The act of thinking is the most important activity in our lives and the one that we need to pay consistent attention to as well as reflect upon. Everything we feel and do depends upon this. I have consistently emphasized this in my writings.
In my practice, I do however consistently come to the conclusion that the act of deliberately thinking about the quality of our thinking and the deliberate and structured process of “measuring” our thought content against ethical principles is not a favourite activity for most of us. The implication of this is that we compromise on the process of becoming increasingly aware of ourselves which in turn assists us to cultivate our minds like farmers would do with stretches of barren soil. For a fruitful crop, the farmer has to consistently attend and nurture it.
In her book, “Time to think”, Nancy Kline emphasise the fact that in addition to making sure that our thought content is rational and sound, learning to think for ourselves is not a popular activity either. This often means challenging and going against the norm. Every step of real progress in our society has however come from this and we need to cultivate characteristics like courage, openness and flexibility to enable us towards this ability.
Kline continues to say that in most circles, particularly in places that shape our lives – families, schools and most work places – thinking for yourself is regarded with suspicion and may gage opposition. It is therefore often the easiest route to do as we are told. What we think, really remains hidden.
This should not surprise us says Kline. Hardly anyone has been encouraged, much less trained, to think for themselves, and their parents, teachers and bosses weren’t either. And neither were theirs. We may have learned to revere individualistic free thinkers like Socrates who challenged the status quo, but we also learned that the state poisoned him for thinking for himself.
Typically, when we are in groups that are perhaps brainstorming or exploring new ideas, often the unstated warning in our culture is: “Think the way others are thinking. Think to avoid ridicule. Think to get a promotion. Think to out – manoeuvre.” New and unusual ideas are often made fun of. This is counter to cultivating creative thinking and setting the scene for proper innovation.
To break through the restrictive barriers of thinking like everyone else seems to be difficult. In my own life I turned thirty five before discovering my ability to critically assess and challenge the general ideas and opinions of society. I only learnt this because I found a wise mentor who encouraged me to develop my own thinking and discover the power of my own creativity which means in essence to challenge the existing and finding novel solutions to problems. A good place to start with the development of your own independent thinking, would be to seek a mentor who can assist you on this journey. Do you have anyone in mind? If not, I would suggest that you start looking!