Are you able to think for yourself? Or are your thoughts shaped by others — parents, educators, society, the media?
I.Q. is not an indicator of your ability to think independently, in an original and coherent way — there are people with genius-level I.Q.’s who are not capable of thinking outside the box. Thinking for yourself (“thinking different”) is a skill that must be developed and nurtured. The following three steps are the foundations of learning that skill and enriching it.
Effort is worth more than brain power. A weaker mind that exerts itself can surpass a more gifted but passive mind. Thinking for yourself is a product of mental and emotional exertion — a concerted effort to think freely, and not just fall back on your comfortable and natural patterns. Picture your good, perceptive, fresh ideas as a spark in a flint stone, or a diamond encased in rock. You must apply pressure to the rock to extract the diamond. In cognitive terms, pressure comes in the form of deep concentration and mental strain — wrestling with ideas in a way that transcends your comfort zone.
Feed Your Mind
While new insights are a product of mental exertion, they are also a product of allowing your perspective to be challenged. Indeed, that is a key ingredient in the acquisition of knowledge. Discovering the ultimate truth requires exposure to many diverse opinions and channels of truth. Feeding your mind with knowledge through reading, discussing, and taking classes — and robust (well intentioned) arguments — broadens your horizons so that you can go beyond your habitual patterns of thought. Nothing allows your mind grow more then inviting constructive critique.
Work on Humility
A biased and subjective mind is limited in its capacity, and narrows your scope; modesty and patience leads to more objective and broader conclusions. When you take yourself — your ego — out of the picture, you are able to open your channels to ideas that your “self” (and your prejudices and blind spots) would otherwise block or reject.
Exercise: Choose a problem that you would like to solve. Set aside time to be fully present and mindful while researching and thinking deeply about it. Push yourself beyond your usual limits, exploring the idea in a way that goes beyond your comfort zone. Be humble in the process. Journal about it in MyMLC.