This week we have seen that man's way of thinking is cognition. It is in man's nature to think like animals think. This requires NO EFFORT for us to do. However, God WANTS us to choose to REASON...to think intentionally...to participate in meta-cognition. What does this process look like objectively?
I believe God has purposely taken me through the experiences I've had in order to teach others HOW to think. This is the process I use when I help people out of a crisis...because the ONLY time most people are willing to participate in meta-cognition is when they have to...when they have a problem.
1. What is the objective? (What is the desired EFFECT?)
I believe the BIGGEST reason people make their problems worse is because they can't answer this FIRST question. Their lack of an objective is ACTUALLY a BIGGER problem than ANY crisis they could be facing because failure to handle this step well WILL lead to the problem getting worse...by the hand of the person having the problem. There are some subcategories of this step that are important:
-Is there more than one objective?
A lot of people get overwhelmed because they are ACTUALLY trying to pursue more than one objective AND they think it is ONLY one objective. People also try to solve more than one objective at a time. I have stated this more than a hundred times to people in trouble: "I don't know about you, but I'm only able to handle one problem at a time." If there is more than one objective, determine which one is the most pressing and focus on that ALONE...a lot of times several of the other issues go away. If they don't then you work on the next most pressing issue. However, trying to stamp out each "fire" at the same time will ONLY result in NONE of the "fires" going out. Stamp one out COMPLETELY. The others may grow, but you have less "fires" to deal with and are better able to put out the other "fires".
-Is the objective in your control?
Usually, these two sub-questions bring 99% of the focus to an issue. People tend to have several objectives they have been working on and when this question is answered, they realize that only one of them is in their control. If your objective has to do with the weather, the behavior of others, or "solutions" (money, feelings, etc) then you are only going to wear yourself out.
A lot of people pose a solution as an objective. For instance, when I was in the corporate world, people would say our objective was to get more resources. That is a solution to some issue...what is the issue? What is the Desired EFFECT? I would go to the front of the room and write down "More resources"...then I would draw a line above these words and write "ISSUE?". I would ask, "What is the issue?" The response would be something like "we aren't productive enough". I would write "Increase Productivity" as the objective (Desired Effect) and then ask, "How can we solve this issue?" THEN the answers would come pouring out. Now we have a list of twenty and one of them is "More resources".
-Is the objective IS or OUGHT?
Are we trying to determine the CAUSE and solve it to perfection (OUGHT) or are we trying to deal with the symptoms and hope it goes away (IS)? IS solutions don't solve the problem...they just cover the appearance of the problem. The symptoms will come back, maybe in a different form, and there will continue to be more damage in other areas. Determining IS vs OUGHT helps increase the focus of effort on the identified objective.
-How are the terms associated with the objective defined?
We are talking about the meaning of WORDS. We need to understand what all of the participants mean when they use specific words. Jumping over this step almost always results in a dilution of effort and an inability to achieve a solution. This isn't a "right or wrong" issue. This is an opportunity to improve the focus. It doesn't matter how you define the words...as long as the words are defined. If you don't define your terms upfront, you will end up coming back to this step when you hit a dead end or make a bigger mistake because of the lack of communication/focus.
Once the objective is determined, the goal becomes to determine the CAUSE of The Desired Effect.
2. What are your options?
Everything before this stage is preparation. This is REALLY the first step in trying to solve the problem. This step is trying to identify ALL the possible CAUSES. This requires you to be completely comparative and uncomfortable in order to determine ALL possible options. As humans, we are limited in our knowledge. We can't possibly know ALL the possible options. Only God knows ALL the options. So in order to do this step COMPLETELY right, you HAVE to get revelation from God.
It is possible to cover all the options in a general way...the more general the better we can do this. For instance, CS Lewis would say Jesus was either: 1) a liar, 2) a crazy man, or 3) who He said He was (the Son of God). There are no other options...but notice, these options are general...we have a lot of arguments WITHIN each option.
3. What do you know for SURE is NOT possible?
This step occurs ONLY after you have done the previous step. EVERYTHING is questioned. Now you need to actively try to prove each option wrong. In the CS Lewis example from above, Lewis then says someone may say Jesus was ONLY a great moral teacher. Lewis shows this is contradictory because Jesus said He was the Son of God and if THAT isn't true then Jesus lied and couldn't be a great moral teacher.
This is the step that separates the cognition people from the meta-cognition people. In detective stories and medical dramas, this is the key step. Someone questions a piece of information that people assumed was true. This results in people getting very uncomfortable that someone would even consider something was not true...especially a deeply held belief.
This is probably my strongest point. People who know me say that I'm like the TV character "House". I see some of the similarities. He gets told by people that they have checked EVERYTHING. Then he'll question a piece of information and people tell him he's crazy. I have turned that scenario into a running joke. Whenever someone tells me that they have considered everything, what they are saying is, "There is no CAUSE to this observed EFFECT because I checked ALL the possible CAUSES and NONE of them would result in this EFFECT. I'm not trying to argue with you."
Then I laugh and say, "ACTUALLY I want you to be right. Do you realize how rich and famous we will become when we document the FIRST case where CAUSALITY failed? We have a documented case of a COMPLETELY random and CAUSELESS event. Even if it only occurs in that one location on earth, we need to buy the property and set up shop over the only place in the world where the principles of truth (or science) fail to work. I REALLY hope you are right!" Unfortunately, after spending over 20+ years in pursuit of thousands of examples where CAUSALITY seemed to cease, I have to report that NONE of them have been confirmed.
4. WHY is the option NOT possible?
It's not enough to say something is wrong. You have to come up with the reason...you have to present the contradiction in terms of premises. Usually it is one of the premises that are faulty. THIS is the formula for every "mystery/detective" story: you are presented a series of premises that appear true AND don't give the expected EFFECT. Then the story works its way through the premises until you find the one (or more) that are incorrect. The hour long shows are built on secondary CAUSES. The first EFFECT is solved in the first half hour and everyone relaxes...then the problem comes back and we realize we didn't get to the primary CAUSE...just the EFFECT of the primary CAUSE.
IF ALL of the options are identified, then the option that can't be PROVEN wrong HAS to be the CAUSE of The Desired Effect.
If there is more than one option that can't be PROVEN wrong, then you need to determine the information necessary to PROVE one or more of the options wrong...and get that information.
If the problem doesn't resolve itself, then you didn't identify all the options...either because you were afraid to get uncomfortable or you didn't listen to God (GRACE).
Again, notice that the perfect way to do this process involves stating your will, revelation from God, and proving truth.
In yesterday's post, we saw the purpose of "Modeling God" was to prove a non-contradictory explanation of God and salvation. While it is an intellectual explanation, the process of HOW it was done over 14 years follows the process presented in this post. This post covers HOW the four God-given principles (Contrastive, Non-Contradiction, Causality, and Growth) are used TOGETHER to determine TRUTH.
Tomorrow we will look at an explanation for HOW people fail to do this process...HOW do most people ACTUALLY think?