We develop many skills, talents, and habits in life. Of these, the ability to think is among the most important. Oddly enough, despite its importance, I think it is often under emphasized. We use this ability every day, but are we improving it every day? Or is it being pushed aside as we focus on developing other skills? For example, “Facebooking” isn’t an important skill but we have a generation of masters! I’ve also seen countless masters of video games. Not to mention the abundance of masterful shoppers and bargain hunters. TV aficionados? We have millions. Do we spend more time on these (or similar) endeavors than we do on improving our reasoning abilities? I think many times the answer is yes…but I would recommend the opposite.
Why, then, is thinking/reasoning so important? Consider two accounts:
1) We can’t get rid of our brain. Facebook can be taken from us, sports can be taken from us, material goods can be taken from us, almost everything can be taken from us. The only things we really have are our minds, our bodies, and our souls. That’s it. They make up our essence; everything else is transient. Accordingly, you have to live with all three of these things whether you like it or not, for every second of every day…as long as you live. Let none of them serve as a hindrance to you. Develop all three to the fullest extent to reach your full potential.
2) We are told things our whole lives. When we are babies we are told what to eat and what to wear. In school, we are told what to study and what to learn. Later we are told about the good guys and the bad guys. Advertisements tell us which products are good and which are bad. Bankers tell us how to spend our money. Scholars tell us what is intelligent and what is not. The media tells us how to dress, look, walk, talk, and live. Parents tell us how to behave ourselves. The list goes on and on, but the point is this: we are constantly being bombarded with attempts to change what we think. Unfortunately, if we don’t know what we think, we might follow blindly. In other words, if we aren’t constantly thinking for ourselves, we will inevitably be subject to the thinking of others. And the sad truth is, others don’t always have our best interests in mind. Thus, it is absolutely crucial that we cultivate in ourselves an ability to think critically about the world we live in. Otherwise, we’ll be like boats without direction amongst the tides, simply ending up where they take us.
How can this be accomplished?
1) Stop: Self reflection is a must. Know yourself. Know your beliefs, your truths, and what you stand for. Stop and think about your own philosophy of life. Set aside time for this. The Greek philosopher Epictetus once asked, “When did you ever undertake a voyage for the purpose of reviewing your own principles and getting rid of any of them that proved unsound…What time did you ever set yourself for that?”
2) Read: Build awareness. Naturally, the best defense against ignorance is to be informed. Learn, gain perspective, have an open mind. Absorb the knowledge of others. Have ideas and gain new ones. Can TV help with this? Perhaps some shows, but very few shows. However, I can’t think of a single great mind who attributed their success to watching television, and I don’t consider this a coincidence.
3) Write: You’ve had hundreds of great ideas. But how many do you remember? Most likely, not too many that aren’t in writing. Ideas generated will benefit you, but only as much as your memory will allow. To counteract this effect, write down your thoughts, reflections, ideas, values, etc. It will serve to consolidate the information in your mind, force you to organize your thoughts cohesively, and ultimately, it will serve as a reference. In turn, you will have a solid foundation on which your thoughts, rationales, and ideas can gain power and work in accordance with who you truly are.
I hope you enjoyed this as much as a seasonal apple pie (served amongst friends and with ice cream). If not, that’s okay too, because at least you thought enough to form an opinion, and that was my goal