7 Steps to Thinking Differently
In case you didn’t know it, we are in a war. Not the traditional kind, but a war over our minds and our thoughts. We have real enemies that want to control our minds, tell us what to think, which will then result in them telling us what to do. In case there is any doubt in your mind as to whether this war really exists, you only have to consider the atmosphere. Do you really know who or what to believe anymore? The atmosphere is filled with fear, lies, and doubt which leads to confusion, distraction and disorientation. All the “voices” around us are vying for our attention, trying to convince us that their point of view is truth.
The only way we can discern good from evil, right from wrong or truth from lies is by carefully analyzing a situation through the process of critical thinking. If we are going to successfully get through this maze of war and make good decisions, we must begin to think differently. We have to be a bit more rigorous in our thought process, realizing that each of us has beliefs, filters, and bias’ that may no longer be serving us. If we are willing to open our thought processes and admit that we might need some new tools to help us in this confusing time, we can possibly come to some new conclusions that will help us to overcome in these difficult days.
Let’s look at some steps that will help us to become a critical thinker. The key to this is to ask ourselves questions rather than just trying to develop an answer.
1. Define your problem or concern.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but often we are trying to figure out how to deal with a problem by focusing on a symptom or generality rather than the real issue. For instance, we may be saying, “I feel stuck. My life isn’t progressing.” The problem with that statement is that it’s too broad and overwhelming. It is better to ask questions like, “In what area(s) of my life do I feel stuck?” “What would it look if this area of my life was “moving” again? If it is more than one area of your life that feels stalled, then you need to address each one individually, because your solutions will be unique to the problem area.
2. Do you have missing pieces of information?
Probing the question above even further, you might consider “Do I have a long-range vision for my life, or am I just living year to year, taking what comes?” If that is the case, then your solution is going to come from spending time thinking about a broader time frame and thinking about what you might want to be doing in 5 or 10 years, and then setting some shorter term goals to help you get there. Without vision, people wander in circles and can easily lose their sense of purpose. Ask yourself if there are missing pieces that need to be considered.
3. Have you identified the root issue?
Even though you may begin to understand which areas of life feel stuck and how you’d like them to look, you will also have to consider why you feel that way?
“When did you start feeling this way? Was there a circumstance that happened that caused you to feel a certain way, i.e. hopeless, defeated, uninspired, grief-struck? Until that issue is resolved, you may not be able to “get up and get going again.”
4. What are your filters?
We all have experiences, attitudes, and traditions, good and bad, that cause us to perceive situations through a certain lens. It’s important to identify your lenses. Just because you have always looked at something a certain way does not mean that’s the only way. Are you open to trying a new lens? Explore the issue from another angle and it might help you see something you hadn’t seen before. If you always walk around the block in the same direction you learn to anticipate what you will see, but if you will walk in the opposite direction, you will see things you never noticed before.
5. What are your assumptions?
We often box ourselves in by assuming that something is true. Test yourself in this by asking “What if?” questions. Take the limitations off your thinking and allow yourself to imagine other scenarios. You may be able to push out the lines you consider to be boundaries. Don’t be afraid to test the boundaries and see what’s really there.
6. The All-knowing fallacy
Are you thinking that you know everything there is to know about the situation? Are you making judgments based on your own thoughts and perceptions rather than searching for what’s true? This will cause you to adhere to the limitations of your own mind. Examples of this kind of thinking could be things like, “I don’t have the right qualifications” or “I’m too _____ or ______ to do that.”
7. The God Factor
Have you left room for God to move in your situation? He is a good God and wants to show you favor. If you invite Him into your process, He will most likely show you some things you hadn’t considered. And where natural boundaries may seem to exist, He is able to transcend them. He can bring to light things you would never have thought of, or bring a connection you would never have imagined, if you will be bold enough to just keep pushing through. Ask for His help, you’ll be glad you did.
In evaluating your thoughts, it may often help to have others give their points of view. You don’t have to agree with them, but they may help you see or perceive in a new light. Good friends can be a sounding board to test out your new thoughts or ideas, or to flush out a course of action.
Finally, it is hard to go through all these steps without having an absolute truth. When I am trying to assess a situation, I go the Word of God as my authority. If something doesn’t like up with God’s Word, then I must eliminate that option or thought. Often, we find that it is our own opinions of God’s Word that have tripped us up. Either we assume that God has boxed us in, or that He doesn’t really care. The truth is that He cares deeply about the things we care about and He has created us to freely express the creativity inside of us within the boundaries of His creative order. So many people are confused because they don’t acknowledge absolute Truth and they don’t believe that God is Love. Please remember that He created us and the plans He has for us are always good. When we discover them, we find a perfect fit! Don’t let confusion and bias keep you from all that God has planned for you!