"How you think is how you live," said the relaxed traveler.


Do you want to be a spontaneous traveler? 

Do you want to be an influential leader? 

How about having a clear mind in the face of conflict?

How you think is how you live.

During my nursing schooling many years ago, I was continually advised to go with my gut. Whether it be answering test questions or responding to a form of conflict at the hospital. I would inevitably answer wrongly on the test or transition to the deer-in-the-headlights face at the hospital. By the way, that face doesn't inspire much confidence in your patient.

I'm sure that there are so many others out there as well who have been told to go with your gut when making decisions. For some, it seems to be a golden philosophy, but for others, it just seems to be frustratingly disappointing.

A friend and I were having a thoughtful discussion about the book Quiet by Susan Cain which then soon triggered a recommendation to read "Thinking Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman. The quote on the front cover reads, "[A] masterpiece...This is one of the greatest and most engaging collections of insights into the human mind I have read."

It has been a welcome insight helping me process through why understanding the way I think (and others) will better shape the life that I am choosing to live. Because if my life goals tend toward traveling to the uttermost areas of the world or becoming the nation's top leader or growing into the perfect housewife, understanding and guiding the way I think will pull those goals into reality.

Understanding is how you think is a massive area of study so I'm going to break down the niche area that really spoke to me. Here's a quote by me.

"How you think is how you live. And if you take the time to process through little decisions intentionally and repeatedly, you will start to have clearer and faster insight. So practice how you think by working slowly and intentionally through problems."

Why does a missionary need to think slowly and intentionally?

Short answer? Because you will better understand the people around you as well as yourself.

Why does a traveler need to care about intentional thinking?

Because you will better understand the people around you as well as your own traveling soul.

What is a pivotal in every influential leader?

The characteristic of understanding the people around them

Thinking Activity #1

  1. Take a piece of paper or get ready to type. Read the following verse first.

  2. Luke 10:27 "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and, Love your neighbor as yourself.

  3. Now look away from this verse. And think about it. Try to rephrase it and put it in your own words.

  4. Write down or type what this verse is communicating in your own words.

  5. Look back and compare. Change any words that you repeated from the original verse.

What does this activity show us? How we consider love. What your wrote in place of the word love can tell you a lot about what you think love is. If you do this in a group you can better understand what they consider love to be. If you're wanting to understand a group of people better, whether they be friends you are traveling with or some new friends, try an activity like this one that asks people to rephrase a verse or a quote. You may get a glimpse into their life and their motivation. This is just one example of how you think but there are so many more.

Can you think wrong?

Not everything is black and white and many people will be excited to share this with you when you talk about "how to think". And they are right in many situations. Priorities are different to different individuals. And even different cultures may think entirely opposite than others. But there are some black and white ways of thinking. Some "gut feelings" are just wrong. And if you are desiring to give fast and accurate responses, you'll need to climb over some "gut feelings" that pop out of your mouth.

Here's a popular example from Kahneman's book.

A bat and a ball cost $1.10 total.

The bat costs a $1.00 more than the ball.

How much is the ball?

Now that natural reaction is to answer $0.10. You see the total and deduct the dollar for the bat which equals $0.10. However, that is not correct. If you think through it a little longer you can get to the right answer. If the bat costs exactly a dollar more the ball (so $1.10) and your answer is that the ball is $0.10 then the total in that scenario would be $1.20. Thinking intentionally back through the math you can easily see that that in order for the total to be true, the ball need only cost $0.05. That would mean the bat would be $1.05 leading to the total of $1.10.

Intentional thinking can save your life.

From personal experience I know this to be true. I will not be detailing the entire story but I will share a snippet version here.

A couple years I ago I was on vacation with a friend on a private island in Panama. It was idyllic and adventurous, one of my favorite traveling combinations. On our last day, I still hadn't seen the locally known dog-sized iguanas. Our host didn't have time to take me into the jungle to find them but had very clear directions to find their nesting ground.

So I took his directions and set out myself. Around by the mangroves to the big tree, up the steep slope, and straight up the trail. Saw one! Wanted to see another, kept going. Decided that I probably wouldn't find another so I turned around after a bit. Followed the trail...I thought. Nope, not right. I later realised that I had accidentally started following iguana trails instead of human trails. And the human trails I'm talking about are where one guy walks through the jungle with a machete. So not super easy to differentiate.

how you think is how you live, lost in a banana tree forest in panama looking up

Anyway, I'm lost. It's a very big island, I came out with no water and it's a super hot day. Oh yeah, and I'm super sunburned. As a nurse, I felt the very realistic fear of becoming dehydrated, passing out, and not being found in time. But I kept walking. I cried for a while and sat down. But I got up and kept walking. I prayed and prayed. I yelled help. I then fell into mud up to my thighs. Crying continued and my voice was hoarse from yelling. But I kept walking.

After 4 hours of trudging up and down the deep banana groves and into muddy mangroves, I saw it. The ending point to a walk a made earlier in the week by the edge of the banana grove. So thankful and with salt dried cheeks I walked that slightly familiar route back to the hut.

If I hadn't kept walking, my fears most likely would've come true. I talked with my host afterwards and he said it might've taken too long to find me based on how deep I was into the jungle. One major takeaway for me after this experience is that I will never go into a jungle by myself.

Don't depend on others to make the right decisions for you or to save you? Evaluate your own decisions and make intentional changes (this is usually where goal setting comes in). I'm not going into the goals area, stop and just think about times where you've had to make intentional choices. Choices that maybe weren't what the entire group was doing. You felt different, maybe alone, or maybe totally confused. Maybe you look back in pride as you thought through your problem intentionally and made the most appropriate choice. Or maybe you look back and are frustrated by the natural reaction that you had, like my natural reaction in Hiroshima.

Take note of how you acted and move forward. Don't let prior good decisions inflate your ego and cause you to stumble during the next conflict. And don't let prior poor decisions dictate your next one. Every decision is a new chance for you to think, process, and move closer toward how you want to live. 

And if you want to keep reading, check out some other favorite quotes from Kahneman's book.

"This is your System 1 talking. Slow down and let your System 2 take control."

"What came quickly to my mind was an intuition. I'll have to start over and search my memory deliberately."

"He didn't bother to check whether what he said made sense. Does he usually have a lazy System 2 or was he unusually tired?"

"The sight of all these people in uniforms does not prime creativity."

"They were primed to find flaws, and this is exactly what they found."

"Let's not dismiss their business plan just because the font makes it hard to read."

"Familiarity breeds liking. This is a mere exposure effect."

"They didn't want more information that might spoil their story. What you see is all there is."

"This was a clear instance of a mental shotgun. He was asked whether he thought the company was financially sound, but he couldn't forget that he likes their product."

"The question we face is whether this candidate can succeed. The question we seem to answer is whether she interviews well. Let's not substitute."

"The sample of observations is too small to make any inferences. Let's not follow the law of small numbers."

"Plans are best-case scenarios. Let's avoid anchoring on plans when we forecast actual outcomes. Thinking about ways the plan could go wrong is one way to do it."

"Because of the coincidence of two planes crashing last month, she now prefers to take the train. That's silly. The risk hasn't really changed; it is an availability bias."

"No need to worry about this statistical information being ignored. On the contrary, it will immediately be used to feed a stereotype."

"The mistake appears obvious, bit it is just hindsight. You could not have known in advance."

"Let's not fall for the outcome bias. This was a stupid decision even though it worked out well."

"She has a coherent story that explains all she knows, and the coherence makes her feel good."