Guest post by Hannah La Joy Johnston
Note: In the previous post, the author discussed her decision to think intentionally.
Here is a super basic how-to for intentional thinking.
1. Find somewhere peaceful where you can be alone. Remember, peaceful silence is vital!
2. Set a time limit for thinking (start short and build up to longer periods), remove all distractions, feel yourself breathe, relax, and sweep your mind clear. It helps to imagine a white, clean surface expanding in all directions, or maybe a wide-open field or ocean stretching as far as you can see. (I go into more detail in my book Butterflies In Formation: A Practical Approach to Managing Performance Anxiety.)
3. Choose your thought. Your mind will probably jump to the pressing ones first.
- If there’s an issue needing your attention, consciously think of pros and cons while mentally talking through possible plans of action.
- If there is nothing pressing, I like to think on things that interest me: perhaps retelling the book chapters I read last night or carefully combing through plot points and character development in a story or movie or thinking on often hard-to-concentrate-on subject like politics, moral issues, and spiritual issues. It can be uncomfortable at first, because your mind may strain, naturally wanting to wander away. But relax—don’t squeeze the thought; give it room to breathe by repeating step 3. Clear your cluttered thoughts away again and focus in on the one you want.
- I particularly enjoy choosing a subject I’m interested in but know little about. After doing some targeted research, I synthesize my findings in my understanding and memory to bring up in conversation later. Some memorable subjects were as interesting and random as blobfish, salty gators, Einstein’s theory of ether (bending space-time), the physical language of ballet, invasive species, ancient Egypt, Freemasonry, diamond construction, and deep-sea exploration. Stuff like this can make the mind a real Wonderland!
4. Don’t write your thoughts down just yet. That may distract you from thinking. Simply contemplate them first. Keep paper nearby and jot a bullet point summary, then go back and fill in the details once you’ve finished thinking.
5. Ask yourself questions.
6. Control your inner monologue to retain a calm conversation. Try to use specific, colorful words to vividly describe what you mean.
7. Quickly write your ideas in phrases. Don’t worry about all the filler words—just get the important ideas down so you can revisit them later. These are your signposts on your Thought Road.
8. Guard your mind from jumping from idea to idea without meaning to. If you’re relaxed and absorbed in your chosen thought, it will get easier to stay on track the more you practice.
9. Don’t be frustrated if you don’t arrive at your thought’s destination this time. Mark down your progress. You’ll be able to find your way back next time to start farther along than you first began.
Intentional thinking is rather rare these days since many people don’t care or haven’t stopped to think about . . . thinking. I just know that purposeful, disciplined thinking has changed my life. It helps me simultaneously see more of life’s fascinating microscopic details and its mind-blowing scope. It reminds me that although humanity is finite, tiny, we have a world within us—a virtually unexplored and untapped Wonderland sitting on our shoulders.
Just stop and think about that!
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With her BA and MS degrees in speech performance, Hannah La Joy Johnston has been a performing arts instructor for over 5 years at Pensacola Christian College in Pensacola, FL. In 2016 she self-published her first book, Butterflies In Formation, and continues to write children’s books from home with her husband, her husky, and her hound as her daily inspirations. Several of her children’s books are nearly ready for publication. Be on the lookout for Dirty Paws, an epic war between the birds and the bees, this winter!