“I think about thinking a lot.”

“I think about thinking a lot.”

I think about thinking a lot.  If Metacognition brought one thing to the party, it was the clear message that it is good to think about how we think.  We realised that what goes on in the mind is really important.    

As tennis legend Andre Agassi explains in his autobiography, “Open”, 70% physically ready but 90% mentally ready beats 90% physically ready but 70% mentally ready every time. 

The mind is a battle field, as Joyce Meyer says. And if it is a battle field then we need to get aggressive with any “stinking thinking” that is in our heads about us, in the same way that we would strenuously protect and rebuke any negative words that were directed to our family and friends.  In fact, Brene Brown makes it clear that we often accept and accumulate negative thoughts in our heads about ourselves, that we wouldn’t say to, or even think about, our worst enemies.   

So in order to navigate our own minds, bring positivity to our thinking and fight more strategically, we probably need a new language. 

Let’s call out “Stinking Thinking.” Of course we aren’t perfect, but wallowing in a sludge of “terrible me” won’t solve anything. 

Let’s try and avoid “mind grinding” too.  When we cogitate over an idea too much, it is like grinding teeth, sapping our strength and trapping us in a pattern of fear, worry and what ifs.

How about recognising when the “wander yonders” close in. When we are struggling to stay focused and we start remembering all kinds of things we need to do, plans we have to make, macramé toilet roll holders that we need to purchase right now.   

Einstein made it clear that he didn’t feel that he was more intelligent than everyone else, but he attributed his success to staying with problems longer than the average person.  In the same way, Edison didn’t think that he had failed 999 times when making the lightbulb but declared, “I have found 999 ways not to make a lightbulb,” which is obviously a positive way of thinking about the constant challenges of invention. 

So maybe the solution is developing a laser-like dogged determination to see a problem through to a good conclusion in our minds and then putting that thinking into practice in our lives.  Can we find and embrace a form of tactically efficient thinking where we stop mind grinding, don’t wander yonder or fall foul of stinking thinking but bring an optimistic clarity of thought to the battlefield of our mind?

Julian Dutnall,
CEO, LIFE Education Trust