It is impossible to even consider the word think without, as a prerequisite, actually doing this word. As proposed in the quote by Descartes, the most fundamental activity of being human is to think. He would even say that “thinking” establishes the fact of our existence. I would say it also creates the quality of our existence.
Our superpower as humans is not simply that we think. Thinking can be as unconscious as the act of breathing: “There is a stoplight. Oh, look, a cat! I am hungry…” Our minds operate without our intentional direction.
Our superpower, then, is that we can actually think about thinking. And if we can think about thinking, then we can also think about thinking about thinking. We can get above our own thoughts, and above the thoughts we have about our thoughts. The reason this a superpower is because when (and only when) we do this, we can direct the course of our own lives and potentially even the lives of others.
The human mind is incredibly powerful, yet limited to whatever barriers lie within its own current thought process. The kind of thinking that transforms destinies and cultures first begins with thinking differently.
Let me be clear: thinking differently is not the same as thinking different. Thinking differently is a shift in thought process, while thinking different is merely a change in thought content.
Thought content is that which comes into your mind, while thought process is what your mind does with it. Optimism is a thought process that can make bad news good, while pessimism is a thought process that can make good news bad. Change a thought process, and everything else in your mind changes.
Therefore, our capacity to think about thinking is a superpower. Those who will not make the effort to do so will always remain stuck within self-imposed but unrecognized limitations. Those who think about their thinking will unlock the vast potential of the human mind.
I sat with a client once who wanted strategies to help with his anger. He was the last client I met with on certain days, and every time I saw him, I was on the last fumes of my own emotional tank. So, contrary to the rules of good therapy, I gave him what he asked for instead of what he needed.
He was asking for thoughts to help change emotions, and that normally doesn’t work. But I was fatigued. So I gave him strategy. Not surprisingly, it did him little to no good.
I knew I had to think differently. I got above my own thinking and realized that his anger was birthed from pain, and his pain needed connection and empathy, far more than his anger needed strategy. I mustered all my emotional stamina and began to lean into his pain. As I connected with him and expressed empathy, he slowed down. After a few moments, his heart softened, and he had an epiphany of what had been driving his anger.
“Thinking” is a rich palette of options, especially when we consider that most people operate from a single thought process, and innumerable options are available. Thinking includes reason, deduction, intuition, memorization, integration, improvisation, synthesis, reflection, and many other processes.
If you are wondering why the change you are seeking eludes you, consider that perhaps thinking another thing cannot help and that, instead, you need to think another way.
The move from one thought process to another can be a challenge. Try these steps to see things in a new way. When you are stuck, trying to solve a problem, or simply need a fresh set of eyes, try these six strategies, the six S’s:
Stop. Often, the forward momentum of our thought process keeps us from shifting. Take a moment to clear your mind.
Shift. Use your brain in some way other than the type of thinking that has you stuck. If you are trying to do something detailed, shift to something creative. When you come back, you might find that your mind has loosened.
See. See things from another perspective. Look at your situation through another person’s eyes or from a different angle. Consider how someone of the opposite sex might see the issue, or someone from another culture. See through the eyes of someone older or someone younger.
Slow. While our culture encourages speed, the mind does not shift well at high speed. New thought processes must be cultivated, not driven. Slow down.
Share. Consider collaborating to help your mind stretch. Bring in another perspective or set of skills.
Settle. Settle down on the inside. The more anxiety we feel, the less access we have to the higher functions of the brain.
Slow down, look through new eyes, and discover just how much more your mind wants to show you!
The mind carries out its assignment without even asking your permission. Your mind is trying to take the mountain of data coming in through your senses and make your world manageable. Rather than let your mind do this without your guidance, make your mind your ally, not your obstacle. Take charge. Think about thinking, and learn the language of your mind.
Remember, our capacity to think about thinking is a superpower.
“Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself.”
Think is written by Bob Hamp