The Visual Thinker Mindset

Learning a bunch of techniques and strategies will not help you become a great visual thinker. As a matter-a-fact, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that visual thinking is something we do externally. This perspective couldn’t be further from the truth. You need more than techniques and strategies to become an effective visual thinker.

To become a great athlete takes more than skill and strength. To become a great dancer takes more than talent and luck. Likewise to become a great visual thinker takes more than techniques and strategies.

Let’s take a look back at the metaphor of the magician for a moment…

A person who desires to be a magician can be taught all these wonderful magic tricks. However, if they don’t have the dedication, persistence, commitment, discipline, patience, and passion that is required to become a magician, then they’ll struggle no matter how many tricks they end up learning. Visual thinking works in the same way.

If you desire to become a Visual Thinking Magician, then you must first cultivate the mindset of a visual thinker, otherwise you will simply struggle to find the solutions you are after no matter how many visual thinking techniques you have within your repertoire.

Breaking Down the Visual Thinker Mindset

This visual thinker mindset that I’m going to discuss below applies as much to visual thinking as it does to creativity and innovation. It’s by no means a comprehensive list of qualities, traits, behaviors and characteristics, however it does outline the critical elements that will help prepare your mind for the visual thinking journey you are about to undertake.

Flexible in Thought and Decision

A visual thinker is flexible in thought, decision and action. She realizes that visual thinking and idea generation requires her to be open to new ideas and perspectives at all times. This tells her that she must be flexible in her approach and be willing to change her strategy if new evidence or information challenges her existing assumptions.

Possibility Thinker

A visual thinker persistently thinks about the possibilities. These possibilities help expand opportunities, understandings, awareness and perspectives that assist in solving the problem at hand. The more possibilities exist, the more potential ideas can be generated and the higher chance that effective solutions can be found.

Ability to Take Risks

A visual thinker has no fear of failure. As a result he is open to taking risks and digging deep into areas that he feels somewhat uncomfortable and unfamiliar with. This takes ongoing courage and strength that helps him overcome any obstacles and setbacks that may be holding him back from finding the solutions he is after.

Ability to Persistent

A visual thinker realizes that the only way she can succeed is to fail forward fast and to keep persisting despite any obstacles she might face.

Inventors, geniuses and high achievers throughout history have accomplished tremendous results because they were willing to throw a lot of things against the wall in an attempt to make a few ideas stick. They weren’t necessarily smarter or more talented than their peers. They simply kept trying and didn’t allow setbacks or misfires to extinguish their curiosity and imagination.

A visual thinker therefore understands that if she persist for long enough over a consistent period of time, that she will eventually figure out how to solve any problem in a creative and unique way.

Proactive Nature

A visual thinker is always moving forward towards their main objectives in a proactive way. Instead of reacting to problems, he is always working proactively with problems — trying to identify optimal solutions and outcomes. He consistently asks himself:

Is this activity taking me closer to my goal, or is it pulling me away?

The answer to this question directs his focus and aligns his actions on the highest priority activities and tasks that will get him the optimal results he is after.

Focused on Experimentation

The visual thinker cultivates early imperfectionism in order to capture as many different ideas and perspectives as possible — just like a scientist who conducts many variations of the same experiment. This takes risk and can lead to mistakes. However, the process is important because it helps to expand possibilities.

This initial stage of experimentation is soon replaced by perfectionism, as data begins its transfer from concrete ideas into solutions to the problems that the visual thinker faces.

The visual thinker realizes that in order to make this work they must have strong organizational skills, must strive for excellence at all times, must adopt high standards of thinking, and must cultivate the key abilities of a Grandmaster Chess Champion — the ability to identify patterns and think several moves into the future.

Focused on Solutions

A visual thinker looks at problems, questions problems, analyzes problems and breaks down problems, however she always remains firmly focused on finding solutions to these problems no matter what obstacles she may face or how grim the current outlook may be.

Focused on Simplicity

A visual thinker realizes that the simplest solutions can often fix the most complex problems. He therefore focuses on keeping his concepts and ideas as simple as possible throughout the visual thinking process, fully realizing that over-complicating the information can lead to confusion and can also very easily lead him off course in the wrong direction.

Focused on Growth

A visual thinker sees failure as an opportunity for growth. This naturally breeds a deep desire for self-actualization — motivating her to consistently challenge herself by seeking activities that expand her abilities as a visual thinker. Because she’s focused on growth and self-actualization, this naturally encourages her to:

  • Learn from all forms of criticism.
  • Redefine problems as opportunities for growth.
  • Embrace all challenges openly.
  • Persist in the face of adversity.
  • Find inspiration in other people’s successes.

If she doesn’t know how to do something then she simply asks:

Can I learn how to do this?
How will I learn how to do this?

Cultivates Imagination

A visual thinker realizes that his greatest power lies in his ability to find patterns, make associations, and conceptualize ideas from existing pieces of information in a new and unique way. This requires some thought and reflection that will help spark his creative imagination.


A visual thinker realizes that creative efforts can take time and therefore require a lot of patience and preparation. As a result she doesn’t force answers or solutions, instead she proactively makes slight adjustments in her approach and strategy in order to open the door to new perspectives and understandings that will help unlock the solutions and opportunities she has been searching for.


A visual thinker understands that innovation and ideas come easily to those who are obsessively passionate about finding solution to problems. The subject of their problem literally consumes them, energizes them and ultimately inspires them to create breakthrough ideas.

Curiosity and Playfulness

A visual thinker is always curious to know more, to learn more and to discover solutions that others simply could not find. He therefore approaches every task and activity in a curious playful way — reminiscent of a child learning something new for the very first time.

Optimistic Outlook

Finally, the visual thinker cultivates a positive mental attitude — fully realizing that a problem cannot be solved unless she is able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, at the same time she wholeheartedly understands that she must not ignore the problem or fail to consider the reality of the situation.

The solution therefore lies in first defining the problem, then identifying the cause and effect relationships that are generating the problem, and finally looking at ways to piece together all the relevant data and information that will help solve the problem.

Are You Ready to Become a Visual Thinking Magician?

Before we finish, I think it’s important to point out that unless you physically and emotionally take the time to incorporate the visual thinking mindset principles outlined here, that you will struggle long-term to successfully apply the process of visual thinking into your life or business.

Everything we do starts in the mind and then translates into the real world through our decisions, behaviors and actions. Therefore all learning must always begin on a psychological level before it’s played out on the physical plane. Henceforth, I hope that you will also begin your visual thinking journey here in the mind and eventually transfer that knowledge into the physical world as we begin launching into the plethora of amazing visual thinking techniques, tools and strategies.

Keep an eye out on the next two article posts, which will delve into the beliefs that visual thinkers adopt and the questions they consistently ask themselves throughout the visual thinking process.

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