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The Power of Deep Thinking: Essence of Creativity

The Power of Deep Thinking: Essence of Creativity

True or False: “This sentence is false.”

What was your answer to the question above? Did you quickly fire off an answer or did you have to think about it and then think about it some more?

Imagine for a moment that you could put on a set of inverted goggles and see the world through an entirely different lens. On one hand, you would literally see differently, but you might not view the world differently. If we look deep enough and allow ourselves to observe from a new lens, we will. Thomas S. Kuhn remarked in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,[1]

“What a man sees depends upon what he looks at and also upon what his previous visual conceptual experience has taught him to see.”

The power of deep thinking is the essence of creativity. By learning how to think differently and deep, you will find that it is not only your creative thinking, but your critical thinking skills that vastly improve. This leads to higher levels of thinking and powerful problem-solving skills that you simply did not have before.

Let’s take a look at what deep thinking is, why you should learn about it, and what it will do for you.

How Do You Know That You Know the Stuff You Think You Know?

Have you heard the saying, the more you know the less you know? If you haven’t, take a moment and think about that phrase. By looking at the Theory of Knowledge, we can pose the following question: How do you know that you know the stuff you think you know?

Let’s look at an example. Solve the following: 2 + 2 = ?

    I am hoping you answered 4! Yet, let’s take a look at another way to look at this. In Plato and Platypus Walk into a Bar by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein, we find the following story.

    A western anthropologist is told by a Voohooni that 2 + 2 = 5. The anthropologist asks him how he knows this. The tribesman says,

    “By counting, of course. First, I tie two knots in a cord. Then I tie two knots in another cord. When I join the two cords together, I have five knots.”

    Deep Thinking Is Thinking About Thinking

    Rene Descartes famously stated, “Cogito ergo sum” or “I think, therefore I am” where he believed thinking as the essential characteristic of being human.

    In Why the World Doesn’t Seem to Make Sense, Steve Hagen discussed that Descartes arrived at the cogito through an experiment in radical doubt to discover if there was anything he could be certain of; that is, anything that he could not doubt away.[2] Hagen commented,

    “He started out by doubting the existence of the external world. Then he tried doubting his own existence. But doubt as he would, he kept coming up against the fact that there was a doubter. Must be himself! He could not doubt his own doubting.”

    Essentially, Metacognition is awareness of one’s awareness. It is thinking about thinking or cognition about cognition.

    1. Meta means Beyond
    2. Cognition means Thinking

    Thus, Metacognition means Beyond Thinking.

    To be aware, it refers to the ability of the mind to stand back and watch itself in action. Here, we are able to examine the way we learn, remember, and think. The knowledge of how we process information gives us the opportunity to change how we process it. [3]

    Can We Really Know What Anything Is?

    Hagen poses the following question in his book Why the World Doesn’t Seem to Make Sense: Here it is, but what is it? Do we truly know what something is?

    Hagen remarks,

    When we try to answer this, have we merely answered the question “how do we conceive of it?” or “what do we call it?” Some deeper question remains.

    For example, if I say, “Here, in this cup, is water,” you may ask, “What is water?” But as scientists we might wish to point out, “Water is hydrogen and oxygen.” Thus, by using scientific methods it seems we can discover what water is “made of.”

    With confidence we say, “What is really in this cup is hydrogen and oxygen, combined and transformed into this unique substance we call ‘water’.” But the questions continue.

    Hagen concludes, “What is hydrogen? What is oxygen? And so we look again, using scientific methods, and say, “Hydrogen is an element made of atoms, each consisting of a single proton and a single electron.”

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    But still the questions remain: what are atoms? What are protons and electrons? It seems that we’ve started on a never-ending regression. At no time do we ever really get to the other end of the question: “What is water?” We can name the mind object, even break it down and name its parts, but we still don’t really answer the question.”

    Reading this passage leaves me to ask myself: can we ever really know what anything is? Let’s look at another example from Hagen.

    He illustrates just how strange our world is through the conversation between a physicist and a philosopher:

    Physicist: …and so we conclude an electron is a particle.

    Philosopher: But you also claim an electron is a wave.

    Physicist: Yes, it’s also a wave.

    Philosopher: But surely, not if it’s a particle.

    Physicist: We say it’s both wave and particle.

    Philosopher: But that’s a contradiction, obviously.

    Physicist: Are you then saying it’s neither wave nor particle?

    Philosopher: No, I’m asking what you mean by “it.”

    A Gap in the Stream of Consciousness

    You might be wondering what the difference is between Metacognition and Cognition.

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    • Cognition. This is the process of acquiring knowledge for understanding. Cognition is thinking.
    • Metacognition. This relies on awareness and control of cognitive processes. Metacognition will help you find gaps in your learning and thinking. However, you must have acquired some previous knowledge about a topic prior to Metacognition. As mentioned earlier, Metacognition goes beyond just thinking… it is thinking about thinking.

    Now that you have an understanding of the fundamental principle behind deep thinking, let’s take a look at how to develop it.

    In the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle,[4] we learn the following lessons.

    Constantly Observe Your Mind Without Judging Your Thoughts

    Here we should ask one simple question, “What will my next thought be?” Try it. Can you think of your next thought? Probably not.

    By continually asking this question, you can delay the arrival of your next thought. This is due to what is called the quantum zeno effect, where we can freeze our current state by observing it. Essentially, there can be no change while you are watching it.

    Life Is Simply a Series of Present Moments

    Here we are informed that the past is simply all the present moments that have gone by. Tolle posits that the only important time is the present, for which we think about the least. Furthermore, the present is simply future present moments waiting to go by.

