Contributed by Georgia Ellis
In social gatherings I often find myself simply sitting and observing. I’m teaching myself to take in the surroundings and pay attention to what people are saying and doing. Overtime I have trained myself to notice the slight nuisances in a person’s tone of voice, their posture, the pace in which they speak and the words they choose as I’m observing I then get curious, I ask myself, I wonder what experience, information, values, and perspectives sit behind how they are showing up?
The truth is I will never know how someone comes to their view of the world, this in and of itself doesn’t bother me. I may be able to better understand them and their motivation by how they are communicating, which can be helpful, if I get it right that is but what often raises a mildy disapproving eyebrow is when I hear people sharing an opinion or information that is not backed by personal experience or clear evidence. There is a word for this kind of communication, gossiping. These interactions usually lead to misinformation as a story is rehashed to suit a particular situation or the storyteller’s agenda; a little like the ‘Whisper Challenge’ the further away or down the line you are from the original source, the more likely you are receiving embellishments, untruths, or biased information.
For the receivers of information who are not fully trained in the art of thinking, the misinformation can lead to misguided actions and reactions and can go on to produce unwanted ripple effects in their own life and the lives of the collective as misinformation or outdated ideas becomes a mainstream belief or world view.
Each of us holds a unique and personal perspective of reality that is often formed through childhood as part of our induction into being human, and then as adults we unconsciously and consciously give certain people and organisations credibility and a halo of godliness, automatically believing what they say without question. For the most part we are influenced and manipulated by external forces, too lazy to think for ourselves. When we’re busy being too busy, it is much easier to scroll social media or turn on the TV and listen to a person dressed in a suit tell us how to think and act.
Fortunately, there are a growing number of people who are no longer swayed by the glitz and glamour of a celebrity clambering for recognition, a politician trying to win votes, or a friends ego getting the better of them. These people are in the process of mastering the art of thinking. They usually do this through curiosity, discernment, trusting their intuitive nudges and an awareness of human nature. This skill, yes, it is a skill, is one that anyone can learn. Through practice we can learn how to ask the right questions to determine the motivation and credibility of our sources of information. In short, we can tune our ‘Bullshit detector’ to a high level of accuracy and know when and how to boldly respond in a way that doesn’t lead to conflict.
Over time as a species, we have and will continue to collectively increase our mental complexity. This form of human evolution is often the result of an individual or group making a bold stand and challenging a commonly held perspective that has been inaccurately accepted to be true or mainstream. Unfortunately, sometimes their questioning or new perspective is subject to harsh and even life ending consequences, all because their view or questioning was not in line with the mainstream perspective, or they did not agree with those who claimed “authority” at the time.
Humans are funny creatures, we fight so hard to hold on to our perspective, and when someone comes along with a different approach, idea or viewpoint that could change an individual’s life, increase an organisations productivity, or maybe even make the world a better place for future generations – we scoff, snigger, shoot them down, insult them and publicly ridicule them – go team human?!
“The man with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.” - Mark Twain
We seem to quickly forget that thinking differently has been key to major shifts that have so profoundly influenced the advancement of our collective pursuits in philosophy, science, and technology.
So, back to my social observations. Why do I do this? Why sit there and watch what’s going on? The truth is, I am trying to master the art of thinking. I am trying not to let my past dictate my future. I am having meta conversations with myself to try and allow my habitual, egotistic, biased thoughts and feelings to rise above my accepted norm in that moment. I am practicing how to entertain an enquiry that takes me outside of the constraints of my default perspective of how things are or are meant to be. I must admit, it’s not easy and I find myself asking the wrong question and saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Real thinking is an artform that requires awareness, practice and time. The hardest part for me has been adopting a willingness to be wrong in a belief or view and learning from my misguided enquiries in the hope that I will be able to gracefully transcend ideas that once were deemed by myself or society to be absolute truth that have no relevance in the world we woke up in today.
Throughout my life I have had various mentors (some alive some alive through the medium of books) some whom at the time I trusted impeccably, only to find as my mental complexity grew, as my values evolved, their views no longer served me or my changing worldview. Right now, I have a few mentors who offer me a wide angled view of the world and who unbeknown to them, continually challenge my world view. They are teaching me to think, to discern and to test my assumptions. I must admit this process is often a destabilising and challenging experience as I muster up the courage to unlearn and to think differently. It’s exhausting! Pass me the remote for some six-o’clock news someone please.
But wait, there is more to this challenge of shifting perspective.
As I am begin shifting my personal world view, and feeling off kilter, skidding between guard rails, the people around me assume I’m the same me. They believe I hold the same view, values and beliefs that I did yesterday. This becomes a next level challenge as I emerge in my familiar surroundings, looking the same on the outside, with an internal updated operating system that no-one is aware of unless I open my mouth and talk. Friends and family must feel like they’re sitting down at their trusty PC only to switch it on to find it’s using an Apple operating system, they are lost, confused, and don’t understand the language I now speak. Interactions become disjointed and frustrating to everyone especially those who may not agree with or understand my emerging view. It feels lonely, I want to curl up in the foetal position and suck my thumb until it’s safe to come out again. Although as enticing as it seems, hiding away is not courage, it’s an act of fear and potential conformity where nothing changes, my world stays the same and I won’t make a positive difference sucking my thumb.
In his unified science course, Nassin Haramein Founder of the Resonance Science Foundation writes,
Historically, thinking differently amidst a strongly held philosophic and scientific set of beliefs has proven all too often to be a difficult road to walk. The authority structures of the time will typically put-up great resistance to new ideas, and the individuals and groups who are willing to voice these new ideas are challenged or allegedly “debunked”, in many cases without either an unbiased evaluation of their ideas or a reasonable argument against them based upon such an evaluation.”
According to Abraham Maslow, one of our deepest needs and drivers is the need to fit in and having a point of view that is at odds with those we live and work with can feel threatening to our survival. One way I see around this is for as many of us as possible to dig deep and be bold - together. Yes, we will come up against friends, family, colleagues, policies, procedures and structures that feel like a form or resistance to a new and often better way of thinking and being. We may feel like an oddball, with no tribe to fit in with and become discouraged to stand up to an injustice, or an outdated workplace policy, in some instances we may feel threatened and even begin to question our own conclusions and logic and may even start to judge ourselves as being stupid for even thinking something different. It’s hard to swim against a current of arguments that appear to be truth and accepted as ‘right’ in our culture. This is the wave some of us are riding now as new ideas and ways of working are emerging and confronting long held collective views, can we ride the wave arm in arm? If we see someone swimming against the current, can we throw them a perry buoy in the form of encouragement, being interested in their point of view and using curiosity to validate their position with them?
I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some questions that we can ponder together.
How to practice the 'Art of Thinking' to widen your perspective.
Shifting your perspective is a deeply personal experience. It’s up to each of us to pay close attention to where information is coming from and our personal relationship to the information and decide for ourselves what feels true.
Continually shifting my perspective and being open to new ideas is an ongoing learning process for me, by no means am I perfect. Over time I have noticed that as each of my outdated perspectives fall away and as I listen deeply and pay close attention to the motivations of those around me, my life has become richer, and I have a deep sense of freedom and faith in a better future for everyone.
As you navigate life, I invite you to become a ‘Virtuoso of Thought’ by asking yourself some questions during your interactions with other people and sources of information:
When you decide to open your mind and start shifting your perspective, you begin to positively contribute to a greater organisational, community or even global shift.
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