Transformative Thinking

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

“A thorough look into our thought processes may reveal some hidden surprises”

The ability to quickly and correctly remember information we’ve learned is a different skill from that which uses reason and logic to make rational conclusions. However, what they both have in common is the capacity to think. From the first day of school, many encourage us to sharpen and maximize our brain power, knowing it will serve us well as we continue throughout life. Whether it’s recalling facts on a history test or calculating a string of algebraic equations, most people work hard to be perceived as smart. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be intelligent. The perception alone often adds to one’s credibility and is advantageous in many circumstances.

My five previous posts have all been centered around the thinking process and more specifically, continually questioning the substance, intent, and viability of those procedures and methods developed during our lifetime. Uncovering the errors and misconceptions of those processes can ultimately become gigantic moments of learning and self-development.

There are countless examples of how centuries-old scientific facts were proven incorrect. Some of these ancient and prehistoric truths are still debated today. Similarly, there have been many people whom history has highly praised yet further research has discovered some horrible attitudes and convictions about human rights and dignity. This is not a declaration nor admonition of anyone being wrong, it is simply pointing out that ideas, beliefs, and even facts, can and have changed.

One of the most frequent phrases repeated to my clients is: “Always ask questions. Answers may change but if the question is never asked, there’s no need to seek the answers.” Personally, I feel better when I’ve had a “transformative thinking” moment than when I spout some highly-regarded philosophical thought I’ve treasured for years.

Conviction and certainty in our own beliefs is something we all seek. It provides a sense of comfort and consistency in what has made us who we’ve truly become. However, it may also create a propensity to seek out others with likeminded ideals; leading to groupthink, exclusion and the feeling that everyone else disagreeing is completely wrong. Conversely, there are those who claim to be openminded yet may frequently dismiss points of view from those they perceive as narrowminded; which in and of itself, seems narrowminded.

The key is to constantly reexamine our thought processes. Be open to the possibility that change may be needed. There isn’t anyone alive who hasn’t had his or her mind changed about something. And merely asking a question does not demand the answer must change. Sometimes reevaluating our truths enhances our resolve and offers additional insights into why we believe the way we do.

In today’s world rife with division, blame, and animosity, now more than ever it’s important to repeatedly and relentlessly analyze our thinking processes. Are there any selfish motives behind our exclusionary wants? Do our efforts promoting goodwill mask self-aggrandizing intentions? They may or may not; but without asking the question, we may be refusing or denying the truth. Sometimes when we take an honest and sincere look at our own thinking processes, we may be surprised at what’s been hiding.

My thanks to Ben White of Unsplash for the wonderfully fitting picture. I look forward to your comments.

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The thinking gap

Red Rock Canyon, outside Las Vegas, Nevada USA

“Forcing others to do things your way will often constrain them to make your same mistakes.”

The one inevitability about personal growth and development is that it typically points out something within ourselves which needs to be changed. Often, it indicates a part of our thinking, perceptions, or awareness which we believed were correct, but now realize contained flaws. It is a daily goal of mine to find at least one growth moment no matter how small or major it may be.

A rather compelling moment happened last June. I play second trumpet in the Henderson Symphony and the upcoming concert featured some popular jazz standards. We recruited the assistance of a trumpet player from the local university named Kurt. This was his first time performing with the orchestra and after hearing him warm up, he had on him what brass players refer to as quite a “set of chops.” One of the pieces on the program was, “In The Mood” which featured a solo for my part. I hadn’t practiced enough before the first rehearsal and wanting to spare myself some embarrassment, I asked him to trade parts. He shook his head no and immediately my thoughts went to, “whatever happened to respect your elders”?

Needless to say, I was a bit agitated but shortly after the first note, I realized he was playing the first part and had he agreed to switch, the music would have been more demanding than my current one. When the time came for my solo, I stumbled through it and after the first run-through, I thanked him for not obliging. This young man’s refusal to accept what was essentially a demand, spared me additional awkwardness and also forced me to go home and “woodshed” the part; compelling me to do a better job.

