One of the great benefits of this time in human history is the speed with which we are able to gather information. Facts are at our fingertips by simply Googling the desired data. Most people under 30 hardly understand what it meant to have to research something at a library, read an authoritative book (yikes!) or engage in lengthy contemplation. The downside of this is our impatience for reaching our desired outcome, answer or result.
What do we do when confronted with something which requires actual thought? Things involving the real issues of life: relationships, career choice or simply finding a solution to a dilemma or problem we have never experienced. Are we prepared to engage our minds and are we preparing our children to do so?
From my observation most of us will go to almost any length to avoid actually thinking about the issue. We will turn to virtually anyone and ask them their opinion. Generally we don't even seek out the most highly qualified person either. The people we readily turn to for advice typically have no qualification or experience remotely bearing on the issue. Regardless, we readily rely on the opinion of a friend, a neighbor, or someone at work because it’s fast and easy.
Our brains have amazing capabilities the limits of which have never been utilized by even the wisest among us. One of the most unique features is our ability to think, plan, reason and analyze virtually any problem. But beyond the mundane, everyday function of getting by in our world how often do we actually engage our marvelous brain in the process of critical thinking?
Earl Nightingale, the grandfather of personal development, has suggested to begin by writing out the question, issue or problem. Clearly identifying the issue is the first step in reaching a solution. This brings great clarity and focus to our thinking. He advocates putting our issue clearly before us on paper. Next, write down possible solutions or steps to resolving the issue as they come to you. You'll be amazed at how one thought leads to another, and so on. But remember, thoughts or ideas are like butterflies, if we don't capture them (write them down) they often fly away.
Thinking occurs on two levels involving our conscious and unconscious mind. Our conscious mind allows us to mull over an issue, thinking about it from every angle imaginable. Then, after consciously working on the problem our subconscious takes over. It continues to sort through the problem while we are not consciously engaged in the process. Often during sleep, exercise or virtually any activity the desired solution "pops" into our minds. This is our marvelous subconscious at work.
Albert Einstein was no slacker in the deep thinking department. He credited his greatest ideas to this process and often said the solution deemed by others to be a brilliant thought "just occurred" to him. Next time you are faced with a major decision try applying our amazing gift of "thinking" it through.