Big issues face us – macro and micro. What I mean, as a society, we face terrorism, mass shootings, government debt and deficits, crumbling infrastructure, and generational shifts impacting healthcare and workplaces. As individuals, we face daughters and sons confronted with broader and always-on peer pressures, family budgets stressed and stretched, and temptations for the immediate hit of an impulse purchase, affair, or something that makes us feel good in a moment.
True, we have faced many of these issues in the past. The intensity is heightened, and our thinking is slipping. We latch onto shallow statements and thoughts. Logic lacks. Depth disappears. Civility dissipates. We eagerly agree without thinking deeply about what it all means and how it can be solved in a practical yet bold way.
Our American politics seem to heighten this issue more. Bullying individuals and groups gain rallying cries rather than rising concern of what tearing others down or stereotyping does to our society and our values. Simple, denigrating statements increase ratings and attendance at rallies, but what does it do to us as citizens? Where is the higher calling?
Deep Thinking Is Needed Now More Than Ever
In America, we have a 5% increase in Black Friday gun sales from the previous year. In one day, we armed a military the size of the U.S. Marine Corp. Fast forward to December and a Christmas card of a Nevada politician and her family appears, showing everyone armed with handguns and automatic weapons. Are we advancing as a society, or are we going back to the Wild West?
Society points to individuals and individuals create a society.
Individuals need to dive into the issues and challenges, think more deeply about what we want to be remembered for and what we want to develop as communities who live and work together.
Individuals are human beings. We are humans, and we have the capacity to think, develop ideas, empathize, solve problems, show compassion, and lift our views to creating that shining city on a hill.
No matter our space. Our opportunity is to create a shining family, community, workplace, city, state, and nation. Every shiny thing loses its luster at times yet, with effort, we return the glow. We need to polish our thinking skills and renew our commitment to what a better society, workplace, and family means.
All of our spaces require deeper thinking. After all, each is intertwined.
Each generation carries a responsibility to think more intensely about issues, challenges, problems, and opportunities. The reality is the oldest generation is disappearing. By 2036, it is estimated no living veterans of World War II will be left to recount their experiences; the Greatest Generation disappears. A natural progression unfolds, and the responsibility shifts to the younger generations to make our society, workplaces, and families better than in previous ages.
What will it take to leave our spaces better than before? Now this is a question for deeper thinking and conversations. It takes more than 140 characters, 600 words, or a 41-second conversation during a news show. Can we take the time to think through this question and develop positive solutions?
Questions start our thinking. However, the questions need to be big ones. The questions need to be vision-oriented, life-changing, culture-changing, and habit-changing ones. Our questions need to drive us to think behind the headlines and look at the statistics, history, science, and other elements. None of this is to put us in a state of analysis paralysis, but it is necessary to return us to a state of thinking more thoughtfully about our future and what actions we can take today to create better days for the next generation.
I am reading Worldmaking: The Art and Science of American Diplomacy by David Milne. While reading this book, it struck me how individuals do make a difference and how connected they are between generations. Many of the individuals highlighted are not world leaders or elected to change the world. In most cases, they are individuals dedicated to offering ideas on how to create a better foreign policy or, more importantly, how to build a safer and better world for human beings.
Each person was dedicated to think more profoundly about foreign policy and develop and question ideas on how to create a better way for nation-states to work together. More than the thinking, they built relationships to discuss concepts and pursue policies for change.
We need to return to a society of thinkers, relationship-builders, and problem-solvers.
Why is deep thinking needed now more than ever?
Because creating a better space for our work, relationships, family, and life requires forward thinking and then actions to achieve positive change and results. Civility is never replaced or overridden.
How do we begin to think more deeply?
The first step is to hold our leaders accountable for the statements they make and require a deeper answer than just it will be “tremendous.” As humans, we vote. We vote on election day. We vote by staying in our current jobs, trying to change where we are, or moving on to better places. We vote by holding thought-provoking conversations with our spouses, partners, and kids. In each, we need to hold each other accountable. More than accountability, we need to hold each other to higher standards.
