How to Change A Thought Process

I’ve found that the best way to change a thought process is to fully commit to exploring it, fleshing it out, and articulating it. In doing so, your thought process will inevitably change as you’ll see places where it breaks down and opportunities to improve it. In researching your ideas, you’ll be able to connect your thoughts within a network of theories and you’ll discover other people who have thought within the same paradigms. Consequently, you’ll come across convincing challenges to your ideas, and interesting people who can give you feedback and other ways of thinking.

For a personal anecdote, as a sophomore in college studying philosophy, I had very strong ideas about the workings of language with a somewhat grandiose attitude that my insights were deeper than others’. I enrolled in a Philosophy of Language course where I was very fortunate to have graduate student instructor who encouraged me to fully explicate my ideas; for one of the essays required for the class, she let me argue my own philosophy of language. I embarked on the project thinking I was going to prove to the world that my ideas were correct, but instead I found out how flawed and naive my thinking really was, through the process itself and through her detailed feedback. This helped me move on to the next level in my understanding of how to study philosophy and left me a humbler thinker. This would not have happened if I was not encouraged to take my own thought process very seriously and explore it rigorously.

In other cases, I’ve found that a thought process can crumble in an instance from reading one sentence that completely and poetically articulates it. Sometimes, when a brilliant writer can so concisely summarize the essence of a belief system, it helps those holding those beliefs suddenly see their simplicity and limitations.

I’ve found that moving beyond a thought process to be one of the most pleasurable moments in the life of a thinker. Seeing one’s own ideas shattered is perhaps the most visceral sense of progress that one can experience, although it can also keep one up at night.

For an entertaining and accessible account of how the philosopher Bertrand Russell’s thought process changed over time, I suggest checking out the graphic novel Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth.

Another relevant work would be The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn, which outlines the history of paradigm shifts in science, in a sense, the collective thought processes of a community changing.

This post appeared originally on Quora.

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