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Thinking about Thinking

Posted By: Randy GageNovember 3, 2010

So what helps you think better?  For me it’s three things.  

First is creative stimulation.  A couple of weeks ago I saw Cirque du Soleil’s KA, Mystere and O, and then the “So You Think You Can Dance” tour in a five-day period.   When you expose yourself to creativity like that, it can’t help but get you thinking differently.

The average person has about 60,000 thoughts a day.  Unfortunately for most people, about 59,000 of them are the same, day after day.  Studies has shown that these same repeating thoughts actually follow the same neural pathways in your brain, in essence making the figurative rut we talk about literal.  When you expose yourself to something fresh and new, you actually create new neural pathways in your brain.

The second thing I do is learning.  As you know I love to read books, listen to audios, watch DVDs and expose myself to critical thinkers.  When you’re learning you’re thinking.  But not if you’re just memorizing facts.  You need to be learning from sources that CAUSE you to think.  When you get exposed to something and say, “I’ve never thought about it that way before,” you know you’re on the right track.

And the third way is I actually schedule time just for thinking.  I will go onto my balcony and just stare at the water.  I’ll take a long drive with no radio, phone or music.  Or I’ll sit and journal.

So those are my three things.  What are yours?  What do you do to facilitate your critical thinking skills?

Do you ever do that for yourself?  Do you have a special chair, or special place you go—just to think?  Do you schedule any time specifically for thinking time?  Think about thinking.

Mental Aerobics…

And since you’ll be thinking a lot today, here’s a mental aerobics for you.  There is a nine-letter word in the English language, that every time when you remove a letter from anywhere in the word, it still makes a common English word.  What is the word?

Hit me with your best shot!

-RG

34 comments on “Thinking about Thinking”

  1. Hi Randy,

    I meditate for 1-2 hours a day. I also have abandoned the practice of turning the radio on when driving; I prefer quiet to noise.

    My creativity increases as I go to these places of "no thought", for everything comes out of nothing.

    The only thing preventing us from tapping in to an infinite flow of creative ideas is some blockage and these blockages dissolve with deep meditation.

    Ryan B

  2. So...I got the answer. Do you want us to write it here? Or would that be a spoiler! Don't want to ruin other folks' ruminations.

  3. Randy my problem is I can't stop thinking. My mind never sleeps. I have to take time to not think and realy just sit there and not think.

    It's very hard to do but like everything. It's a trained thing. You can train yourself and create a habit.

  4. I also meditate two hours a day. No radio on when I drive and no TV most days of the week and lately almost the month. Three books are always in play reading for an hour daily unless the power goes out and then I can take as much time as I have to read.

    Over the years I have created quote lists that strike a chord in me of one sort or another. Running through them I look for the ones that are not true in one or more contexts. An example is 'fake it till you make it' is only true in perhaps one maybe two contexts and is hooey in everything else.

    Looking for the silver lining, especially the ones that are mirth filled can turn a bummer day into fun.

  5. I'm doing almost the same thing.
    Not enough water, the sea ... I love looking at the water, it gives me strength. I like very much heat and sun ... with my eyes closed ... to sit or lie down in silence ..) to warm the soul..)

  6. I read and reread all the motivational books I can get my hands on. Walking on the beach with Vahn, my new southern rescue dog. His gratitude for a new home makes me humble and allows me to think about what is most important, to love and be loved. Reading the bible and meditating on a passage makes me expand my thinking and wisdom. People watching makes me think. Making it a goal to learn one new thing before I go to sleep. Getting into the peacefulness of nature always amazes me and makes me think about the unlimited abundance that surrounds us and how perfectly balanced it all is.

  7. I love to read... the great thing about reading newspapers online is you can skip all the bad news on the front pages... I like to read the commentary pages, from all perspectives, like to read reviews in the arts and food pages... love to read GQ, Vanity Fair, Forbes, the Daily Beast, Salon, Slate, Reason, etc...

  8. One of the things I do daily is some 'recreational reading' which in some ways stimulates my creative mind. Entertainment is something I enjoy and it comes in many flavors.

