Thinking is a difficult thing to do, especially when you aren’t used to doing it. It seems that making sense of everything that is going on around us these days is more complicated than ever before.
Thinking is a difficult thing to do because it takes up a lot of energy and for the most part, isn’t something we are used to doing. Our lives are mostly planned out or a part of a routine, so we don’t need to spend much time thinking about what we need to do.
Most days, our lives are pretty straightforward; we go through our routines and do what we need to do. But some days, a lot happens, and we are forced to make more choices than we can handle. On those days, our brains get worn out, and we risk making bad choices, lets dig into why this happens a little more.
Thinking is Difficult Because We Don’t Have Practice or the Energy
Most of our brain, aside from the front, or the prefrontal cortex, runs automatically and without much effort for us. This is why we are never too tired to think about breathing or keeping our hearts beating, yet we all know how difficult it is to concentrate in the middle of the night.
The prefrontal cortex (PFC) takes up about 10% of the brain but is responsible for most of the critical stuff we consider thinking. The official description of the work done by the PFC is called executive function. Executive function relates to things like planning, problem-solving and self-control.
You could say that the thinking that makes humans special occurs in the PFC.
These details may be difficult to understand, but the key take away is that these tasks are complicated and use up a lot of energy. It has been said that the first 2 hours of the day are the best time to do important things because our brain has the most energy at that time. But that might not be entirely true, as any night owl will tell you just the opposite.
Just as our bodies need lots of energy to do physical activities, so too does our brain need lots of energy to think. And as we discussed above, critical thinking is challenging work for our brains in general. Like a car, our brains need fuel to run, and also like a car, when our tanks are empty, we need rest and have trouble making decisions.
One of the biggest reasons why thinking is problematic is that we only have so much energy, so we can only think about so many things throughout the day.
This is especially true as thinking about complicated things uses up that energy pretty fast.
The other reason why thinking is difficult is that we aren’t used to doing it or haven’t been trained to do it correctly. In another article, we talked about how thinking is an activity, in that article, we also talked a little bit about critical thinking. The key here is that critical thinking is a difficult task that we aren’t usually taught about unless we seek it out.
Simply put, critical thinking is a series of skills and practices that people can use to make better choices. But like any skill, if we don’t spend time developing it, we can’t expect to be very good at it. For this reason, if we want to get better at making good choices, we need to work on our thinking skills and learn how to do it right.
These two concerns combined together explain why thinking is so hard; first, it takes up lots of energy, and we only have so much, and two, we hardly even know how to think accurately to begin with. For the first reason, there isn’t much we can do other than trying to make our more important decisions when we have the energy.
Likely your best bet is going to be when you wake up, assuming your alarm hasn’t disrupted your sleep.
Critical thinking is a skill that you can pick up with practice and effort guided by education. As I have discussed before, even while studying science at university, I wasn’t introduced to critical thinking until I took a couple of electives from the Philosophy department. But this doesn’t mean you have to wait; you can learn critical thinking today.
Another less important factor is that some people are simply more skilled at thinking than others. If this is the case, there isn’t much we can do about it, so there isn’t much point in getting too caught up in it. But that said, even if you aren’t the most equipped at thinking, you can still learn to get better at it through practice.
Thinking is Difficult That’s Why Most People Judge
“Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge” is often attributed to Carl Jung, but he never said that exactly. He did, however, say this, “Thinking is difficult. Therefore, let the herd pronounce judgement.” In either case, the point remains the same, thinking is difficult so people would rather jump to conclusions than think something out.
But people can’t be blamed; every day, we are bombarded by thoughts and ideas from other people. The media dumps opinions on us all the time, and it is hard for us to think on our own.
Most people, when faced with something unknown, will look back to something they heard on TV. On top of this, quick judgement has become more of a thing with the advent of social media, where quick jabs are more important than nuanced discussions about the facts.
But all that aside, we should try to think about things first, because although thinking is hard, it is better to think than jump to an unjustified conclusion.
Thinking is Difficult Because We Have Forgotten How
Another reason why it is so hard to think is that we have forgotten how to do it. This again relates to all the ideas that are thrown at us every day. Everywhere we look, another person is telling us what and how to think about everything that is going on around us. But if we could go back to when we were kids, before we knew so much, maybe we could think for ourselves again.
It is important to remember that we are free to think for ourselves and make our judgements. We don’t need to rely on other people to tell us how to think; it is always up to us.
We simply need to be willing to take responsibility for our choices and work towards making the best choices we can.
Another way of looking at this is to think about the actions of other people. Often when we see people doing stupid things, we assume they haven’t thought about what they are doing.
But that isn’t always the case, sometimes people are in a rush, or there is an emergency, and they have to make what to us looks like a bad decision. What is important here is to try and be as open-minded about people, who we don’t know, choices as we are about our own.
Why You Must Think For Yourself
We’ve touched on this topic a little throughout, but we always need to remember that it is important to think for ourselves. This is the case because we are the only people who know what we want and, therefore, what is best for us.
Everyone has an idea about what is best for the world and all the people around them, but they rarely apply the same reasoning to themselves. In part, this is because it is easy to look at other people objectively, but it is also something that we need to work on ourselves.
Whenever we are faced with a difficult situation, it is wise to stop back, take a deep breath and think about why we are making the choices we are making.
Once you take the time to give yourself a chance to think, you will also be giving yourself a chance to make better decisions. And again, it is vital to think for yourself, even if it is hard, because only you ever know what you truly want or what is best for you.
Without giving ourselves the chance to think, we will live the lives other people want for us. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying other people are wrong; they may have our best interests at heart. But at the same time, they don’t know what is going on in our hearts. So be brave enough to believe in your ability to choose and think for yourself even if it is difficult.