What To Think When You Don’t Know What To Think
In the last VidChat one of our participants asked a question along the lines of “how can I ask a question where I can’t think of what to ask”?
Oh and just in case you did not catch that, this person is actually thinking about thinking (or not thinking) which in and of itself deserves a big round of applause!
However, this question prompted me to do a mind read and a generalization (which are both NLP linguistic category under both the Meta Model and the Milton Model – you can see here what these NLP terms mean) and ask myself what prevents one from thinking, and then further, what prevents them thinking outside of a box – which process can be itself defined as non-thinking.
One of the things that stops people from thinking outside of a predetermined box – aside from the habit itself and lack of imagination – is indecision.
I read the other day an article with the following title: “He who deliberates fully before taking a step will spend his entire life on one leg.” Which allegedly is a Chinese Proverb although I could not find the source of this proverb on the web.
How many times have you heard people pretending not to care about a certain topic or subject when it was rather obvious that they simply knew nothing about it?
Inside their minds they run the following pattern: “I don’t know how to think (or what to think or what to do about a certain subject, or how to proceed from hereon) therefore I will think of nothing. I will pretend it does not matter to me, and I’ll just drop it out of my head because if I don’t, I will have to face some uncomfortable feelings of inadequacy, even frustration … I will have to admit that I don’t know something and that will make me look like a fool. And I don’t want to do that.”
So, many people refuse to even begin to think about a subject if they’re not sure. Understandably they know – even if only unconsciously – that it makes them feel uncomfortable to face the fact that they don’t know much – if at all – about that particular subject.
Aside from that, one other thing to keep in mind that people think differently in accordance to the development of their neurology and the environmental conditions. So, there are different ways of thinking relating to different levels of neurological development. Something that is of a concern and preoccupies the thinking of – for example – values level (VL) 5, is of no importance at all to VL4. Something of great value for VL2, may have no meaning for VL5. (If you’re not familiar with different values levels thinking in people read about them here.)
But what if you don’t know what to think at all about a certain subject?
Then you have to learn something about it. Research, go through the process of self-education, read (yes, read books), use your imagination and creativity both in thought and deed. If you don’t know what to think about a certain subject and if it is of relative interest to you, then you must research intensely and in depth that subject to find out things you did not think of before, educate yourself in that subject and any additional related subjects, so you can begin making connections outside the box using lateral chunking (as explained in the NLP Practitioner training).
The phenomenon of not knowing what to think is actually quite widespread. I have met young – and not so young – people, who seem to be drifting through life wondering what to do, what to think, and busying themselves with posting selfies on Instagram and texts on Twitter every 5 seconds. Quite often these people don’t know what to think and are not even worried about not knowing what to think… about anything! At some point though, worry and anxiety start creeping in. The message begins to be clearly visible on the wall… doing nothing is not the right thing to do. It’s exhausting. It’s frustrating, and ultimately is utterly unproductive.
Another reason for not knowing what to think is doubting oneself.
It sounds like this: “What if I make the wrong decision? What if I take the wrong step? What if I do something and I discover later that it wasn’t what I really wanted to do? Last time I didn’t really know what to do either, and I just decided; but then I wasn’t sure of my decision… what if I decide on something that is not really the right thing to do after all? What if it turns out to be “wrong”? I don’t want to cut myself out of options by thinking this way… I know there are many other ways of thinking and I am not sure what to do…
You have met people who if (and this is a big IF) they manage to make a plan – let’s call it plan A – they also have a backup plan B, and then plan C just in case plan B does not work and plan D for making sure if all the other plans fail there is another fallback position. But what if plan D is not well thought out either?
Additionally we should also remember that people don’t know how to think. It is not taught in schools –in fact, nowadays education is merely an exercise in making everybody choose between preselected answers (in other words somebody, usually a computer, thinks for them) – and unfortunately this results in more and more people not knowing how to think – about anything. And even worse, people turn to the TV to find answers about what to think… ”Aha! Let’s see what my hero in the reality show does now. Maybe I’ll get some ideas about what to think next!”
So, as in our Chinese proverb, when this pattern of not knowing how to think emerges, the result is … nothing. No movement, no doing, no progress, no resolution, no solutions to life problems.
Here is what I think: ultimately, whatever decision you make, make it and then stick with your decision. What’s the worst that can happen? You have made wrong decisions in the past – we all did. It is part of the process of learning and growing. Just make the decision and then stick with it. If it is not the right decision you’ll find out soon enough and then you can change it.
So, what do we have so far?
- information outside of the field you’re in – which hopefully leads to more general knowledge,
- ask yourself questions like “What else is there that I am not thinking of right now?”, “Why here?” “Why now?”
- Perceptual Positions (another NLP technique) locating your mind in position 3,
- Learning about your own strategies (in other words learning what is your decision making strategy) and applying these strategies to make informed decisions
All of these are ways which can assist you to think anew in areas about which you don’t know what to think.
And here is one more thing: when your mind is inspired by some great project or some amazing undertaking that you are passionate about, all your thoughts break their bounds. Your mind transcends limitations, and your creativity expands in every direction. You find yourself in a new great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive and you discover yourself to be a greater thinker than you ever dreamt yourself to be.
Until next time, be well.