a three – part series
by Chuck Gazzolli
Part 1: A Beginner’s Guide to Thinking
What do you think about thinking? Most of us probably think we do a lot of it, but we don’t. True, for most of us, there is an endless stream of chatter drifting through our consciousness. But self-talk isn’t thinking. It’s just commentary. It’s just an automatic regurgitation of opinions and beliefs. And that automatic commentary is often negative. It weighs us down and impedes our progress.
By thinking I mean the conscious formulation of ideas. Thinking suggests deliberate thoughts that serve a purpose. So little true thinking takes place that it caused two great minds to make the following comments: “Most of one’s life is one prolonged effort to prevent oneself thinking.” (-Aldous Huxley). As to be expected from George Bernard Shaw, his comment on our dislike of thinking is in a humorous vein, “Few people think more than two or three times a year. I have made an international reputation for myself thinking once or twice a week.”
The talented character actor and screenwriter Paul Fix also put a humorous spin on the subject by saying, “The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it’s unfamiliar territory.” Some would argue that we avoid thinking to avoid thinking about death, but that’s another subject.
When we think before we act, or consider the consequences of our actions, we can prevent a great many disasters. Thomas Secker, former Archbishop of Canterbury) put it this way, “Some persons do first, think afterward, and then repent forever.” But it needn’t be that way. We have the power to think before we act. At the very least, we can think after we act. That way if we made a mistake, we could learn from it.
One of the most powerful forms of thinking is reflection or contemplation. Simply put, it is careful thought, or thinking things through. In other words, we weigh the pros and cons or benefits and liabilities of a particular course of action. However, we don’t want to overdo it. For as British Statesman Edward F. Halifax said, “A person may dwell so long upon a thought that it may take him a prisoner.” At times, any action is better than no action. After all, if we make a mistake, we can learn from it and move on, but not to act at all is to remain frozen in time.
If you are unhappy with life, change the way you think about it. In other words, change your perspective. Change the way you see things. Learn to see the good that surrounds us. Sometimes we are so busy looking for flaws, imperfections, and problems that that is all we see. “Very little is needed to make a happy life;” taught Marcus Aurelius, “it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” Doug Horton adds an interesting twist, “Life is good when we think it’s good. Life is bad when we don’t think.”
Our thoughts are a source of power. They can ennoble us or denigrate us, generate happiness or create misery, or set us free or enslave us. Thoughts are a creative force. You see, we become good by thinking about goodness and cause trouble to others and ourselves by thinking about trouble. Sid Madwed makes a serious point in a lighthearted way in this verse, “Thoughts are funny little things; they can make paupers or make kings.”
Yes, constructive thinking is a life skill that leads to opportunities and personal growth. What can be more fun than wrestling with the infinite possibilities in our midst? Or more fun than trying to figure out our role in the overall scheme of things? Many exciting adventures await those who are willing to take the time to stop and think, for the fruits of thought are decisions, actions, and results. We can multiply the power of thought by using pen and paper. For writing down our thoughts helps us to focus on them. It allows us to capture our thoughts and all the directions in which they go. Also, our notes provide the opportunity to amplify, clarify, modify, and simplify what’s on our mind. They also leave a record to which we can refer to again in the future.
Another way to unleash the power of thought is to ask questions. But they need to be the right questions. Ask, “How can I solve this problem?” Don’t ask, “Why did this happen to me?” Ask, “What are my options?” Don’t ask, “Who or what can I blame?” Walter Duranty makes a good point, “The problem with most people is that they think with their hopes or fears or wishes rather than their minds.”
To be truly powerful, we must grasp the truth that no one or no-thing has any power over us other than that which we give to it with our thoughts. The miracle of thought power is this: a single positive thought can destroy an army of negative thoughts. Often, a single word is enough to change one’s life for the better. For example, let’s say that over several years, Tom has said thousands of times to himself, “I can’t speak before large groups.” But one day, through a flash of insight, he adds a single word to that sentence, saying for the first time, “I can’t speak before large groups yet.” That one word changes the meaning of the sentence so it now means, “I can speak before large groups with proper training.” So, Tom enrolls in a public speaking course or joins Toastmasters International, taking the first steps to transforming his life. Can you see how changing our thoughts changes our lives and by changing the way we look at things changes the world we live in? In a word, our thoughts govern our world.
Reprinted with permission.
© Chuck Gallozzi
For more articles and contact information,
Full-Spectrum Thinking: How to Escape Boxes in a Post-Categorical Future by Bob Johansen
The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli
The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird
Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models By Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann
Mental Models: 30 Thinking Tools that Separate the Average from the Exceptional By Peter Hollins
Quantum Leap Thinking: An Owner’s Guide to the Mind by James J Mapes
The Value of Systems Thinking
Meta-Thinking: How to Develop an Accurate Worldview
A Little film about a Big Idea: Meta Thinking