The Examined Life: Cultivating Self-Reflection and the Return of Socratic Thinking

One of my favorite blogs is the Neurolearning blog as I always learn something new about how to utilize my brain chemistry to be smarter. Yesterday they had a good post on the comeback of Socratic questioning in school curricula.

I strongly believe that one of the most important character traits of people I want to work with is self-awareness and self-knowledge. “Reflective thinking requires the continual evaluation of beliefs, assumptions, and hypotheses against existing data and against other plausible interpretations of the data.” It shocks me how few people take the time, regularly, to examine their own belief system, their own persona in the minds of others, their own deeply-rooted assumptions about life.

People who enjoy reflection often have a love for questions. They love the complex questions people have been grappling with for centuries. Socrates is most known for his love of questions – here’s my post on the two Socrates books I read a few months ago.

The most obvious way to force yourself to engage in serious introspection is to keep a journal – or a blog! In his own book my friend Michael Simmons includes an excerpt from Discover Your Genius: How to Think Like History’s Most Revolutionary Minds:

In a classic study of mental traits of genius, Cox examined 300 of history’s greatest minds. She found that geniuses in every field – from painting to literature to science to military to politics – tended to have certain common characteristics. Most notably, she discovered that geniuses enjoy recording their insights, observations, feelings, poems, and questions in personal notebooks or through letters to friends and family.

Take some time this summer to reflect.

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