The second step is to dig in with questions that require more than a few seconds of response. Questions to ask include:
- Questions to understand the consequences of what is stated or being proposed
- Questions to validate what values and principles are being promoted in the statements and solutions offered
If nothing else, we need to ask questions to cause a leader and others involved to dig deeper and ensure everything withstands a reasonable and higher purpose sanity check. In a better world, our enduring values need to align with a higher purpose consequence. A candid way to view this framework is:
The time is here to think more deeply about what we are creating and how we are raising our standards for the future. A reflective sanity check is not passive. Our responsibility is to be an activist in deep thinking and gain greater clarity in what values we support and the consequences of our words and actions.
I realize we do not live in a perfect world, but we need to pursue options that make us better at what we do and how we do it. Simply put, we need to leave our space better for the next generation.
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Why Deep Thinking Is Needed Now More Than Ever
At the beginning of problem solving, planning, and goal-oriented sessions with interdisciplinary staff, I used to ask everyone to take off his/her ego and sit on it……. or better yet, park it at the door. When that happened, amazing thinking occurred, merged, and produced what no one person could have. Deep thinking happens naturally when no value is given to the need to be right or smart or more well-read or more professionally adept, etc…….in other words, when competition is not the motivating force.
Many of the techniques, guidance and “brand” approaches being offered today, are not new; some have been tried in many environments (and centuries); some simply restate what someone else has said; and some customize the same message so people feel like they have a choice. Mostly, there is far more guidance available than there are people applying it. At some point, we all have to do the best we can, as who we are, where we are, and with what we have.
As for sharing a democratic governing experience — its roots are in a group of people from many different economic and living experiences who wanted to “find another way”. They set us on a path of discovering how to live and create within a living world, not one that is moribund and dispirited like the ones from which they had escaped. Success along that path has come from discourse, compromise, and vision.
So, if “guidance” doesn’t teach how to converse, listen, mediate, envision, and dream, it’s probably not going to be effective in our living world and our democratic governing experiment.
Well said and excellent points! Thank you for adding to the conversation and our thinking.
Well said and excellent points! Thank you for adding to the conversation and our thinking.
Great article. I’ve been sensing for a while now that we lack a fundamental ability to problem solve, as a country and in the corporate environment I’m working in. Short attention spans, instant gratification, and information overload are seemingly killing our ability to think deeply or problem solve. There is a noticeable gap between knowledge and wisdom (the application of knowledge into the world). The folks that are “thinking”, do so in a vacuum too far separated from the problems they are “expertly” working on. Our politicians are career making and distracting the public with inflammatory problems we can’t possibly solve in a year or too. This all leads to a fundamental breakdown of trust and everyone digs in to protect “theirs.”
I don’t know much about politics necessarily, but I do know a thing or two about problem solving. The hardest thing to do in problem solving is trusting the process and ensuring you are not blinded to the reality of the issue. You can’t let personal bias or emotion guide the solution. It also takes honesty and courage to frame the problem accurately and evaluate solutions with all the factors; technical, economic, human, social, etc. A solution you cannot afford is not a solution.
I think, as a nation, we need to define what it means to be a free citizen. We cannot sacrifice freedoms because of a lack of personal accountability or being overly sensitive. We have to enjoy freedoms without ignoring the impact to others and be honest and reasonable at those points of interaction. We have to define success more broadly than balance sheets and political agendas, recognizing also that success is a personal choice and lifestyle is a personal choice.
Our problems will not be solved with technology in and of itself. We are experiencing fundamental human problems. Ironically we have more tools for communication than at any time in history and we are communicating less than ever. You bring some great points in your article. Thank you.
Rex, I really appreciate your points. Engaging the process, understanding the longer term, communicating honestly, and keeping trust through it all is vital to solving problems. I wish we could get to this point. I believe we will; it just may take a few more years. Thanks for jumping in. Your perspective helps the conversation! Jon