunities". It generally worked to my advantage. There were times I wished for fewer "opportunities". I also observed that you could generally provide a solution to any problem, but, some people were bound and determined to find a "problem" in any solution. These were the people to absolutely avoid. Life is too short.

  19. Patrika says:

    Our thinking defines our actions, and our actions helps getting reactions from people. Thus, our thinking always live positive or negative consequences, so one must try to ensure that his thinking and the way of executing it not going to arouse anger or hurt the emotions of the others.

  20. best diss says:

    Your success is not always explicable. Try the best dissertation writer discovers ways to self development to be more awared about writing. Best of all!

  21. Allen says:

    To be an action-oriented person, you must make it a point to consciously use thinking as a regular and constructive form of action. examsleader 100-105

  22. ashleykornee says:

    Your thoughts are interesting to read. I can't say I share them, but still, thanks for the information and providing a professional academic help

  23. Frank says:

    Good article, similar text I saw on