Would you describe yourself as a skeptic?
Maybe you consider this a positive trait, even a superpower. Maybe you feel confident that you will not fall prey to tricksters and scammers. You might even consider yourself more intelligent than your more unquestioning friends.
You trust your own judgment and your ability to logically think things through before making a decision or accepting another’s point of view.
You may trust your own mind so much that you’ve never considered the possibility that you can be skeptical of your own thinking.
You are not your thinking
René Descartes was a brilliant mathematician, scientist, and philosopher. He was the first great skeptic of the modern era.
Not willing to trust his senses as a reliable way of knowing, he determined that the only thing that he can know for sure is that he can think.
This truth, cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am), was the foundation for all knowing, distinct from the senses which could be tricked or deceived.
Descartes believed he had hit upon the bedrock of reality itself.
His conclusions resonated so much that you’d be hard-pressed to find a person who has not heard or uttered the famous phrase. We trust our ability to think so much that we identify ourselves with our thinking.
For better or worse, our thoughts create our reality. In our quest for certainty, our unexamined thoughts and beliefs create environments that are harmful to ourselves and others.
We may find ourselves being more prone to defensiveness. We may wall ourselves off from ideas and opportunities that can improve our lives.
We may even experience people with different views from us as hostile or dangerous to our well-being.
What if you could become more skeptical of your own thinking first? How might your life change for the better?
Some benefits of being skeptical of your thinking and mind
Here are some ways I believe we can all benefit from a higher dose of self-skepticism:
1. You’ll learn to live in the present
The vast majority of our thoughts either transport us to a past that we cannot change or a future that does not exist. And most of the suffering and misery in our lives are created from these thoughts.
When we learn to live in the present, we put less stock in our wouldas and what-ifs. We reduce our worry and anxiety. When thoughts about the past or future threaten to derail you, ask this simple question, “Is that true?”
2. You’ll experience personal growth
Having our cherished beliefs challenged can feel so threatening that we avoid such situations at all costs.
But doing so will also prevent you from experiencing personal growth that comes only when we allow our thoughts and beliefs to be challenged by others.
We do not have to experience these occasions as threatening but as opportunities to learn something new that may help us in the long-run.
3. You’ll learn to trust the wisdom of your body
In his quest for certainty, Descartes turned away from the unreliability of the body to the surety of the mind.
But here’s what’s interesting. Our bodies are more trustworthy than our minds.
For instance, your mind might try to convince you that you’re ok being part of a group that gossips relentlessly. But every time you’re with them, your neck hurts and your body becomes tense.
When you become aware and suspicious of your rationalizations, you will also become more aware of your body’s wisdom and more trusting of its guidance.
Free yourself from your thinking mind
Imprisoned by thoughts that are not serving you? Tired of falling prey to your own mind?
You may not realize that you have the key to free yourself. Simply become more skeptical of your own thinking.
And you’ll find yourself free to enjoy life on a whole new level.