    As to learning, I'd have to say that I take on things that are relevant to my focus in the new business, such as learning a new software package, which can be a steep learning curve. I also study the latest technologies since there's relevance to my core focus there as well. But I ALWAYS keep copies of my favorite personal growth books handy so that I can reference them in the moment.

    The other activity I find crucial is to exercise outdoors. Since I live in the SF Bay Area, which as you know, is a paradise of sorts, I enjoy the single mindedness of race walking or running while gazing at the Bay. It's also a good place to show my gratitude for living in such an awesome place.

    Thanks Randy!

  9. So as soon as I read this post I began thinking about what the answer to your questions might be.

    First of all, where do I think? And secondly, what’s that nine letter word that you riddled about?

    Truth is, the answer to the second question was far easier to come up with than the first because I was able to do what we are all able to do these days, which was to plug a query into google and have the information I was seeking delivered immediately, because someone else had already done the thinking on this … which brought up an interesting question in my mind –

    Was that ‘cheating’? Taking a ‘short cut’? Has the mass amount of information put at our disposal on the internet caused us to need to think LESS or has it enabled us to think MORE? … or at least more expansively?

    Since we can now easily grab a simple answer to something that used to take us precious time to figure out, does this enable us to use that basic information to create more complex stuff from the simple stuff we can easily retrieve? Hmmmm – kind of made me THINK!

    Therefore, one of the answers to the first question you asked is … forums like this and the thoughts of others are places that make me think … a lot! But then again, so are the bathtub or shower (I have had some of my best ideas in the form of what I will call ‘shower moments’), the beach or the mountains, especially at sunset and the quiet of my own room at the end of the day.

    And I think I will leave the nine letter word question for someone who wants to do their own thinking on this to answer! 😉

    K

  10. I would learn something new that is totally out of my domain. I would go for a something rather mild like ballroom dancing rather something than Startling 🙂 like martial arts!

  11. I love quiet thinking time. I used to meditate alot but I find it quite hard work. Prefer to think and journal. I 'think' most people don't allow themselves much time for thinking at all!

    1. That is correct:
      The base word is Startling - starting - staring - string - sting - sing - sin - in - I

  12. i pace. its a strange phenomenon but motion is the thing that gets my brain moving. whats funny is that if i am sitting still, i can sometimes be stuck and not able to solve even a simple problem, until i start to move.
    being submerged in water seems to help a lot too.
    seeing and experiencing nature.
    the thing is, i am a philosopher. i think ALL THE TIME. sometimes i fear that my neuro pathways may be too shallow, because i never seem to stick with any thought process, idea, business venture long before i get bored and move on. i have recently concluded this may be why success has been so elusive for me. do you have any suggestions?

    startling
    starting
    staring
    string
    sting
    sing
    sin
    in
    I

    1. Is it just me, or does "startling" not qualify?

      Randy's puzzle says: "... every time when you remove a letter from anywhere in the word ..."

      Now focus on "anywhere". If I take startling, and take out the I, is there still a common English word left?

  13. wow .. i learnt a new word today to play on others ! =)

    my thinking space is when I take long drive on the freeway, with no music.

    And when I lay on my bed at night, just right before I fall asleep, I think.

  14. As of lately I don't have much time to think. I like visiting this website when I am on the net because I always learn something new and interesting. Yesterday's post about discipline got me thinking and I actually had a pretty disciplined day today. Hopefully I will not backslide but I probably will. When relaxing I like to read National Geographic because it is a journal of just about everything and much can be learned from it. I also like to watch Jeopardy from time to time and as long as I can answer questions as fast as the constestants I know my mental skills are still pretty good. What I learned from this blog post is how to tie in Man's instinct for spirituality with a mindset for prosperity. I have never seen that before anywhere else.

  15. Great stuff, Randy! I've been on a media tour for the last 3 months appearing on TV from Orlando to Sydney telling people how the rich make money through creative thought/problem solving. The wealthy literally get paid to think, and it's the highest paying work there is. The better thinkers we are, the richer we'll become. You gotta love it!

