Some facts are chilling. Consider this one: the quality of everything we do depends on the quality of the thinking we do first. It is chilling because its implications are enormous. The critical takeaway is that there is nothing – nothing—more important in developing organizational effectiveness than ensuring that people think for themselves with rigor, imagination, and courage. Every day, in every meeting, and in every interaction.
It begs the question: In hierarchical structures often driven by the alternation between reward and reprisal, what does it take for people to think clearly and for themselves? And how do we find the time?
The answer is not in our innate intelligence, education, experience, or power. It is not even the amount of time we allot to thinking. The main factor in whether or not people can think clearly for themselves is the way they are being treated by the people with them while they are thinking. The impact of our behavior on people’s ability to think is, whether we realize it or not, that big.
The ability to hold our attention is a meditative and psychological tool that helps us perceive the subtle patterns continuously occurring between others and ourselves. These patterns determine our behavior and the automatic ways in which we react. When we do not hold our attention we cannot be fully aware of our impact, nor can we perceive the unconscious subtle pulls continually placed upon us by others.
When we hear or watch any story, our brains go wholly into perceiving mode, turning off the systems for acting or planning to act, and with them go our ability to see reality clearly. This is one reason why humans have such trouble recognizing lies. First, we believe what we are told. Then, we have to make a conscious effort to assemble facts and disbelieve. Only when we stop perceiving to think about what we have seen or heard, only then do we assess its truth-value.
In other words, we have to fight the tendency to form opinions immediately, work to deconstruct what we’ve learned, and reconstruct it through a more objective stance.
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