For centuries philosophers, authors and other prominent figures have emphasized the potency of our ability to think. Almost 2000 years ago Epictetus wrote, a Greek philosopher wrote “Men are disturbed not by things, but the view they take on them.” Abraham Lincoln’s words were “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
The last twenty years have been ground breaking and revolutionary in terms of the human brain. It was discovered that the brain is flexible and malleable; this is called neuroplasticity. It means that the brain is not a fixed entity but that our neurons are wired to represent our past experiences and thinking habits.
The wonder of these discoveries is that we can literally rewire and change our brains for better or for worse by changing the experiences and thinking we expose ourselves to. It has even be proven that we can form new neurons. This concept is called neurogenesis. What is further amazing about these discoveries is that positive brain changes can happen right into old age.
It has also been discovered that how we think can have a profound effect on our health and that most physical illnesses have an underlying thinking component. It is therefore very important to investigate the latter with the purpose of facilitating health and prosperity. In my own life this has motivated me specifically to reflect on my thinking patterns and developing them as best I can.
I recently read an article that made an argument that in future thinking skills will even exceed tertiary studies in terms of value and importance. Sadly however, the formal teaching of thinking is still largely neglected in parenting practices, academic curricula and the workplace. It seems to be up to us as individuals to undertake the thinking journey on our own.
All our feelings or actions stem from how we think consciously or subconsciously, be it negative and destructive or the opposite. Feeling anxious and expressing this through having a panic attack for instances is rooted in a thought that I am helpless. The problem that most of us are faced with is that we do not stop and ask ourselves “What am I thinking to make me feel out of control?”
The challenge is then to change our thought to one that is more constructive like “I am feeling A, B or C because of a particular thought. If I change this to one that more positive like “I am not helpless and am quite capable to replace the negative thought by one that is positive and constructive. “
In order to understand what the concept “thinking” means and learning to apply it towards our best advantage, a formal definition is necessary. I like the one given by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. He says “Thinking is any mental activity that helps formulate and solve a problem, make a decision, or fulfil a desire to understand. It is searching for answers, a reaching for meaning.”
The essence of thinkingfit is to become mentally literate. Tony Buzan coined the term “mental literacy”. This means becoming aware of what we think, measuring how healthy our thinking is in terms of our well-being and peace of mind and changing toxic and destructive thinking patterns.
The following anecdote from the life of Bill Gates confirms the importance of attending to our thinking. Most of us are probably glad that Bill bothered to pay attention to his thinking if we use our modern technology!
When Bill was in sixth grade his parents decided he needed counselling. The reason for this being that he regularly did not listen to his mother. She would regularly call him for dinner and he would not respond. “What are you doing?” she once demanded with irritation.
“I’m thinking!” he shouted with just as much irritation.
“You’re thinking?” she responded.
“Yes mom, I’m thinking! He said back. “By the way, have you ever tried thinking?”
The following few blog and social media entries of thinkingfit will focus on making the concept of thinking practical and applicable to readers. I will also be offering individual coaching and mentoring as well as workshops on the topic. Follow us and feel welcome to respond with your own ideas and questions.