Not only was this a lesson I’ll never forget, it also sheds light on another important subject. Many in my generation often dismiss or scorn the attitudes of those in younger ones; but I have a different outlook from most Baby Boomers. Gen Xers and Millennials are frequently criticized for many faults; however, I also recall being a teen and having adults criticize me and my friends for not doing things the way they did as children. It’s nearly engrained in the human species to do so and complaining or forcing our own will on them won’t make any change except perhaps for the worse.

Last week’s article highlighted a view that if I believed in something passionately, it doesn’t require everyone else to believe the same in order to be “right.” Today’s young adults are not shy about dealing with issues differently from my peers. At times, I wish they were more open to heeding my experience and learning from those mistakes. Albeit, there’s no doubt in my mind those adults who critiqued me had a similar thought.

There is one fact which cannot be denied nor overlooked about the younger generations and that is they ARE the future. If there is anything grim about it then it ought to be our responsibility to help build it and not complain or in some cases, even sabotage it.

Rather than only looking for reasons to gripe about their actions and behaviors, focus also on seeing positive ones in today’s young adults as well. Recognize constructive behaviors and freely compliment them. This nurtures and inspires productive conduct and is the best way to leave a greater footprint on the future of this planet.

Granted, certain behaviors should never be ignored but that’s true regardless of your peer group. There is no reason why all of us – both young and old – can’t work together to mold the brightest future ever. My generation can offer words of wisdom while at the same time, learn from the energy and enthusiasm of younger ones. The worst thing we can do is force them into doing things the way we did. Otherwise, they’ll be prone to make our very same mistakes.

This week, see how much kindness you can compliment and inspire; especially from those younger than yourself. Thanks as always and I look forward to your comments.

Universal Thought

“The beliefs of the Honorable do not always align.”

Children often dream of what they want to be when they grow up. Adults, however, mainly want to have jobs they enjoy; one in which they feel valued, respected, and with opportunities for growth. There are plenty of studies showing how employment impacts our health and mental wellbeing which is far more valuable than what wages alone offers.

Choosing a profession such as a counselor, therapist, or life coach, is frequently initiated by a difficult or challenging event which radically changed that person’s life and now inspires them to help others. That was certainly the case for me. After my marriage fell apart, I was fortunate to find a great therapist. But it wasn’t until three years later, upon completion of my book, when that feeling truly ignited.

I’ll always remember the freedom I felt when my problem was finally pinpointed. The moment I realized it was my own thinking and the negative beliefs I had about myself that was the biggest stumbling block in my life.

Others have described these awakening moments as a weight lifted off their shoulders. Mine was more of an incredible feeling of liberation while ironically giving me a better sense of direction. Although there was still plenty of healing and spiritual growth to be had, there was a confidence before that I’d never fully realized.

My book chronicles part of that journey but mainly focuses on shame and low self-esteem I did not want to admit. The title of the book is: Shame On Me – Healing a Life of Shame-Based Thinking. It details how pervasive shame is, yet continues to go unnoticed by most people. It creates feelings from total unworthiness to complete arrogance. I believed this one concept was the most important one and what the world needed to hear to answer many of its problems.

To this day, I continue to be passionate about this message and wish that everyone could undergo a similar awareness to mine. But there is also something else of equal importance I learned and that is no matter how committed I am to that message, if others don’t share that same passion, it does not make them wrong.

This is perhaps one of the greatest obstacles for many. When we experience something so transformative and lifechanging, we want everyone else to experience that same excitement. No matter how altruistic, unselfish, or noble our concerns appear, we cannot demand or expect everyone to be on board with our entire train of thought. No one philosophy holds the solutions to the entire world’s downfalls.

This realization does not put a damper on my enthusiasm. I continue to become more passionate about helping people understand the devastating effects of shame and guide them through their emotional healing process. But I also understand there are others with a message as passionate and healing as mine. The ultimate goal is helping others, not for everyone else to validate and honor my beliefs.

My thanks to Photo by Alfred Schrock on Unsplash for the beautiful photo and I look forward to your comments.