At all times and all places our mind is constantly thinking, interpreting, and trying to make sense of what is taking place, but just because we have immense experience with thinking doesn’t mean we are experts in our ability to think effectively. This is because much of our thinking is automatic and beyond our awareness. What and how we think becomes an ingrained pattern that has been developed throughout our entire life. We adopt beliefs, thoughts, and expectations from society, our family, friends, and the media, which may or may not be true, and may or may not help us reach our goals. Simply put, out thinking patterns and responses become a habit with which we navigate the world. So, starting to regulate what we think about and making a plan to improve our thinking habits is the first step to changing our life for the better. Here are 10 valuable thinking habits and how to develop them.
Think about your thinking
Metacognition, or thinking about thinking, allows us to uncover our thinking patterns and how these impact our emotions and behavior. When we begin to notice our thoughts we can start to reprogram limiting and belittle thoughts with thoughts that motivate, inspire, and support our aspirations. Learn to reflect on your thinking and be aware of what you contemplate. Contemplate what you desire to become and connect with this image as if you are already this ideal.
Remain open to continuous learning
The more I learn the more I realize how little I truly know. There is so much to be learned whether from experience or education. The more versed we are in a topic the more growth continues to occur. With expertise we are more likely we can think creatively and expand on our current understanding. Find new topics of interest and learn new skills. Make a plan to learn something new and develop in your trade. I personally break my learning and personal development into emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual (EPMS) domains.
One of the most damaging thinking habits is to be judgmental and overly critical of ourselves and others. Being judgmental leads to close mindedness. Overcome this by identifying different perspectives and opinions. Purposely seek out different and opposing viewpoints. Explore them impartially and take new ideas into consideration. Adopt ideas you feel will be beneficial and that match with your values.
Humor is a catalyst for positive emotions and expansive thought. We don’t want to get in the habit of being excessively serious and over-thinking minor issues. This can stifle our creativity and ability to make important decisions. Humor can be very helpful in many situations that lighten the emotional load and stimulate more productive thinking. Use humor on occasions to deal with stress and frustration.
Be understanding and empathetic
Connecting with others and getting to their level is a skill that requires we relate to what others are thinking and feeling. This isn’t always natural but can certainly be developed. Empathy and understanding comes from fully listen to others. Identify personal barriers to listening and connecting with others, and work on your ineffective strategies. To grow as a compassionate person we must want good things for others even more than we want them for ourselves.
Don’t believe everything you hear, and don’t believe everything you think, at least until you have decided you really want to believe it. It can be difficult to think outside of the box when we have been told there is a “right” way to do something our entire life. We learn not to question things or think critically, and instead we go along with the group and take whatever is being said at face value. The next time you disagree or feel your intuition telling you something different don’t be afraid to speak up and take a stand. To make real change in the world and to expand as a person we must learn to think beyond conventional ideas that are out of fashion.
Use imagination and create
One of the greatest gifts we have is our creativity and imagination. When you were a child you may have had an imaginary friend or created your own personal language, or any number of imaginary games. Get back in touch with you ability to be imaginative and don’t let society squelch this tendency. As we get older it can feel like we have to “grow up” and so we stop dreaming and fantasizing. Take up a project to practice using your creativity. Get in touch with this capacity through art, music, writing, or speaking and continue to cultivate it. Practice creativity and get to know this part of your being.
Respond with wonderment and awe
Learn to appreciate the great mysteries of life. When we are able to find inspiration, purpose, and meaning it opens up our mind and we can see things in a new way. Connect to something larger and be a part of something that makes you feel amazing and passionate. Make a list of 5 things that elicit wonder, awe, inspiration, or deep gratitude for you. Seek these out and be open to these moments when they occur.
Take responsible risks
In order to expand and grow as a person, we must be willing to take healthy risks. Change is a constant, so the least we can do is look for opportunities during these moments. When anxiety and fear run rampant we will cease to grow or step outside of our comfort zone. Risk taking doesn’t have to be a complete gamble. Set goals that are realistic and believable, but that are also meaningful and stretch your limits. Think big and bold, but have a practical plan.
Meditate and pray
Developing a consistent habit of focusing on spiritual growth and transcendence offers great peace and insight. Meditation and prayer are two practices that help us become more mindful about what we are thinking and offer us wisdom that we can incorporate into our decision making. Mediate and contemplate on great spiritual teachings and recite and memorize these insights. I will suggest the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi. Developing greater efficiency and effectiveness is a daily process. Much of our effectiveness and advancement comes from personal growth and developing the way we think. Recognize some habits of thoughts that are holding you back, and take time and effort to change the way you think. Photo credit: Photo Extremist