Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Ten reasons to love thinking

Thinking is one of the great human abilities. Anyone can do it, anytime, anywhere. One of the best places in the world to be is inside one’s head, thinking.

If you love to dwell in thought, perhaps you are made for the academic life. Perhaps you are meant to be a ‘creative’: producing art, music, novels, or some other product of original thought. Perhaps you have the DNA of an engineer, designer, or systems analyst – you enjoy problem solving, the ultimate hard think.

Needless to say, most scientists live to think.

Thoughts can change the world. For some, this is a threat. Change challenges power structures and one of the dire proclivities of humans is to suppress conflicting thoughts by force.

Some of the world’s greatest thinkers have been denied the right to think. Censored, jailed, exiled, killed. It’s hard to believe the Catholic Church condemned Galileo in 1633 for believing the earth revolves around the sun.

“Thoughts can change the world. For some, this is a threat.”

One of the burning questions hanging over society is ‘why are some people free-thinkers and others suppressers of free-thought?’ Why are humans still battling ‘Truth’ with ‘truth’?

Here are ten reasons to think — ideally as broadly, deeply, and often as possible. Think to:

  1. Fix. The most practical reason to think is to solve a problem.
  2. Learn. Often, we need to think about a subject to understand it. Thinking helps find the connections between things we observe. A whole emerges from the parts once we build connections. Living life triggers questions. Thinking about them helps us find solutions or convinces us we need help. Questioning is key to understanding.
  3. See the future. Even just looking ahead at the calendar can be enough to get value out of thinking about what the future might hold. For example, we know that spring will come. With it, certain phenomena will unfold. Spending time thinking about things we expect to occur, lining them up and seeing the connections between them can often bring more insight than we realize. We do have a kind of crystal ball of sorts. Add to the trajectory what one hopes to see happen and plans form and gestate. We think to ‘make our futures’.
  4. Synthesize. We need quiet time to synthesize experiences into impressions and opinions about the world around us and our place in it. We synthesize these into larger narratives and thus build frameworks by which we can live. A key part of synthesis is the ability to detect and understand patterns. Deducing patterns allows extrapolation, letting us work out the implications and potential consequences.
  5. Evolve a stance. Thinking ahead allows one to take a considered stance. How do you feel about a, b, c? What is your position on x, y, z? Whether it’s what to say around the water cooler, or being prepared to defend your core beliefs, thinking builds our internal references as a key part of defining ‘self’.
  6. Enjoy. Intellectuals are intellectual because they enjoy and expend huge amounts of time on thinking. We can all think; it’s one of the great joys of life.
  7. Explore. The human imagination is infinite. The mind is like a simulation factory. This is what dreams and day dreams explore: the unknown. Thinking is a conscious version of mapping out what ‘might happen’. Thinking thus provides a special form of ‘awareness’ we can use to our advantage. Great innovators see ‘what could be’. Visionary thinking has vastly benefitted society.
  8. Hatch new ways to think more efficiently. Okay, if you like thinking, you’ll be doing this: thinking about how to think more and better. How to get more time and fodder for thinking? Maybe a course is in order. Or some research into a particular topic. Maybe an introduction to a thought-leader. Thinking can be accelerated and made more efficient with contributed expertise and knowledge. If someone else has put in the hard thinking, benefit from it. Make your own launch pad as strong as possible.
  9. Be more fun around others. When we fail to have ‘self-time’ to think, we get edgy and easy to knock off balance. Thinking might seem a selfish pursuit, but it often helps one be a better person in company.
  10. Contribute. Thinking helps make all of us better citizens of the world. Like the adage ‘think before you speak’, if you have considered opinions based on facts, ideally even a vision of how things ‘could be’ and the calmness and knowledge to express it, you’ll be a far more positive member of society.

Hopefully this list makes you think. What are your reasons to think?

Featured image credit: Teenage girl window railing by 胡 卓亨. CC0 public domain via Unsplash

Recent Comments

  1. Brian Vnce

    In today’s fast paced society of smart phones, smart devices, constant on, thinking is at risk. Often people are in “do” mode rather than “why” mode. Taking a step back to think, to evaluate, to dream of something better could improve so many aspects of the world. Thanks for a fantastic article.

  2. Dawn Field

    Thanks for commenting!

  3. Priya

    Hi Dr.Daw,
    I enjoyed your article so much…
    Do you know any books which talks about playing with thoughts??


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