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Leadership Thought #315 – Have You Stopped Thinking?

March 9, 2012

Free Man Holding Pen Grayscale Photo Stock Photo

Thinking requires consistent effort. Most of us prefer to occupy the realm of opinions rather than facts – whether we’d like to believe it, or not.  Instead of taking the time to prove something or find out the truth, it is much easier to form an opinion based on personal experience, values, attitude, hearsay, etc.  This is especially true in our media where people with strong opinions (often with minimal or no grounding in the facts) dominate the airwaves.   We’ve become a society dedicated to the easy answer and convenience in all things.   It is certainly much easier and self-satisfying (we think) to find someone who represents our own point of view, rather than push us to grow and challenge our perspective(s).

Sometimes our own children can be the best teachers.  They have a much simpler view of reality and ask basic but necessary questions.  They all go through a period where the repeated question is, “Why?”  Anyone who’s had a young child has been exasperated by the number of times this question can be asked in just one day.  It also forces the parent to produce a satisfactory answer and can expose your own ignorance about a topic which is not always easy to accept.   However, it’s a good thing because they are trying to make sense of the world around them and how it all works – something we often forget as we get older.

As they continue to grow, kids will stop accepting what they believe to be lazy or wrong answers and will start to push back and ask tough questions:

  • How do you know this?
  • Are you sure?
  • Is this the truth?
  • Who told you this?
  • How is this possible?
  • Is there another answer?
  • Does everybody think this way?
  • What if you are wrong?

It is good for children and young adults to become skeptical of what they are being told.  This is how each of us cultivates our own intellectual growth.  Sadly, as we age, most of us become more comfortable with what we know rather than searching for the actual truth, examining facts, and challenging conventional wisdom.  We become cynical rather than skeptical.  We also talk more, ask fewer questions, and listen less intentionally.   Critical thinking requires a level of effort and thought that many of us just stop doing.

I encourage you to challenge your current thinking about pertinent issues in your life and other larger issues that interest you.  Are you leaning too much on your opinions or are you genuinely interested in uncovering the facts and learning the truth before cementing these opinions?  If an alternative perspective makes you uncomfortable, ask yourself why? Mine this mode of thinking for a while to uncover your own limitations.  Could the other person’s ideas have some merit?  Strive to nurture your intellectual growth instead of inhibiting it.  Once you think you know it all you become an obstacle to progress and social bore.  There is a difference between thinking you are right and proving it.  Your mind is either open or closed – it’s your choice.