To think is to cogitate or cerebrate. It’s the use of the mind or one’s power of reason in order to make inferences, decisions, or arrive at a solution or judgments (Wordnet). Of all human activities, thinking is perhaps the most crucial because it determines who we become.
In Proverbs 23 verse 7, the scripture says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he…” This means that you ultimately become what you think. Someone (I think, Mike Murdock) said, “We move in the direction of our dominant thought.” Now the link between what you think and who you become is this: What you think about affects how you feel (your emotions), your feelings influence your decisions and your decisions determine your actions. Your actions (what you do repeatedly) form your habit and your habit determine your results. Your results crystallize into your destiny.
Destiny is the overall condition of your life. So if you don’t like the overall condition of your life (your destiny), what you need to do is to reexamine your thinking process.
Thinking versus Thoughts
There a big difference between thinking and thoughts. Thinking is a voluntary activity while thoughts, those that come into your mind, are largely involuntary. So long as your six senses are functional, it’s impossible to prevent thoughts from coming into your mind. However, you have the power to control what you think about. Someone likened the irresistibility of thoughts coming to our mind to birds flying over a man’s head. Though you can’t prevent birds from flying over your head, you have the powers to prevent them from making a nest on your head!
What I’ve discovered is that people entertain thoughts but don’t think. This is because it’s easier to entertain thoughts than to think. Thinking takes a lot of efforts. This is to be expected considering that what and how you think ultimately determine the course of your life.
If you watch at least four (4) hours of television daily, chances are that you don’t think; you’re a receiver of concluded thoughts. There are numerous other activities people engage in that don’t stimulate their thinking faculty like viewing picture magazines and some activities on social network sites.
How to think
Given the importance of thinking to life and living, it’s imperative that you learn how to think. To improve your thinking ability, consider the following:
What am I thinking about?
Many times, we entertain thoughts without being able to say categorically what we’re thinking about. Each time you find yourself thinking about something for a reasonable length of time, pause and ask: “What am I thinking about?” Asking this question will help bring into your consciousness what you’re thinking about. If you’re not able to articulate what you’re thinking about, chances are that you’re engaging in a fruitless exercise and you should stop it.
Initially, you may find this process a bit challenging but you will get used to it if you stick with it. As you persevere, the positive results you will record will very likely lock you in.
Why am I thinking about what I am thinking about?
When you’re able to say concisely what you’re thinking about, the next step is to ask why you’re thinking about it. This is necessary because the fact that you know what you’re thinking about doesn’t mean what you’re thinking about is worth thinking about. You should subject it to a test of importance by asking ‘why?’
If there’s no serious purpose to what you’re thinking about, you should halt the thinking process. The seriousness of the purpose is determined by the extent to which what you’re thinking about will help in advancing your personal vision / life purpose or the lives of those around you.
What are the benefits?
This has to do with the benefits derivable from the purpose of what you’re thinking about. In essence, is the purpose beneficial or not? This is a bit tricky. However, I answer the question by examining whether I feel empowered when I think about the purpose of what I am thinking about or not. When I feel empowered I proceed but when I feel dis-empowered I stop the process. Sometimes though it may be necessary to examine the reason for feeling dis-empowered But most times, the feeling of empowerment or dis-empowerment is enough to resolve the challenge.
What can I do?
The next step is to think about what you can do to actualize the benefit of what you’re thinking about. When you’ve established what you can do, go ahead and do it. For things you can’t handle alone, search out the people that can and engage their services. My experience has been that there are many people who can do the things I am not able to do.
When the activities I need third parties’ assistance is a recurring one, I seek to incorporate them into my network so that I can always engage them on favourable terms when the need for their services arises.
Points to note
Sometimes, the action to take after pondering on a beneficial subject matter is not clear immediately. In such situations, all you need to do is to suspend thinking about it – move it to the back burner. For me, in such situations, the solution usually comes from discussions with other people or from reading a book.
I’ve learnt that when something is important to a human being, it registers in the person’s Reticular Activated System (RAS) – this can pass for the subconscious mind. The RAS proceeds to look for the solution and brings it to the person’s attention (the conscious mind). For instance, when you buy a particular brand of car, you tend to see more of that car when you go out. That’s your RAS in action. Those cars have always been around, you only didn’t notice until you bought yours. The same principle applies with the objects of your thinking. This time, however, your RAS comes with the solution.
Your mind can only entertain one thought at any given time. This makes for the ease of stopping the thinking process. When you don’t like what you’re thinking about, all you need to do is replace your thought with another one.
Some friends say I am resolute about what I want. When someone says that, almost always, I think: “After subjecting what I want to serious thinking, I can’t help being resolute.”
I am not a bigot, far from it! I just don’t let people talk me out of what I believe is important to me because, from experience, I know a lot of people are shallow thinkers. As Albert Einstein said, ‘thinking is a difficult thing, that’s why only few people do.’
The good thing about thinking is that it’s a learnable activity. Just anybody can become a good thinker if they learn what’s involved and commit to it. Follow the above steps and your thinking process will improve, and you will have an improved overall life condition (destiny) to show for it.