It is interesting how much advice we seek out on a daily basis. We want to know how to be successful. We want to discover the keys to being happy. We want to accomplish our dreams.
The truth is that we already know most of the answers. The catch? They’re buried in the recesses of our mind and we can’t get them unless we’re looking for them. Many people will rely on others to point them out.
Some of this is good, because others can be very insightful and quickly point out something we wouldn’t have noticed for years. But too many humans have come to be completely dependent on the ideas of others, as their own cognitive competency dwindles from lack of use.
A little while ago I wrote about how multi-tasking kills productivity, and in that article I referenced a study that clearly displayed the limits of the human mind. Because we have two frontal lobes (right, left), effective focus is maximized at two things at once (each lobe handles a different task). When a third task is added, the mind “drops” one of the first two. I still strongly prefer one activity, as in that case both lobes work together in order to accomplish the task and it allows for greater depth.
This isn’t exactly the same as life knowledge, but it does carry over.
We all have a sort of “framework” that we understand the world through. This framework of understanding is extremely complicated because of the thousands of variables (i.e. experience and knowledge) that go into forming it. Since our mind can only focus on one or two things at a time, we must intuitively draw missing data from our framework of understanding as we need it.
This being the case, there are always going to be some ideas/concepts on our mind’s backburners – blurry and out of focus. This is different from ignorance, because if we think of them, we can focus on them.
That’s Brilliant! …Even Though I Knew It Already
Can you recall an insightful book or article?
The profound parts – were they completely new untouchable information or something that you already knew deep down or could have figured out yourself? Most of the brilliant people of today are masters of finding those backburner ideas and illuminating them or combining them with other known ideas. 99% of brilliant ideas that amaze you are not outside of your own cognitive ability.
You could come up with the idea for Facebook if you were already thinking along those lines of connecting people through the internet, right? It’s a simple idea that gradually developed more depth as it was developed.
The irony of this is that those who understand this principle and do something about it in daily life are the ones who come up with amazing ideas and live fulfilling lives. Call it what you want, but I call it deep thinking. Deep thinking contains two primary forms – critical and creative thinking. Critical asks, “What can I do better?” Creative asks, “What is possible here?”
The first article I wrote for this site was about deep thinking. It is the basis for everything I write about. I aim to think deeply enough to uncover those valuable ideas that are dormant on our backburners – waiting to be activated. In doing so, I want to create a movement of deep thinkers in a shallow world.
Here is a quote that connects my last post on the supernatural with this post about the problem of “the unthinking masses.”
At this point a suspicion may occur that Supernaturalism first arose from reading into the universe the structure of monarchical societies. But then of course it may with equal reason be suspected that Naturalism has arisen from reading into it the structure of modern democracies. The two suspicions thus cancel out and give us no help in deciding which theory is more likely to be true. They do indeed remind us that Supernaturalism is the characteristic philosophy of a monarchical age and Naturalism of a democratic, in the sense that Supernaturalism, even if false, would have been believed by the great mass of unthinking people four hundred years ago, just as Naturalism, even it false, will be believed by the great mass of unthinking people today.
~ CS Lewis
The problem with shallow thinking is that you only focus on your immediate environment and current desires. There is so much more waiting to be discovered, and it is accessible to you at any time by thinking (at home, on the go, everywhere!). I’ll give you an example of what I mean.
A few days ago, I purchased five dry erase boards with the intention of organizing my entire life in a specific way on them. This is not the type of activity that you just do on a Tuesday when you’re bored. It took significant deep thinking and planning, and that was after I spent a while thinking about what I wanted to do with my life and how to do it.
As you may have picked up by now, deep thinking only happens intentionally. Even if you love deep thinking, you’re wired to think on the surface as a default. It makes sense for an animal that has no higher desires, but we’re not satisfied with only having food, water, and shelter. We demand more out of life because we can and it is fulfilling on another level.
At the core of deep thinking is asking questions.
What do I want? How can I get it? Why is this this way? What possible solutions are to this problem? Am I going about this the right way? Why is everyone so stressed out?
If you’re wondering where to start, you’ve already begun.