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Essay 2: Learning through Thinking

ESSAY 2--THINKING

THE RIGOURS OF THINKING PART I : PERSONAL

Thinking is one activity which doesnt come naturally to most of us. When confronted with a problem, most of us are overcome by our emotions. In fact, our feelings get the better of us and come in the way of true understanding and objectivity. The negative emotions like ego, pride, arrogance, greed, lust, desire, fear, hatred, jealously prevents a person from seeing a person or a situation in the true light from a detached perspective. The result is wrong assumptions, distorted reality, faulty assessment of the self, and prejudiced opinions which create a sort of impasse or deadlock in seeing things in perspective. This inability to see things in the right perspective is at the root of our sorrows and grief.

We often mistake worrying and brooding with thinking. The difference between thinking and worrying is that while thinking is constructive, worrying is not. Worrying is associated more with the consequences, backlash of an action, a dreadful fear of the unknown and the future and an inability of the mind to prevail over circumstances. Worrying actually paralyses the mind, it creates a sense of utter hopelessness and prevents us from undertaking action. Brooding is the continuous reflection over a problem in despair, where you repeatedly go over what happened, blaming one and all except yourself for the soup you have got yourself into, without once asking why.

It is the willingness to undertake the hard mental effort required to answer questions like why, how, what, where, when, which, who with regard to a particular problem which constitute steps towards thinking. The key lies in not taking things at face value but going beyond the apparent and striking at the root cause. Once you can identify what caused a particular action, it becomes easier to understand the response or the effect. To do this, you need to see things in the wider perspective, linking seemingly unconnected insignificant events, the words and behaviour of people, known and unknown to each other. You need to have a burning desire to find answers to the riddle and solve the puzzle in hand.

Thinking cannot be undertake by the lazy or slothful. You need to shake off your mental lethargy and not let a situation or event to pass by, shrugging it off as mundane. Thinking requires considerable mental alertness, curiosity and daring. Unless you are endowed with considerable intellectual

abilities where in a flash you can get to the solution, it requires considerable patience and time. And you can invest that time and effort only if you are genuinely committed to finding the right answers to a problem. The single-minded determination and endurance for enquiry comes only if the problem is dear to your heart. This ability to discern a particularly interesting problem which requires a solution through thinking, is what differentiates a thinker from a non-thinker.

As in all other activities, for thinking to be truly productive, it requires considerable amount of discipline and order. You have to control your thinking and not be controlled by it. A disorderly and indisciplined mind will soon digress from the real issues at stake and will start dwelling on unnecessary or non-essential points. And when you divert from the real problem at hand, you start attributing wrong motives and doubtful intentions on the part of others. This leads to suspicion and mistrust, leading to fear, hatred and anger, with the cycle continuing till you end up considerably harming yourself and the other person.

How soon you arrive at a solution depends on how focused and concentrated you are on solving the puzzle. When you focus with single-minded attention, you are able to see clearly the essential issues at stake and can then start framing the crucial and key questions. With the questions clearly defined, you can then rearrange them in order of importance and then start answering them methodically and diligently one by one. Here it is important not to skip to the next question, till you have answered the first question to your complete satisfaction. Again, the answers must be crisp and concise, capturing the essence and should not be vague and diffused. You will then marvel how one answer leads to another till the solution to the problem appears well in sight.

The quality of ones thinking is directly proportional to the quality and size of ones goals. Having a clear idea of what you want to do, what you want to become and where you want to go is what gets your mind ticking and thinking in that direction. When your objectives and goals are clearly articulated, you can then initiate steps to bridging the knowledge gap, undertaking behavioural and attitudinal changes, development of required skills and moving across a spectrum of people. Goals help you to answer questions like what is required of a particular person and how do you go about doing a job. In fact, it helps you to develop on what qualities are required of a person, what is he expected to do, what steps you should take to reach there.

Developing the power of observation is critical to honing the thinking faculty. Innumerable things are happening around us all the time, many of which are relevant and significant. Even with eyes wide open, you could be blind to activity around you simply because you have either switched off your mind or are disinterested. Its important to train your eyes to see what is happening around and why it is happening. Acutely observing the expressions, gestures, mannerisms, behaviour, posture, gait,

actions of people can reveal a great deal about their internal state of mind and what they think of themselves.

One crucial activity which is grossly underestimated is that of listening. Careful listening to seemingly innocuous remarks by people can offer valuable insights into ourselves and others through a process of analysis and inference. Most of us are preoccupied by getting across our point of view or simply holding court to get attention. Getting to know the other persons point of view and seeing things from his perspective as well helps your thinking to become balanced and meaningful. Thinking can be greatly abetted by listening when you consider the context in which words are spoken, the timing of a message, the tone of the speaker and the underlying or hidden meaning behind a sentence.

A wrong line of thinking, better known as negative thinking can prove extremely disastrous for the self and others and is at the root of all personal and social evils. In essence, negative thinking implies wrongly and inaccurately assessing reality, charging others with inimical motives and intentions which very often leads to irresponsible and anti-social behaviour, faulty judgement and violent acts. In fact, many physical and mental aberrations like blood pressure, headaches, asthma, paralysis, gastro-intestinal ulcers, hysteria, neurosis, psychosis, hypertension are a result of the preponderance of negative thinking and negative emotions. If left unchecked, a continuous line of negative thinking can severely cripple a person psychologically. Medication can only offer temporary relief, but the cure to psychological illness lies in ensuring a right line of thinking which helps one arrive at correct understanding.

The ability to think on your feet requires presence of mind and solid contact with reality. It requires a correct assessment of available options, ability to see things from different angles and viewpoints, being creative though not necessarily conventional and being able to modify and adapt resources and ideas to arrive at solutions which work. Having a birds eye view as well as the ants eye for detail on issues is what helps you to arrive at the right conclusion.

What kind of an environment is conductive to creative thinking? I suspect that rigid organizational structures, the need to confirm with conventions, bureaucratic and hierarchical set-ups stifle and strangulate the thinking process. You can think freely only when you are not limited by conventions or norms and when you are not inhibited by the environment. To arrive at original ideas, it is better to think freely in privacy and then air your thoughts rather than indulge in group brainstorming where the loudest, most aggressive and most powerful is able to supplant his line of thinking on others. Again, it is always judicious to carefully decide as to whom you confide your thoughts in. It requires a person of immense maturity, confidence and intelligence to appreciate and understand original and creative thoughts.

KG/LEARNING/ESSAY2-THINKING/SEPT 8, 1999