    Imagine leaving your body and watching yourself think. Think of this as a mental movie where your goal is not to judge the actors, but to simply observe them.

    Tolle refers to entering into the Now or the Present as creating a gap in the stream of mind. Asking yourself the question What will my next thought be?” creates that gap and allows you to dis-identify from your mind. Once you do this, you have elevated yourself above thought. This is Enlightenment.

    Stages of Deep Thinking

    Before we look at strategies you can use to become a deep thinker, let’s briefly look at the stages of deep thinking known as the Three Levels of Thought. [5]

    • Level 1: Lower Order Thinking. The individual is not reflective, has a low to mixed skill level, and relies solely on gut intuition.
    • Level 2: Higher Order Thinking. The individual is selective on what to reflect on, has a high skill level, yet lacks critical thinking vocabulary.
    • Level 3: Highest Order Thinking. The individual is explicitly reflective, has the highest skill level, and routinely uses critical thinking tools.

    Strategies to Become a Deep Thinker

    To enter into the Highest Order Thinking, try the following strategies.

    Increase Self-Awareness by Thinking About Thinking

    Imagine you could become aware of how you learn. We know that we must have a baseline of previous knowledge about something to use Metacognition. Think of your Intelligence as what you think and Metacognition as how you think. Let’s look at a series of questions you can ask yourself by using the Elements of Thought.[6]

    • Purpose. What am I trying to accomplish?
    • Questions: What question am I raising or addressing? Am I considering the complexities in the question?
    • Information: What information am I using to get to my conclusion.
    • Inferences: How did I reach this conclusion? Is there another way to interpret the information?
    • Concepts: What is the main idea? Can I explain this idea?
    • Assumptions: What am I taking for granted?
    • Implications: If someone accepted my position, what would the implications be?
    • Points of View. From what point of view am I looking at this issue? Is there another point of view I should consider?

    Challenge Current Learning Methods Through Meta-Questions

    Meta-Questioning is higher order questions we can use to explore ideas and problems. Here are some examples.

    • Why did it happen?
    • Why was it true?
    • How does X relate to Y?
    • Why is reasoning based on X instead of Y?
    • Are there other possibilities?

    Let’s look at a practical example.

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    • When you say: “I can’t do this.” Change this to: “What specifically can I not do?”
    • You say: “I can’t exercise.” Then ask: “What is stopping me?”
    • You say: “I don’t have time.” Now ask yourself: “What needs to happen for me to start exercising?”
    • You discover: “What time wasters can I eliminate in order to create more time to exercise?”
    • Then imagine how you could start exercising: “If I could exercise, how would I do it?”

    View the World Through Different Lens

    Here is a technique you can use to foster a deeper understanding of a problem—Four Ways of Seeing:

    • How does X view itself?
    • How does Y view itself?
    • How does X view Y?
    • How does Y view X?

      Try to apply the technique like this: suppose we are in the United States looking at a foreign country. First, draw four boxes, then list the questions. Second, start answering the questions.

      • In box #1 ask: “How do we see the United States?”
      • Box #2: “How does China see themselves?”
      • Box #3: “How does China see the United States?”
      • Box #4: “How do you see them?”

      Thought Experiments

      One last technique you can use to become a deep thinker —Thought Experiments. This is a device of the imagination used to investigate the nature of just about anything. [7] Thought Experiments seek to learn about reality through thinking:

      • Visualize a situation and set it up in your imagination.
      • Let it run or carry out some type of operation.
      • See what happens.
      • Draw a conclusion.

      The team at Stanford describes this using the following example: Since the time of Lucretius, we’ve learned how to conceptualize space so that it is both finite and unbounded. Let’s see how this Thought Experiment can work.

      • Imagine a circle, which is a one-dimensional space.
      • As we move around, there is no edge, but it is nevertheless finite.
      • What can you conclude? The universe might be a three-dimensional version of this topology.

      Think Deep, and You Will Think Creatively

      Thinking deep will change how you think, feel, and view the world. When you understand this concept, you will start to think beyond simple beliefs.

      “When the root is Deep… There is no reason to fear the wind.”

      Deep Thinking will change how you think, feel, and view the world. When you understand this concept, you will start to think beyond simple beliefs.

      By applying all the skills mentioned in this article, you will be able to think deeper and explore more possibilities.

      Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

      Reference

      [1]Thomas S. Kuhn: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
      [2]Steve Hagen: Why the World Doesn’t Seem to Make Sense: An Inquiry Into Science, Philosophy and Perception
      [3]ThePeakLearner: What is Metacognition? 3 Key Points to Remember
      [4]Eckhart Tolle: The Power of Now
      [5]Thinker’s Guide Library: Critical Thinking Concepts & Tools
      [6]Thinker’s Guide Library: Critical Thinking Concepts & Tools
      [7]Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Thought Experiments

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      Last Updated on September 20, 2018

      8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

      8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

      You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

      Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

      When you train your brain, you will:

      • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
      • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
      • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

      So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

      1. Work your memory

      Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

      When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

      If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

      The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

      Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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      Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

      What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

      For example, say you just met someone new:

      “Hi, my name is George”

      Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

      Got it? Good.

      2. Do something different repeatedly

      By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

      Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

      It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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      And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

      But how does this apply to your life right now?

      Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

      Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

      Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

      So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

      You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

      That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

      3. Learn something new

      It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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      For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

      Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

      You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

      4. Follow a brain training program

      The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

      5. Work your body

      You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

      Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

      Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

      Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

      6. Spend time with your loved ones

      If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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      If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

      I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

      7. Avoid crossword puzzles

      Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

      Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

      Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

      8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

      Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

      When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

      So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

      The bottom line

      Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

      Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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