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Think Thinker: Getting Down to the Process of Thinking
It's the how not the what
Thinking is an act of creativity. The process of thinking, the initial steps in how you think through a problem, can often be more valuable than the final solution. And when it comes to thinking, the how is often more important than what you think.
We all go through moments of feeling stuck in life. When this happens, it’s usually our thinking habits that are holding us back. The good news is that by changing the way we think, we can change our life for the better.
One of the most important things we can focus on is changing how we think to improve our lives. But before we can do that, we need to understand how our mind works and what habits are holding us back.
Being aware of how we think is a necessary first step to changing our lives for the better. I know it sounds like something that doesn’t make sense at first, but if you take some time to understand how your mind works, you can change your life.
The Role of Our Minds
Our minds play two roles in our lives: interpreter and director. The mind interprets external sensory information (i.e., what we see, hear, touch) and directs internal impulses (i.e., thoughts, feelings). We often refer to these two roles as “What” and “How,” respectively; i.e., What do I see? How do I feel about it? What does this mean? How should I react?
The interpreter role is used to make sense of the world around us. The director role is what we use to make decisions and take action in our lives. Both of these roles are necessary for us to live our lives.
When it comes to improving our lives, it’s crucial that we focus on the director role and not the interpreter role. The interpreter’s role in interpreting new information can often lead to confusion and anxiety. So, the director’s role handles making decisions and taking action. And when we take action, positive change can occur.
The Powers of Our Minds
Our mind has three powers to make sense of the world around us and understand what’s going on: association, imagination, and perception. Each of these powers plays a role in how we think about things. And each power has its strengths and weaknesses.
As you read this article, images are flashing through your mind; i.e., the words “association,” “imagination,” “perception.” This is your brain at work, forming connections between words (association), creating images (imagination), and recognizing patterns (perception).
These three powers allow us to do many amazing things as human beings, such as think and remember things we’ve experienced in the past.
But, these same powers can also hold us back when we’re trying to improve our lives. They create mental habits that can lead to confusion and anxiety, making it difficult to see the big picture and connect the dots between the information we experience every day.
How Our Minds Hold Us Back
What goes on inside our minds affects what happens outside of our minds. How we think (i.e., association, imagination, perception) directly impacts how we take action in life; i.e., our decisions and the steps we take will be influenced by how our mind works.
If our minds associate things, we’ll have difficulty distinguishing between essential and not. If our mind is always imagining things, we’ll have a hard time staying focused on the task at hand. And suppose our mind is always perceiving things. In that case, we’ll have a hard time seeing the big picture and making connections between information.
How to Change Our Thinking Habits
The first step in changing our thinking habits is awareness. We need to be aware of how it’s impacting our lives. Once we’re aware of this, we can change how we think.
The second step is to practice patience. Changing the way we think doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and practice to change our thinking habits.
The third step is to be persistent. We need to be relentless to change how we think and improve our lives.
The fourth step is to stay positive. Changing how we think can be difficult, but we must remain positive and keep moving forward.
If we follow these four steps, we’ll be on our way to changing the way we think and improving our lives.
Process vs. Content
People often use ‘thinking’ to describe two different but related things. Thinking about something is working out how to think about it, which means considering its parts and fitting together. The product of thinking is the particular conclusions you have reached by this process.
The process is how you arrive at a thought, and the content is what you think. The method of thinking is more important than the content.
Philosophy and self-improvement are two topics that go hand in hand. Philosophy is all about improving your thinking process, while self-improvement is about enhancing every other area of your life.
When it comes to improving your thinking process, philosophy is a fantastic place to start. Philosophy teaches you to think, question everything, and look at problems from many angles.
But philosophy is not only about learning how to think; it’s also about applying these skills to your own life. In particular, it’s about using philosophy to improve your self-awareness and understanding yourself better.
The key to thinking lies not in your thoughts but rather in putting those thoughts into practice and constantly reflecting on your experiences, and making course corrections as needed. It’s about the thinking process, not the ideas themselves.
When we fail to distinguish between process and content, we tend to equate “thinking” with whatever idea we’ve come up with — without considering that ideas don’t make you strategic, they’re the outcome.
It’s like baking a cake vs. cooking up a meal. You still need to follow a recipe, but what ingredients you use and how you prepare them matters more than what kind of cake or meal it ends up being.
In the same way, having good thoughts isn’t what makes you strategic; it’s how you put those thoughts into practice that counts.
The content of our thoughts is essential, but the process of thinking is even more critical. If we want to be successful in life, we need to focus on the process of thinking and not the content. We need to learn how to think and question everything, and we need to apply these skills to our own lives.
To be a strategic thinker, you need to know how your thoughts work. This means understanding the process and distinguishing between it and the content of our thoughts. In the same way, having good thoughts doesn’t make someone strategic; it’s how those thoughts are executed that counts most. So next time something strikes as an idea for improvement at home or elsewhere, take some time first to figure out which part of this thinking process will lead best toward success before jumping into action with no plan.
This article was first published on Medium.com.