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Using the Power of Telelogical Thinking to Build Business Momentum


While I am a big fan of positive thinking, I’m also no sucker. Positivity is great, but without actionable steps towards an end goal, positivity alone is about as useful as my North Face jacket at Daytona Beach in July.  It is cumbersome at best.

Still, there has to be a middle ground. As every entrepreneur knows, mental fortitude and a good (if even slightly underdeveloped) plan are probably the two most valuable assets you can have when starting a new endeavor.

So how do we leverage our thinking to enhance our plans?

According to Dr. Maxwell Maltz in his 1960 classic Psycho-Cybernetics, it is possible to be “certain” that something will happen before it actually occurs and then use that feeling of certainty to work backwards and achieve the desired result.

This isn’t some hocus-pocus, new age gibberish. As much as I enjoyed some parts of The Secret, this has nothing to do with that either.

The process is called teleological thinking.

Teleological thinking is a model of thought oriented around end results and goals. It works backwards from end goals with the presupposition that they have already happened. Traditional linear thinking demands working from the beginning and shaping your approach sequentially, based on problems you encounter. Oftentimes, this way of thinking leads the person to a different end goal than they originally intended (ie: “just going with the flow”). Teleological thinking necessitates that the end goal remains constant and subsequent challenges be dealt with flexibly in order to achieve the presupposed end result. When dealing with a difficult startup process in your business, this model of thought can be extremely useful in helping you push past barriers that would normally make you want to give up. Failure becomes impossible when the end goal is presupposed and you are simply working backwards to find the path.

There are 5 elements to teleological thinking:

1. Identifying the goal

  • Begin by identifying a target that you consider “already in existence now”. It can be in actual/physical form or just potential form, but you have to assume it’s already there.
  • Rather than trying to “make it happen” you are simply trying to find the correct route to it.

2. Not getting discouraged by the “hows”

  • This is the greatest roadblock to achievement. Always keep the end goal in mind. Maintain confidence that the “hows” will reveal themselves as you move forward towards the goal. Process is secondary to progress.

3. Bouncing back from temporary failures

  • Humans are naturally afraid of failure. However, I want you to think about the nature of success for a minute. Every success follows some sort of failure. Failure is an essential part of the success process. You must know what failure looks like first, otherwise you will have no measure of your own success. Michael Jordan failed to put the ball in the hoop the first time he shot a basketball. Should he have been labeled a “failure”?
  • Negative feedback loops are actually the core of teleological thinking. When you make a mistake, evaluate it and adjust until gradually you are on the right path. The process goes: action, evaluation, adjustment, repeat.

4. Ready, fire, aim

  • Build new connections by constantly acting first, then constantly adjusting your aim.
  • As you experience more and more success, you will begin to associate the success with the “norm” instead of the “exception” and as a result, you’ll see more success because you’ll feel comfortable with it.
  • Warren Buffet is so used to doing well in the stock market that his results reinforce themselves and become the norm. This norm allows him to act with more confidence and as a result, he sees more of the same.

5. Trusting your creative mechanism

  • Don’t wait until you have proof of your abilities to start acting on your end goal. Trust that you have the abilities to complete the task, or that you have the ability to learn how.
  • Emerson said “Do the thing and you will have the power.”

Beginning with the end in mind and working backwards to find the correct route is the best way to know for sure that you’ll succeed in any endeavor you undertake. Try the teleological model of thinking on your business and watch yourself speed past the roadblocks that would have previously held you back.