I believe most people do not live very thoughtfully. This is not to say I believe most people are incapable of doing so, simply that it is not a priority for most, and for different reasons. I did not begin thinking a lot because of my careers as a college professor, pastor, and counselor. Rather, I chose those careers because at an early age I decided I wanted to live thoughtfully. Here is what I think that means:
- Thoughtful people embrace the conviction that knowledge matters. Action is vital, but the best action is informed by the best understanding.
- Thoughtful people get to know themselves. Every person on the planet is living out of deep wells of past experience. Those who are willing to reflect on this can make a conscious choice to shape themselves differently. Those who are unwilling to do this will forever be products of their past.
- Thoughtful people realize you live out of what you think. Thinking is not simply a mental exercise. Everything you are flows from the way you think. Thoughtful people know this and shape their minds actively.
- Thoughtful people accept that not all thinking is of the same quality. Pluralism means everyone has a right to their opinion. But we have a responsibility to have good opinions based on the best understanding we can come to.
- Thoughtful people read. Hardcovers,paperbacks,audiobooks – whatever works for you. Thoughtful people constantly are getting new ideas into their heads.
- Thoughtful people listen. Speaking of getting new ideas into one’s head, thoughtful people listen. To others. To their own consciences. To their lives.
- Thoughtful people accept responsibility for their lives, choices, and mistakes.
- Thoughtful people understand the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is factual data. Wisdom is knowing how to apply the facts we have. There are very knowledgeable people who are not wise, and there are people of limited education and knowledge who are nonetheless very wise.
- Thoughtful people reflect on what they are coming to understand. Thoughtful people seek to internalize what they are learning so it becomes part of them.
Though God created people with different potentials for wisdom and intelligence, I believe everyone has the capacity to live thoughtfully – to seek knowledge (especially about themselves), to reflect on what they are learning, and to apply it wisely so that they are constantly growing in both understanding and virtue.
Question: Did I miss anything important? Let me know in the comments section.