Thinking is one of those things we take for granted. Everyone does it, right? That’s true, but not everyone does it well.
If we could liken thinking to swimming, most people are like a person floating in a river. They’re at the mercy of the current. Whichever way the current goes, that’s what dominates their thinking.
If they’re hungry, they think of food. If they’re tired, they think of bed. Their minds are buffeted and tossed by the pressures and events of life.
There’s a better way.
Let's talk about intentional thinking. This is a seriously undervalued skill. But if we go back to our analogy of the swimmer, intentional thinking is as different from the thinking that most people do as Olympic swimming is from just floating downstream and treading water.
Here are some important steps to being a better, more intentional thinker:
1. Be purposeful.
Don’t allow your mind to constantly slip into neutral where your brain idles and drifts into thinking about nothing in particular. Obviously, there’s a valid place for doing this. After all, we’re not machines. A certain amount of fallow time, daydreaming, is good for the soul, but not if that’s all we do.
Instead, give yourself times where you have a reason to think. Think about something that’s important rather than just nothing in particular. Block out rerunning in your head that movie you saw recently. For guys, don’t let your mind just drift off into thinking about sex.
2. Have an end-goal.
What exactly do you want to achieve?
Do you want a better understanding of Scripture? Want to solve a problem? Want to work out a better way to do something? Are you planning a future event?
Having a goal prevents your mind from wandering and keeps you focused. Be clear on what you want to get out of your time of intentional thinking.
3. Block out negatives.
It is easy to rehash disputes in your head. You know what I mean. The ones where you win the argument instead of losing! Where your reasoning is irrefutable and the other party is left with no option other than to bow to your superior wisdom and acknowledge that you are unquestionably right.
We’ve all done it. But what a total waste of thinking time! It changes nothing except to reinforce your own anger. The more we think this way, the stronger the connections in the brain become so that we’re more likely to continue such negative thinking patterns.
4. Get rid of distractions.
I know, we all love to think that we’re special and that we can multitask. However, all the latest research shows that there is no such thing. Despite claims made to the contrary, no one—male, female, young or old—can actually multitask. That is not how the brain was designed.
This fact has important ramifications. If you think that you can watch YouTube, listen to a podcast and hold a conversation, all while doing your best thinking, think again. Quality thinking time requires the removal of distractions.
Get alone, turn off your phone and remove yourself from the ever-present temptations of technology. That will give you the best chance of thinking quality thoughts. In my view, it also gives us the best possibility of hearing the voice of God which is often crowded out by the “noise” of life.
5. Fill your brain with good stuff.
What goes into our minds determines the kinds of things that come back out. Therefore, it makes sense to fill it with quality thoughts. One of the ways we can do this is by reading great books, such as good theology, powerful biographies and challenging resources, not to mention the Scriptures!
Don't limit your reading to easy-peasy-Christianity-lite books. Read material that will make you think and challenge you to be a better person. Invest in good quality commentaries to supplement your Bible reading.
Of course, you can’t read while driving to work, unless you want to mess up your thinking permanently! Instead of listening to random radio stations, at least you can choose to listen to something spiritually uplifting or educational.
Nevertheless, whenever possible, reading is generally much better than listening. This is because 1) you can stop and reflect; 2) you can underline important points to review later; and 3) you can cover much more ground in a given time slot.
I realize that many, especially men, don’t like reading. As they say, Leaders are readers. It is time to man-up and do what’s best, not just what’s easiest.
Photo source: depostitphotos
Tony Llewellyn is an Australian pastor, author, musician and songwriter. He and his beautiful wife Alli have two adult children. Tony authored 11 books on biblical and musical topics, released five CDs and runs two websites: HotSermons.com and HotPraise.com.www