“Instead of worrying about what you cannot control, shift your energy to what you can create.”
— Roy T. Bennett
Traveling to new or less familiar destinations, whether an entirely different country with a different language and culture or a different part of our diverse state in Oregon in which different ways of living are practiced routinely, I am reminded how easy it is to not actually think as we go about our days. In other words, when I step outside my day-to-day life, I am thinking, processing, and using new information far more than in the world in which I am familiar.
In theory, we understand we are beings that think. And because of this unconscious knowledge it is easy to be lulled into not thinking too much throughout our everyday lives which tends to have many of the same routines, responsibilities and expectations of us.
In truth, thinking, thinking well, is initially difficult, and thinking well must be practiced so that it then becomes a habit. What does thinking well look like? Thinking critically.
The French philosopher René DesCartes famously stated in Latin cogito ergo sum, (“I think, therefore I am”), and whether we are thinking well or thinking by default in a manner that keeps us in the world we have created for ourselves, he is absolutely correct.
Thinking critically requires of each of us to examine the source of the information that surrounds us closely, as I say to my students, look behind the curtain. Examine the bias (everyone has one, but what is the speaker’s?), understand the true exigence (motivation for speaking, advertising, making the argument, etc.), observe the entire circumstance and context, observe carefully the word choice and its connotation, ask questions about the facts stated, the support given to determine credibility. As well, make sure the speaker supports soundly what they are claiming rather than shifting the burden to you (a logical fallacy) to disprove what they’ve said.
I share with you this list of how to think critically because it is often dismissed as unnecessary, but in reality, if more of us, at any age, in any country, at any time, would make thinking critically our habit, we would raise the bar of the quality of the decisions made, not only for the world at large, but for our individual lives.
When it comes to our individual worlds, do you think critically before you let those negative or critical thoughts swirl in your head? Do you examine why you are letting such negative or corrosive thoughts have control of your mind?
Henry Ford stated succinctly and accurately, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you are right.” If getting to where you want to go, creating the life you want to create seems impossible, I suggest checking your thoughts and what you are telling yourself. Examine why you are allowing negative commentary to run amok, and if the reasons stem from outside commentary, examine their credibilty to make such comments – what do they have to gain, what experience do they have, what was the circumstance in which they made such comments to you?
We can curtail negative thinking within our own minds by being critical thinkers, and we can swerve around and away from negative and unhelpful negative commentators by being critical thinkers as well.
Much like any other muscle, initially it is difficult to tone it, but with consistency, conscious effort and practicing the right form, the easier it will become.
A simple guide to thinking critically:
- Pause and reflect. Don’t speak immediately. Absorb what you have just heard (whether from someone else or in your own mind about yourself).
- Examine the bias – what does the speaker have to gain, are they credible on this subject (if you are the speaker, ask yourself, why am I saying what I am saying – am I having a bad day, do I not know how to succeed, so I am assuming I won’t?)
- Examine the exigence – what prompted the comment or action to take place?
- Come to understand the entire context and/or circumstance in which the comment was made. Often judgemental thinking has more to do with the judger than the judgee. Cast a wide net to understand the full circumstance.
- Notice the word choice – are the words objective or subjective? Are their words logical or emotional? Concrete or abstract? In other words, are they speaking specifically or in generalities and letting the audience fill in the blanks with their experience which will be different for everyone? Is there an unnecessary use of superlatives (most, best, worst, any adjective or adverb ending in -est) or absolutes (every, never, all, etc.).
- Examine the support given. Is the source credible or is it merely second-hand or gossip?
- Is support actually given that is related to what is claimed? If you are berating yourself, why are you doing it? Is it what you have observed others doing, currently or as a child? Do you not know how to be kind to yourself?
- Determine if a comment or an adjustment is necessary. If so, do so thoughtfully to improve the situation or elevate the conversation. If not, move on with your day, and refuse to let your mind fall into the negative rut.
Thinking critically is the gateway to what we allow to enter our minds, and what we allow to enter our minds will determine the quality of our lives. In other words, it will determine if we believe we can achieve what we hope to attain. It will determine if we believe in ourselves, in others and the world we live in. The quality of our thoughts will determine our health, our level of stress, the path we choose to live each and every day and how we will receive opportunity.
So too, when we think critically as we respond to the outside world, we will either garner respect for keeping an open mind and thinking clearly, go unnoticed for following the crowd or doing nothing or receive disdain for keeping a closed and negative mind. Choose the path that you want to live even if you aren’t exactly sure how to do so perhaps at this very moment. So long as you seek the answers, you will find them. There are endless questions, but the answers do exist. Take the time to seek them out, and remember that it will require an open, thoughtful, think-before-you-speak mind.
A future post that was written on the topic of taming the mind was shared in 2021 and quickly became a favorite of readers. Be sure to check out Taming the Overthinking Mind: 8 Ways to Maintain Your Creativity and Find Mental Tranquility.
~View the entire list of ways to make 2017 a year of quality. Each month a new life concept was examined, and each month the reminder that it is up to each of us to amp up the quality was shared. So much of the life we wish to live is in our control, so why not make the most of such controllable entities and improve the quality of our lives?
~SIMILAR POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~12 Benefits of Seeking Out Quality (podcast episode)
~From Seeking Happiness to Cultivating Contentment: A Shift in Pursuit (podcast episode)