The very essence of our being is in our thoughts. They form our personalities, our perceptions, our intents, our goals, the way we live our lives. They also effect how others perceive us, how we react to things, the methods we take in accomplishing a goal, and the way we present ourselves in whatever circumstances we come across. Our thought patterns govern us completely, and yet very few of us ever take the time to govern them instead.
Mastering the thought process is easily a life long endeavor. In fact, many religions would argue that it takes many lifetimes to do this (hence, one of the purposes of reincarnation). The trickiest part is keeping yourself constantly aware of what you are thinking and why you are thinking it at all times. Let’s face it, everyone has their bad days, times when the outside world overwhelms us with the various issues we must contend with to keep our lives running as smoothly as possible. It’s on these days they we are mostly likely to become victims of our own perceptions, and end up losing control of ourselves in the process.
If we are to seriously undertake the challenge of learning to govern our own thought processes, we have to start from the very beginning. We have to start with the foundation of our thoughts and the mechanisms in which we best utilize them. The best way to consider this is to classify your way of thinking by the four categories:
Since we are all most inclined to make use of all four categories at one point or another, don’t look to say you are definitely one type and leave it at that. If you have any tendency towards being adaptive, you will make use of all four types of thought patterns. (If you aren’t adaptive, I would strongly suggest you work towards becoming so. It’s the only way you are going to be able to stay in control of yourself and deal with whatever situations arise in your life on the most effective level.)
What you should be asking yourself at this point is which category do you lean the strongest towards. One of the first points I should make is that Logical and Analytical are NOT the same thing. Granted, people who are logical have a tendency to be analytical and vice versa, but you can easily make use of one category without the other. I will offer a brief, but not necessarily conclusive, definition for each of the categories:
ANALYTICAL – The ability to see all of the fine aspects in a situation. It includes the ability to scrutinize, identify and exclude/include those details that ultimately effect or are responsible for any given circumstance or situation. This way of thinking allows the person to catch what many others might overlook or properly deduce the cause of a circumstance over a general assumption. Drawback: This type of thinking can get you so wrapped in up in the details, you end up missing the big picture.
CREATIVE – The ability to formulate something original from outside factors or self inspiration. This doesn’t only include the ability to write, compose, draw, etc. – it also means the ability to take a rather difficult circumstance and devise a way to deal with it that wasn’t drawn from obvious conclusion. The creative mind may use analytical or reactive patterns to reach their conclusion, which is rarely the one most people would reach. Drawback: Being too creative can result in making something a lot more difficult than it needs to be, possibly even creating a bigger problem than the one you started with.
LOGICAL – The ability to build a strong argument or plan of action from the given factors that form a situation. The logical progression shows that if you are starting with A, you will go to B, and so on. By creating a steady progression from a solid foundation, the course of action being taken will mostly be the stable (and potentially safest) course to take. Drawback: The logical progression is often a large consumption of time, and can be detrimental in situations with a rapidly approaching deadline. It can also cause one to be paranoid about risk taking, which is sometimes a necessity.
REACTIVE – The ability to come up with a plan of action spontaneously in a given circumstance. It usually deals with rapid deduction of the most obvious factors of a situation, as well as one’s particular feelings about the situation. A certain amount of intuition often comes into play as well, a sense of using one’s gut instincts. Drawback: Reactive thinking can easily be habit forming and will cause you to make rash decisions in circumstances where analysis or logic are needed to avoid creating a problem where one can easily surface.
The first thing you should do is look at these four types of thought processes and figure out which ones you are more geared towards. It might even help to rate your tendencies for each of them by percentages. For example:
- ANALYTICAL: 50%
- CREATIVE: 10%
- LOGICAL: 20%
- REACTIVE: 20%
Then, ask yourself the following:
- What thought process am I most comfortable with?
- Which of the thought processes am I more inclined to avoid and why?
- In what kinds of circumstances do I use each of the following?
- What circumstances caused me to use a process that lead to problems? What process should I have used instead?
- Considering my life and the circumstances I most frequently come in contact with, what processes should I use more or less of to bring about the most effective results?
This is just a foundation to get your started on assessing your own thought patterns. The four categories can be more broadly or more specifically defined. Much of this depends on the person and how they perceive the categories. And as stated before, they can easily intermix. For example, an engineer who is trying to figure out why a mechanical device is malfunctioning will require analytical and logical processes to narrow down the area of trouble and fix it. An inventor would have to use creative, logical, and analytical processes to build something out of nothing. A boxer has to use reactive and logical processes to avoid his opponent’s attacks and find the gaps in his defenses to win the match.
Avoid considering yourself on category only and saying that is what you are most comfortable with, and just leaving it at that. That would be similar to receiving a 50-piece tool kit, but only making use of the hammer and flat-head screwdriver because that is what you are most familiar with. Never underestimate other methods of contending with life and the various circumstances you will find yourself in. If you do, you will never evolve beyond your current state.