What is thought - or thinking? Well, first of all it can be described as a mental process by which certain beings form psychological associations and models of the world. By forming concepts, engage in problem solving, reasoning or decision making, we first absorb and then manipulate information. It is an act, a procedure. Thought, the act of thinking, produces more thoughts. The product of thinking can be an idea, a concept, an image, an action, a sound (speech) or enacted control over an emotional feeling.
Thinking requires intelligence. It is no coincidence that intelligence is widely defined as the ability to learn from experiences, to solve problems, to adapt to new and challenging situations, to think in an abstract and creative manner, and to develop new and useful ideas. Through intelligence we possess the cognitive abilities to learn and form concepts, understand and apply logic and reason, including the capacities to recognise patterns, comprehend ideas, plan and make decisions, and use language to communicate. Intelligence enables us to experience and think.
As with so many others acts that we perform during the day, thinking also requires time and effort. It is not an easy task to really think about something and come up with a useful output. We can "loose" ourselves in thought, we can "overthink". And as with so many other challenges and tasks that we encounter, we can fail to think.
When was the last time that you had time to sit down and think? About what - you may ask. Well, about anything. There are over 25 different ways of thinking that have been individually defined and characterised. When, for example, have you last been practicing awareness - or the ability to perceive, to feel, or to be conscious of events, objects, or sensory patterns in your surroundings? When have you been engaged in critical thinking - or the ability to analyse circumstances and form a judgement? When did you perform an evaluation - the systematic determination of a subject's merit, worth and significance, or introspection - the examination of one's own thoughts and feelings? And when have you last had time to learn - the process in which a relatively long-lasting adaptive behavioral change occurs as the result of experience and memory or predict - the ability to create a statement about the future and many others? And have you done these things consciously and proactively or have they been "forced" upon you by the unconscious need to find a solution to a problem?
The content of our thoughts can also be categorised. We can have arguments with ourselves in which we try to weigh different options in an attempt to persuade ourselves that one option or the other is more beneficial to us. We can create believe by holding different propositions and premises to be true. Our thoughts can consist of data and information, we can create knowledge by combining experience with new information from which we can develop schemas, patterns of thought or behavior that organize categories of information and the relationships among them. Our thoughts can also consist of communication in a way that we structure words to convey and intended meaning.
Thinking can be mentally and sometimes even physically draining. But it is a core requirement to live proactively. To avoid becoming a victim of circumstance. If you do things without putting some thought into them, you are most likely being acted upon. Someone else did the thinking for you. You are merely executing someone else's thoughts, acting out their ideas, implementing the solutions that they came up with for a problem that is most likely not even yours.
Thinking is therefore a certain form of freedom. It is also a responsibility. It is the ability to respond. Listen to yourself, know your thoughts and act upon them instead of being acted upon.