  16. I think it is important to figure out whose thoughts are you thinking.
    Are you thinking the thoughts that MEMES forced you to think or YOU chose your thoughts and your memes?
    In other words are you on the second or the third level of conscience according to R. Brodie.

  17. I confess - the 9-letter word riddle is google-able so I did. LOL. Which is why I didn't post, won't be fair now would it. 😉

    For thinking better: Sleep, exercise, meditation, reading, writing, travel, meeting people from all walks of life, listening, nature & space - those are the things that helps open more pathways in my thinking pattern.

    The neural pathways example you gave is a brilliant way to visualize how thoughts can run on a one-way, and sometimes, limiting, track to form set ways of thinking.

    I am practicing being open to listening without judgment from a variety of sources. It's very powerful towards enriching the way I think. And the diversity warms my heart too. People are truly amazing!

  18. I would say that movies and engaging in intelligent conversation are great ways of thinking about new subjects in different ways. I do spend a lot of quiet time thinking, but I don't specifically put time aside for it. I often drive around in peace and quiet or am at home without any noise, so I have plenty of opportunity. When I feel like thinking, I leave the noise off. When I feel like being uplifted or entertained, I turn the music on.

  19. I have three children and during all these years of my motherhood I've got a habit to think over different things while sitting at their beds at night. They are getting asleep, and I am getting into my thoughts and dreams. This state of mind, half asleep, is very productive for visualization of the goals.
    With love from Russia,
    Helen.

  20. I stimulate my creativity in multiple ways. For example, watching the Documentary Channel, Anthony Bourdain - No Reservations, House Hunters International on HGTV; traveling to foreign places, hanging out with people of different social/educational/economic classes; approaching things differently, breaking my patterns of thinking, daring more, etc. For learning, gosh...I am a lean-men learning machine, a sponge. I love learning material that empowers me and others. For thinking, this has been a habit for years. I have taken sabbaticals just to think.

  21. I Learn from reading every day, listen to T.V, Youtube on different interesting aspects and think over, I go out watch people and think while swimming... it helps me to relax and I meditate to avoide thinking

  22. i guess i think all the time.. in the morning when wake up think abt things for today, all the day long, jogging, swimming, working, driving, going to bed.. sometimes can not sleep cos of thoughts... i came somehow to the point that i dont need tv or radio or music to have always as background.. to avoid thinking and concentration... but when i remember myself when i was in the condition "broke and poor" i always needed music as if i was afraid to stay in silence alone with myself... now i just enjoy silence and my thoughts.. sometimes it seems even weird to myself that i easily stay all the day in silence... and prefer silence....
    i like to learn something new, read books, speak to people.. but i also think that its necessary to digest the information you get before grabbing for something new, something else.... or even useful time to time to be in informational vacuum to understand what you are and what you think...

    Thank you for your sincerity!

    1. Most people don't understand being broke and people. The agony of being helpless and trying to make it but being hindered by all doubts. Thanks for this reply.

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  • 34 comments on “Thinking about Thinking”

    1. Hi Randy,

      I meditate for 1-2 hours a day. I also have abandoned the practice of turning the radio on when driving; I prefer quiet to noise.

      My creativity increases as I go to these places of "no thought", for everything comes out of nothing.

      The only thing preventing us from tapping in to an infinite flow of creative ideas is some blockage and these blockages dissolve with deep meditation.

      Ryan B

    2. So...I got the answer. Do you want us to write it here? Or would that be a spoiler! Don't want to ruin other folks' ruminations.

    3. Randy my problem is I can't stop thinking. My mind never sleeps. I have to take time to not think and realy just sit there and not think.

      It's very hard to do but like everything. It's a trained thing. You can train yourself and create a habit.

    4. I also meditate two hours a day. No radio on when I drive and no TV most days of the week and lately almost the month. Three books are always in play reading for an hour daily unless the power goes out and then I can take as much time as I have to read.

      Over the years I have created quote lists that strike a chord in me of one sort or another. Running through them I look for the ones that are not true in one or more contexts. An example is 'fake it till you make it' is only true in perhaps one maybe two contexts and is hooey in everything else.

