When the Delphic Oracle pronounced Socrates the wisest person in Greece, he said “One thing only I know — and that is that I know nothing”. This was the starting point of his philosophy.
Socrates realised not only how little he knew, but also how little everyone else knew.
So he made it his mission to impart the habit of questioning themselves to his fellow Athenians.
To create this change (without a twitter account), Socrates roamed the streets of Athens conversing with random people and questioning their ideas and beliefs until he had exposed some serious holes in their perception of life.
Apparently, your life was never the same after a conversation with Socrates.
Unfortunately, there aren’t too many street philosophers around these days that can help us question our own thoughts. That’s a shame because a great deal of what we think is highly irrational and inaccurate.
Our brains are influenced by of tons of cognitive biases (errors in thinking) (1). We may think that we view the world objectively, but we are always being subjective.
This is why I like the idea of thinking of the mind as a suggestion box (2). The mind is genuinely trying to help you and serve your best interests but, unfortunately, not all the suggestions in this box are helpful.
It’s easy to consider that what pops up in your mind is an accurate assessment of reality and is fine to act upon accordingly. If, instead, you view your thoughts purely as suggestions, it puts you in an empowering position for making better and more productive decisions.
Nearly every time I sit down and write, thoughts pop up about how bad my writing is and how no one will care about it or benefit from it. This was hard to deal with in the beginning, but now I know that this is just my brain getting anxious and instead of viewing these thoughts as objective truth, I give them the same attention I would give any other suggestion.
’Oh, you think my writing sucks? Well, maybe you’re right, maybe not’. Then I hit ’publish’.
Other examples include:
’Oh, you think I’m too tired to got to the gym? Well, let’s see what happens when I get there.’
’Oh, you think I shouldn’t meditate today because I’ll die of boredom? I’ll take my chances.’
Almost always, it turns out just fine. I don’t get hanged for my writing, I don’t fall asleep doing my squats and I don’t suddenly die during meditation. In fact, once I’ve got started, it’s usually not that bad at all.
What dreams are you putting off because your thoughts have been telling you that they are impossible for you to achieve?
What would happen if you downgraded these thoughts from absolute truths to mere suggestions?