Thinking is directly tied to education. The goal of education is to produce a deep, reflective capacity for thinking within an individual. Why would the goal be any different? We can program computers to do tasks for us. We can store information within a hard drive. But a thinking person is able to establish meaning in those gigabytes of information.
The bits and pieces are not in isolation, they are connected together with a story, a significance, a problem.
This is what reflective thought boils down to: The ability to take things out of isolation and connect them, essentially gaining the ability to direct your own experience for more wholesome living.
An obese man learns how his eating habits are connected to his poor health. Through reflection, he comes to realize that his poor health his limiting his ability to be happy with friends and family. Through this thinking, through this education, he has come to be aware of the tools at his disposal to find happiness.
So reflective thought is the mechanism that results in growth, not mere learning, but true education. It is the difference between a man who knows some geographical facts and the man that is able to find his way out of a forest with those facts at hand.
What is the process of this growth?
Part Four described the double move in thinking; from details to generalizations back to details. How does this oscillation between the two result in growth?
Well, as you move from the details to the generalizations, your mind begins to form expectations about what will happen in similar situations. You have taken a limited amount of instances and have begun to think that situations with similar attributes will produce the same result.
You throw a liquid on a block of wood and it begins to eat through it. You assume that this liquid must eat through objects. You estimate that when you put it on any kind of object that object will begin to melt.
But, as many of us know, our expectations are not always met. We can’t always get what we want as they say. And so when you accidentally spilled that liquid on your arm, your initial fright was replaced with curiosity as you realized nothing was happening.
Your initial generalization was wrong, but how? And so you jump back into the details by creating experiments to understand more. You narrow down your generalization until you are as accurate as your experiments will allow you to be.
This is how growth occurs.
You oscillate back and forth, gaining accuracy with each step.
The All-Inclusive Man
This process connects all of your thinking, not just one area or expertise. Your experience with the liquid enhances your thinking about liquids in general, which gets you thinking of chemistry, which gets you thinking about the sciences.
You continue to “step back” from the situation until your viewpoints cohere into a single accurate view of the world.
This is how the superficial and deep thinking aspects fit into growth.
Superficial and Deep Growth
To think deeply is to attempt to find connections between seemingly disconnected things. It is an attempt to make different areas of your life cohere with one another.
Your views on happiness cohere with your actions. Your thinking on how to run your business coheres with your methods of running that business.
You are attempting to connect differing subjects, different perspectives.
How does this result in growth?
When you think deeply on a topic, you begin to rewire how your mind thinks about it. You learn something new, gain a new perspective, etc.
Suggestions change as well. As your accuracy in thinking is enhanced, so are your initial suggestions when dealing with problems.
This is why two individuals can have initial suggestions, but one’s are more experienced and more accurate. It is because he has jumped into the details, reflected upon them, and has dealt with enough cases to react habitually correct to even the toughest problems.
It would take a truly novel case to disrupt his thinking and perplex him.
Everything is Intertwined
As you climb a mountain, everything comes into view. The higher you move, the more you see. If you were to find a ladder at the top and continued to go higher, you would see more and more how everything is part of the same planet, doing its own thing, and having its own place within the larger scheme.
This is what thinking deeply attempts to do. To see the connections between everything and their place in the scheme of things.
Why is this important? Because, like I’ve said, it involves your growth as a human being, and as a human being you are more than your job, more than your hobbies. You are you, anywhere you go, and the capacity for thinking allows you to reflectively think and act in accordance to your beliefs no matter the situation.
You are fully aware of both yourself and the situation wherever you end up. In a sense, you are fully alive, not lost in a fog. The sky is clear and you can see everything.
This is how thinking is connected to growth. On a deep enough level, thinking is growth.
If you are ever going to fulfill any potential you may have it will be through thinking deeply on topics you truly care about and developing a genuine zest for solving important problems.
If you are going to fulfill your potential as a human being it will be through thinking about thinking and connecting different areas of your life into a perspective which garners growth and happiness.
And now it is time for my conclusion, where I attempt to connect everything that I have tried to explain here.
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