      Looking for the silver lining, especially the ones that are mirth filled can turn a bummer day into fun.

    5. I'm doing almost the same thing.
      Not enough water, the sea ... I love looking at the water, it gives me strength. I like very much heat and sun ... with my eyes closed ... to sit or lie down in silence ..) to warm the soul..)

    6. I read and reread all the motivational books I can get my hands on. Walking on the beach with Vahn, my new southern rescue dog. His gratitude for a new home makes me humble and allows me to think about what is most important, to love and be loved. Reading the bible and meditating on a passage makes me expand my thinking and wisdom. People watching makes me think. Making it a goal to learn one new thing before I go to sleep. Getting into the peacefulness of nature always amazes me and makes me think about the unlimited abundance that surrounds us and how perfectly balanced it all is.

    7. I love to read... the great thing about reading newspapers online is you can skip all the bad news on the front pages... I like to read the commentary pages, from all perspectives, like to read reviews in the arts and food pages... love to read GQ, Vanity Fair, Forbes, the Daily Beast, Salon, Slate, Reason, etc...

    8. One of the things I do daily is some 'recreational reading' which in some ways stimulates my creative mind. Entertainment is something I enjoy and it comes in many flavors.

      As to learning, I'd have to say that I take on things that are relevant to my focus in the new business, such as learning a new software package, which can be a steep learning curve. I also study the latest technologies since there's relevance to my core focus there as well. But I ALWAYS keep copies of my favorite personal growth books handy so that I can reference them in the moment.

      The other activity I find crucial is to exercise outdoors. Since I live in the SF Bay Area, which as you know, is a paradise of sorts, I enjoy the single mindedness of race walking or running while gazing at the Bay. It's also a good place to show my gratitude for living in such an awesome place.

      Thanks Randy!

    9. So as soon as I read this post I began thinking about what the answer to your questions might be.

      First of all, where do I think? And secondly, what’s that nine letter word that you riddled about?

      Truth is, the answer to the second question was far easier to come up with than the first because I was able to do what we are all able to do these days, which was to plug a query into google and have the information I was seeking delivered immediately, because someone else had already done the thinking on this … which brought up an interesting question in my mind –

      Was that ‘cheating’? Taking a ‘short cut’? Has the mass amount of information put at our disposal on the internet caused us to need to think LESS or has it enabled us to think MORE? … or at least more expansively?

      Since we can now easily grab a simple answer to something that used to take us precious time to figure out, does this enable us to use that basic information to create more complex stuff from the simple stuff we can easily retrieve? Hmmmm – kind of made me THINK!

      Therefore, one of the answers to the first question you asked is … forums like this and the thoughts of others are places that make me think … a lot! But then again, so are the bathtub or shower (I have had some of my best ideas in the form of what I will call ‘shower moments’), the beach or the mountains, especially at sunset and the quiet of my own room at the end of the day.

      And I think I will leave the nine letter word question for someone who wants to do their own thinking on this to answer! 😉

      K

    10. I would learn something new that is totally out of my domain. I would go for a something rather mild like ballroom dancing rather something than Startling 🙂 like martial arts!

    11. I love quiet thinking time. I used to meditate alot but I find it quite hard work. Prefer to think and journal. I 'think' most people don't allow themselves much time for thinking at all!

      1. That is correct:
        The base word is Startling - starting - staring - string - sting - sing - sin - in - I

    12. i pace. its a strange phenomenon but motion is the thing that gets my brain moving. whats funny is that if i am sitting still, i can sometimes be stuck and not able to solve even a simple problem, until i start to move.
      being submerged in water seems to help a lot too.
      seeing and experiencing nature.
      the thing is, i am a philosopher. i think ALL THE TIME. sometimes i fear that my neuro pathways may be too shallow, because i never seem to stick with any thought process, idea, business venture long before i get bored and move on. i have recently concluded this may be why success has been so elusive for me. do you have any suggestions?

      startling
      starting
      staring
      string
      sting
      sing
      sin
      in
      I

      1. Is it just me, or does "startling" not qualify?

        Randy's puzzle says: "... every time when you remove a letter from anywhere in the word ..."

