You're Not Me and I'm Not You How to apply critical thinking to your business decisions.

By Dixie Gillaspie

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Sounds obvious doesn't it? You know (intellectually at least) that you are unique. So why do people tell you that if you'll just do what they did, you will get the same results?

Take physical fitness, for example. How many people do you know who have gotten fit by following a system? Lots, because a systematic change in lifestyle is the only way to get fit. But the system that works for you may not work for me. In fact, it may be dangerous.

The same with getting through an illness. One person responds positively to a medication or therapy and they insist it is the cure to end all cures. But another person shows no improvement, or even loses ground.

You see the same differences in the classroom. Some students quickly grasp concepts or information presented in a certain way, while others respond with glazed eyes or frustrated outbreaks.

So, why would you believe in a one-way-fits-all solution for your business? One way to approach marketing, one way to approach sales, one way to approach hiring, one way to approach technology? If there is only one way to approach business success, why are there so many success stories about entrepreneurs who made completely different choices?

Related: 50 Signs You Might Be an Entrepreneur

You know the answer already. There is no one right way to market, sell, hire or use technology. There is no one system that is guaranteed to make your business successful -- unless that system IS your business, which is why people buy into franchises.

So how do you know which way is the right way, for you?

You can resort to trial and error, buy lots of spaghetti and see what sticks. You can ask a lot of people what worked for them and pick what sounds like it's most likely to work for you. You can buy a system or program, and try to follow it to the letter. You'll get results, and some of those results will be positive. But you can get even better results by applying critical thinking.

Critical thinking is defined as, "The mental process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion."

Related: How to Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills and Make Better Business Decisions

It's not as easy as throwing pasta, or blindly following a system, but it yields better results sustainably because you will not only make better decisions, you will have learned an approach to making better decisions. That skill will apply to every business decision you ever make.

Get rid of wishful thinking.

We're addicted to overnight successes and guaranteed programs because we'd LIKE to believe that it can happen to us. But overnight successes are the result of hundreds of variables and, usually, years of hard work. Guaranteed programs are simply promising to give you a refund if they don't work for you.

Get precise about your desired outcomes.

When you read the success stories and evaluate the guaranteed programs, are you asking yourself if the results are exactly what you want? Or are there just some elements of those success stories you find attractive? You may want a seven-figure business, but do you want to manage employees and retail outlets? You may want an online business, but do you want to create the kind of content the program demands that you roll out?

Once you get clear on what you want for your life and business, you'll be able to overlay that vision with any solution or program you assess.

Determine what has to happen.

In each example given above -- fitness, education, overcoming disease or dysfunction -- there are success factors that are universal to each goal.

I worked with a client this morning who started their partner meeting by saying that, in order to make more money, they had to attract more clients. Yet, as the meeting progressed, it became clear that they really needed better client selection and management in order to increase the bottom line, before they focused on top line production. That wasn't what they wanted to hear, because they're good at getting clients. But that realization is going to allow them to hone their process to create more profit, without adding people or resources.

Related: Emotional Intelligence Can Be Your Project's Most Critical Success Factor

Determine what has to change.

Once you have a clear concept of what you want, and have analyzed the success factors that are essential to getting what you want, you're ready to define the true problem. What has to change to create the outcomes you desire?

The first changes will always be in the way you think, the way you view the problem, the way you view the prospect for a positive outcome.

After that the changes will be to systems, to roles, to checks and balances, to communication, to technology and so on. But, without applying critical thinking, all those changes would be pasta on the wall or blind devotion to a system that works for someone who isn't you, in a business that isn't yours.

Related: Defining Problems: The Most Important Business Skill You've Never Been Taught

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Dixie Gillaspie

Writer, Coach, Lover of Entrepreneurship

Ever since she was a little girl, Dixie’s least favorite word was "can’t." It still is. She's on a mission to prove that anything is possible, for anyone, but she's especially fond of entrepreneurs. She's good at seeing opportunities where other people see walls, navigating crossroads where other people see dead ends, and unwrapping the gifts of adversity and struggle. Dixie also contributes to Huffington Post and is a senior managing editor for The Good Man Project.

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