One of the biggest challenges the world faces right now is the fact that people don’t know how to think. They been taught what to think, but very few actually understand how to think.
It’s been said that universities are where young people go to learn how to learn, but that statement is problematic for two reasons. Firstly, because in most cases, university students really aren’t learning how to learn. The education system in most countries teaches how to memorize facts, what you should think, and in many cases simply government propaganda. Even at its highest levels academia often fails to facilitate the process of critical thinking.
The second problem is that university is way, way too late to be teaching people how to learn. It would be a lot more appropriate and effective in pre-school.
Learning how to learn is the peak and vital stage in the process of gaining wisdom. This requires that you become a critical thinker. Let’s explore a few strategies that will help you in this process…
Practice discernment in your learning sources. The world is full of relationship counselors who have been divorced five times, social media experts with 200 followers on Twitter, and sales trainers who can’t make a sale.
You want to know what the biggest issue I see in the people who come to me for prosperity coaching? It’s the fact that they’re getting all their financial advice from broke people. How crazy is that?
A dear author friend of mine asked for help on the title of her next book. I invested some serious thought into it and gave her a title that depicts exactly what the book is about, the benefit to reading it, and is catchy and memorable. It meets all the criteria for a perfect book title. She loved it and my job was done. Then she posted the title on Facebook asking for comments and suggestions.
Naturally she started emailing me every time someone suggested something different. Finally I had to say, “I have nine bestsellers that have been translated into 25 languages. How many bestsellers have these other people had?”
You must always question the premise. Because if the premise is wrong, everything that comes off of the premise will be mistaken. You have to use discernment about what you choose to learn from whom. The person who gives you great fitness training may not be qualified to counsel you on money. The person who gives you great financial planning advice may not be competent to help you on your relationships.
Make sure there is breadth to your learning. Expose yourself to points of view utterly different than your own. No matter your religion, politics or worldview, you should read books like Atlas Shrugged, Mein Kampf and Mao’s Red Book.
Unfortunately today’s social media mindset invites demagoguery and demonization of other viewpoints. If you posted a picture on Facebook today of President Obama or former President Bush rescuing an injured dog, you can be assured there would be scores of nasty comments and people un-following you in minutes. This instinctive and visceral hate prevents us from learning wisdom from those with different beliefs. There are four Democrat and about ten Republicans running for president of the United States right now. And with the exception of Donald Trump, they all have intelligent and thoughtful things to say.
When you avoid books, blogs, or columnists you don’t agree with, you become close-minded. This happens even though you may be striving to do good things, or consider yourself progressive. You stop learning because everything is filtered through the confirmation bias you have. And the older you are – the more likely you are to let this stagnation in viewpoint lock in.
Be curious. Wise people ask questions; ignorant people make blanket statements. Curiosity, questioning, and listening take you a long way towards wisdom.
You have to ask the right questions, however. Because when you ask the wrong question, the answer is irrelevant or even harmful.
I was coaching with an aspiring speaker who asked me, “Please tell me exactly how you began and everything you did to get to where you are right now.” But that’s the wrong question...
A better one would be, “In light of all of developments like the Internet, podcasts, crowd funding, social media, and mobile apps, what would you do different if you were starting today?”
Invest a meaningful amount of your time and resources toward developing wisdom. That means you spend more time on self-development than you do for entertainment. It’s a safe bet that when the wisest people do their financial statement at the end of the year, they spent more with Amazon and Barnes & Noble than they did with Best Buy. Check out this episode of Prosperity TV, on the subject of compound learning.
Learning takes you to wisdom, and wisdom takes you to enlightenment. Open your mind, challenge your thinking and wisdom likely will follow.