“No, no, NO,” our professor scolded in his Czech-accented English. “Why are you raising your hands? I told you, first we think…for five minutes. Do you understand the problem? After five minutes then you answer the question!”
Looking back on my (later-in-life) university career, I realize I learned more in that Analytical Thinking class about having a disciplined mind then I ever did in any of my classes on philosophy. Each class period, the consistent (and persistent) professor would hammer home not only the idea that we must think before we act, but that true thinking takes time and we must allow ourselves that time. First, he would give us a mathematical story problem and then he would pace the room, watching the clock. And heaven help us if we raised our hands too soon.
It took nearly an entire academic quarter before the frustrated mathematician’s words began to stick in our thick, competitive, action-oriented American minds. We had such a conditioned response to be the first with our hands in the air that we barely looked at the problems (let alone figured out what we were supposed to do with them) before we were trying to propose solutions. Obviously acting first and thinking later was not going to work in this class.
It is the same for you at home or on the job. Acting first and thinking later is ineffectual. It doesn’t work. “First we think…for five minutes. Do you understand the problem?” In other words, do you know what you are trying to accomplish and why? Do you have a concrete vision of your desired end-results and how those end-results are tied to your values? Have you formulated your thoughts well enough that you could verbally explain your reasoning to anyone who asked? Could you tell yourself, “If I do ___then I will be able to do ____ which will make it possible for me to do ____ and that will be a good thing because ______.”
It feels good to have a disciplined mind. It feels good to think before you act and to take the time to do so. It feels good to be an effective person who uses techniques that will actually work to produce desired end results. “First we think…for five minutes. Do you understand the problem?” (…And heaven help you if you raise your hand too soon.)