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The death of deep thinking

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

I love to sit and contemplate but I don’t do enough of it. I’m trying to come up with strategies to fix that and have also been thinking about why I don’t prioritise it?

My University years were full of hours in the library reading books, articles and listening to people talk about new ideas that stirred thinking and encouraged conversation. When I started work the access to all those wonderful resources got harder; not impossible, it just needed a bit more effort.

I’ve noticed as I move further away from those days that my sources of information are becoming fewer. This is partly because things are harder to access and partly because my life is filled with short-term thinking. What time is my next meeting? Who do I need to call next? What are we having for dinner? What film shall we watch tonight? Dealing with the things immediately in-front of me takes absolute priority over any desire to sit and think.

This lack of commitment to doing in-depth literature reviews on subjects that interest me has led to most of my information sources falling from my social media feeds or word of mouth sharing from like-minded friends. I assume that all I’m really doing is reinforcing my cognitive biases and making myself feel more ‘right’. That worries me.

I’m asking myself how I engage with deeper thinking in my daily or weekly routines and what’s really creating barriers to that deeper level of critical thought? Those I talk to all seem to crave it, but we’re not creating time for it. Why? I have some hypotheses on possible barriers.

Productivity Obsession

From my experience there is a not a lot of deep-thinking time allowed in working life. Most of us work in jobs that discourage contemplation and generally focus on the completion of tasks rather than complex problem solving. This means there is little opportunity to spend time ruminating over how things work and the value we add (either societally or organisationally).

Stifled Creative Thinking

There has been much written on the lack of creativity in our models of education by the likes of Warren Berger, Tony Wagner and Ken Robinson. From the day we start kindergarten questions begin to be discouraged as we focus on proving we know things. From an early age we are set up to focus on getting the ‘A’ rather than exploring life by asking questions.

Obsessions with being ‘right’

I’m as guilty as the next person in spending more time proving myself right than asking myself why I might be wrong. In the workplaces, my home and the community I find myself generally telling others what I think rather than listening to their ideas.

To push against these barriers I'm going to try the following:

  • At least 30 mins each day reading something thought provoking (currently I'm reading Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe).

  • Following some of the tips from people like Warren Berger I plan to spend more time in an inquiring mindset.

  • Spend more time understanding why people think the way they do, whether I agree with them or not.

What do you think? Are there other reasons we can’t make time to do more deep thinking and what are you doing to find more time for deep thinking?

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