How to enable free thinking (and why it matters)

Written by Martin Lucas

To think freely is to create with abandon by being nothing other than the real you. The challenge is that everyone believes they already think freely, after all you can’t be getting told what to do, what to think, what actions to take all day everyday, can you?

A good question, one that we will address later.

Master of all, servant of none

I like this phrase as it represents the perception we hold as humans. We are master of our own destiny and we have freedom to do and be as we chose; we serve no master but ourselves. It’s very true; we are free beings, fewer crazy Kings, fewer dictators, less control in today's world than even fifty (let alone one hundred) years ago.

We can go anywhere that we desire on the planet.

We can study and set a path for any job we wish.

We are as free as the wind; we create our own destiny.

Are we truly free though? Do we have freedom of thought? Freedom of mind? This is where our minds cause some complexity when it comes to thinking freely. I’ll let you decide. Answer the following questions with your ‘quick as a snap’ instinctive response.

1. Which is healthier for you: fat or sugar?

2. Do you make a noise when you sit down?

3. Who is better? Lady Gaga or Madonna?

4. How clever are you?

5. What was the last thing you bought yourself?

Got your answers?

Grand, now let’s mix it up a bit. Same questions with one addition:

1. Which is healthier for you: fat or sugar? Why did you pick that one?

2. Do you make a noise when you sit down? Why do you do that?

3. Who is better? Lady Gaga or Madonna? Why that person?

4. How clever are you? Why do you think that?

5. What was the last thing you bought yourself? Why that specific purchase?

Without realising it you are seeking an outcome in advance based on preconceived bias. The joy of the Why question is that, unlike What and How questions, it delves into your unconscious mind - the part of the mind where 98% of all you do is decided.

98%! Just typing it makes my mind go:

Somewhere in the deep recesses of your mind is a moment of influence that made you believe:

  1. That sugar or fat is better
  2. That you think you make a sound sometimes but….not sure.
  3. That it’s obviously X, because of Y, totes!
  4. That you are this ‘__’ clever. Because of lots of moments of influence and lots of success, some failures and probably becasue of a random IQ test you took one afternoon while bored.
  5. Who are you ask me that you may think or just cuz :).

The point is that asking Why causes lots of friction. That’s cool though; it’s expected. How often can we ask why we do something? We make thousands of decisions every day and…yep….98% of those decisions sit in your unconscious mind.

The human efficiency trick

We humans need to be able to function in our day to day lives, and in order to function we learn how to do things. That knowledge becomes behaviours, which then become habits and - BOOM! - the unconscious mind takes over. That is not just the practical doing stuff, which is obviously key: we learn the habits of how to eat, to dress, to walk and so forth. The depth of our mind is an incredible thing; it is the most complex computer on the planet and very far from being understood in the world of science and psychology. We are making  progress but we are far from the absolute truth. The reality is we know as much about the brain as we do about the billions of planets in our universe.

What is very clear is that to function, the brain grabs hold of all the data it can to make as much of the human decision-making process unconscious. The brain does this so it can leave you with enough capacity to think only about the things you really need to. Ever felt overloaded? Now you know why; you had too much to think about!

The trick is one of awareness. Did you know that you have billions of preferences, biases and behaviours in your mind?

You have preferences such as:

The types of people you like and don’t like.

Favourite metals: maybe you like silver but don’t like copper.

The types of movie you like and don't like.

Favourite veg and some you CANNOT stand and refuse to eat*

A handshake

A way to burp

A method of farting

A laugh

*Brussels sprouts #obvs

It goes on and on. Some of the millions of things that have been loaded into your unconscious mind you care about deeply and some you couldn’t give two hoots about BUT they are there, they exist. Now consider what that means for thinking freely.

Do you think freely?

Can you think freely?

Does it really matter?

Let’s pause. I’ll run an example which scares the bejesus out of me.

The masters of influence create the preferences of the person

They say that there should be a division between church and state, purely because one should not influence the other. In today's world, it’s hard to say which church we mean when looking at a given country. Religion is fragmented (I include non-religious people in this) and people are migrating around the world like crazy, which brings even more demographic change.

What we don’t often hear enough about is the division between state and justice. I think it is fair to say that no justIce can exist without neutrality and yet everything - everything - in the justice system is not pure of thought, it is all subjective.

I’d encourage you to read and see this for yourself:

Ghettoside by Jill Leovy

Locking up our own: Crime & Punishment in Black America by James Forman

This isn’t sharing anything new in terms of the justice system but what about when even the people in that system can’t see their own bias?

What happens then? Simple. They make decisions based on a preconceived bias at any given moment in time.

In a bad mood? Throw the book at them.

Touched by that movie last night? Give them some empathy.

It’s shit-nuts cray cray but that is the world we live in. You can also add the political sway to justice, like when the media focuses on knife crime then justice stamps down on what the political influence makes it do and when that focus switches to say burglary the justice machine follows suit. It’s not something we can change; we can only hope to avoid being caught in its crosshairs. What we can do though is take control of our own destiny.

Free thinking is the neutral mind

Self-awareness is a war the vast majority of humans don’t ammo up to fight. Those that do fight the self awareness war win some of the battles but can never be sure if they’ve won the war as there is always one more OMG discovery moment, a new behaviour, a new Why, a new layer to the onion of self.

I’m talking about millions of behaviours devising millions of points of pre-decided bias. Neutrality is not practical; it can’t be. It’s a concept, not even a theory, as theory needs application. That’s my challenge to you, to neutralise your mind.

There is always a reason why you do what you do. I am 40 years old and am still scared of swimming because of an accident when I was three years old. I detest Brussels sprouts but haven’t tried one for the past 35 years. I don’t like that person, that job, that company and yet I  couldn’t tell you why…

…about millions of things.

The mind is an efficient trick. Unless you question your decisions and thoughts, you cannot know if you are thinking freely or being influenced by limited data that created a preference 'loosely-founded' based on limited data, like that one time you tried Brussels sprouts as a kid and hated them. Kids beg their parents to try a sip of forbidden beer or wine, and hate it, but we soon grow out of that preference in our teens! We literally don’t revisit decisions we made when we were 2 years old or 5 or 10 or 17 because it’s not practical to do this and we were never asked to. And yet, those decisions were moments in time that gave your brain the data to create your preferences.

The efficient mind is not the free mind

You can’t be getting told what to do, what to think, what actions to take all day everyday, can you?

Redressing the original question. To be free of influence we have to neutralise our minds and ask ourselves why we think something and why we want to make that decision. It is a type of conditioning you can apply to yourself and it will free you to think and find the truth of self.

To think freely is to not be influenced by anything but the present moment.

To think freely is to question why you have a current bias.

To think freely is to ask yourself, step by step, if your decision is pure or influenced by something and if you understand and believe that ‘something’.

Set yourself free, it’s a path of wonder where you will enrich yourself (and begin to understand your Why).