        Now focus on "anywhere". If I take startling, and take out the I, is there still a common English word left?

    13. wow .. i learnt a new word today to play on others ! =)

      my thinking space is when I take long drive on the freeway, with no music.

      And when I lay on my bed at night, just right before I fall asleep, I think.

    14. As of lately I don't have much time to think. I like visiting this website when I am on the net because I always learn something new and interesting. Yesterday's post about discipline got me thinking and I actually had a pretty disciplined day today. Hopefully I will not backslide but I probably will. When relaxing I like to read National Geographic because it is a journal of just about everything and much can be learned from it. I also like to watch Jeopardy from time to time and as long as I can answer questions as fast as the constestants I know my mental skills are still pretty good. What I learned from this blog post is how to tie in Man's instinct for spirituality with a mindset for prosperity. I have never seen that before anywhere else.

    15. Great stuff, Randy! I've been on a media tour for the last 3 months appearing on TV from Orlando to Sydney telling people how the rich make money through creative thought/problem solving. The wealthy literally get paid to think, and it's the highest paying work there is. The better thinkers we are, the richer we'll become. You gotta love it!

    16. I think it is important to figure out whose thoughts are you thinking.
      Are you thinking the thoughts that MEMES forced you to think or YOU chose your thoughts and your memes?
      In other words are you on the second or the third level of conscience according to R. Brodie.

    17. I confess - the 9-letter word riddle is google-able so I did. LOL. Which is why I didn't post, won't be fair now would it. 😉

      For thinking better: Sleep, exercise, meditation, reading, writing, travel, meeting people from all walks of life, listening, nature & space - those are the things that helps open more pathways in my thinking pattern.

      The neural pathways example you gave is a brilliant way to visualize how thoughts can run on a one-way, and sometimes, limiting, track to form set ways of thinking.

      I am practicing being open to listening without judgment from a variety of sources. It's very powerful towards enriching the way I think. And the diversity warms my heart too. People are truly amazing!

    18. I would say that movies and engaging in intelligent conversation are great ways of thinking about new subjects in different ways. I do spend a lot of quiet time thinking, but I don't specifically put time aside for it. I often drive around in peace and quiet or am at home without any noise, so I have plenty of opportunity. When I feel like thinking, I leave the noise off. When I feel like being uplifted or entertained, I turn the music on.

    19. I have three children and during all these years of my motherhood I've got a habit to think over different things while sitting at their beds at night. They are getting asleep, and I am getting into my thoughts and dreams. This state of mind, half asleep, is very productive for visualization of the goals.
      With love from Russia,
      Helen.

    20. I stimulate my creativity in multiple ways. For example, watching the Documentary Channel, Anthony Bourdain - No Reservations, House Hunters International on HGTV; traveling to foreign places, hanging out with people of different social/educational/economic classes; approaching things differently, breaking my patterns of thinking, daring more, etc. For learning, gosh...I am a lean-men learning machine, a sponge. I love learning material that empowers me and others. For thinking, this has been a habit for years. I have taken sabbaticals just to think.

    21. I Learn from reading every day, listen to T.V, Youtube on different interesting aspects and think over, I go out watch people and think while swimming... it helps me to relax and I meditate to avoide thinking

    22. i guess i think all the time.. in the morning when wake up think abt things for today, all the day long, jogging, swimming, working, driving, going to bed.. sometimes can not sleep cos of thoughts... i came somehow to the point that i dont need tv or radio or music to have always as background.. to avoid thinking and concentration... but when i remember myself when i was in the condition "broke and poor" i always needed music as if i was afraid to stay in silence alone with myself... now i just enjoy silence and my thoughts.. sometimes it seems even weird to myself that i easily stay all the day in silence... and prefer silence....
      i like to learn something new, read books, speak to people.. but i also think that its necessary to digest the information you get before grabbing for something new, something else.... or even useful time to time to be in informational vacuum to understand what you are and what you think...

      Thank you for your sincerity!

      1. Most people don't understand being broke and people. The agony of being helpless and trying to make it but being hindered by all doubts. Thanks for this reply.

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