Critical thinking and deep thought

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 11, 2019, 8:12 PM | comments: 0

One of the things that I've come to realize lately is that there are a lot of things that you need to just stop and think deeply about. For example, your kid may have a recurring behavioral pattern that you have to correct, and the resolution is deeper than, "Stop doing that!" Or at work, there's a problem that has to be solved, and the scope of it isn't just making a decision or delegating it.

The problem is, it's so hard to devote the time. There are never enough hours in the day, so you tend to fire away at the next thing and move on. You can get away with that in a lot of cases, because life tends to have a lot of small things that don't require a ton of attention. For the things that do require more of you, you just have to make the time. I'm not suggesting that you throw your hands up and cry that things are hard, I'm suggesting that you make time by prioritizing.

I get a lot of deep thinking done in the shower, and would get more of it done if I didn't run out of hot water. When I had a hot tub, I almost always saw the world with greater clarity when I got out. (Maybe being naked outside had something to do with it as well, I don't know.) Lately I find that a solid half-hour nap on the weekend helps. "Me time" mornings when I see a movie help. The key point though is that I need to make the time and be deliberate about it. It won't organically happen.

There's a bigger problem though, and it's cultural even. We don't engage in critical thinking as much as we should. Some people clearly don't at all. They absorb what they see, and in the age of algorithms, what they see is reinforced with what they want to see. It's cyclical validation of what you already believe to be real and true. There was an article in the New York Times last week about a guy who was mostly apolitical, and got sucked into the alt-right scene hard. When he finally broke out of the cycle of reinforcement, he started to swing hard left. His behavior was to simply be told what to think, and not think critically for himself.

When Bill Nye visited Orlando a year or two ago, he had a running joke about how "Critical Thinking" would be a great name for a rock band, but he was fundamentally frustrated with the lack of it in our society, especially when it comes to science. Flat earth people, anti-vaxers and climate change deniers don't think critically at all. It's one thing when willful ignorance just affects the ignorant, but often the consequences do affect others.

So take time to think. Think about the problems you need to solve. Think about bigger problems in a critical way so you can be a part of solutions.


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