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Chapter 2. Becoming a Critic of Your Thi... > Good Thinking Is as Easy as Bad Thin...

Good Thinking Is as Easy as Bad Thinking (But It Requires Hard Work to Develop It)

It is important to realize that thinking itself is not difficult. Humans naturally think without having to exert much energy or engage in any real intellectual work. We can easily see thinking manifest, for example, in very young children who have few or no skills of mind. It is clear that children are thinking when they are trying to figure out their “world” and how it operates, when they are determining what they can get away with and what they can't, when they are distinguishing between people who like them and people who don't, when they are asserting what they want and what they don't want. In a similar way adults are continually thinking about their world, figuring things out, making decisions, making choices. Thus, thinking per se is natural to humans; it comes easy to us. What does not come easy is consistent high quality thinking across the dimensions of one's life. That is, it is not easy to discover our bad habits and do something about them.

To make significant gains in the quality of your thinking, you will have to engage in a kind of work that most humans find unpleasant, if not painful—intellectual work. Yet once this thinking is done and we move our thinking to a higher level of quality, it is not hard to keep our thinking at that level. Still there is a price you have to pay to step up to the next level. One doesn't become a skillful critic of thinking over night, any more than one becomes a skillful basketball player or dancer over night. To become better at thinking, you must be willing to put the work into thinking that skilled improvement always requires. We say “No pain, no gain!” when thinking of what physical conditioning requires. In this case, it would be more precise to say: “No intellectual pain, no intellectual gain!” This means you must be willing to practice special “acts” of thinking that are initially at least uncomfortable, and sometimes challenging and difficult. You have to learn to do with your mind “moves” analogous to what accomplished athletes learn to do (through practice and feedback) with their bodies. Improvement in thinking, in other words, is similar to improvement in other domains of performance, where progress is a product of sound theory, commitment, hard work, and practice. This book will point the way to what you need to practice to become a skilled thinker, yet it cannot, of course, provide you with the internal motivation to do the required work. This must come from you (See Figure 2.1).


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