I can’t tell you how many times I have jumped on Facebook in an attempt to keep up with friends or associates and have been instantly turned off by the amount of negativity I see. It’s probably always been like this of course, but I didn’t begin to really see it and be as bothered by it as I have been in the last year. In this past year, I have made more changes in my life than I think I have during any one year before now. It’s not just people’s constant negativity that bugs me. It’s micro thinking.
Micro thinking is thinking inside the box. It is thinking of things only in terms of what is directly in front of you. It’s thinking small. It’s thinking about your own life constantly, because you happen to be the one living that life. It’s thinking about your own group of friends because that is your own group of friends. It is thinking only in terms of your city, because that’s the city you happen to live in or were born in. It is the “I can’t see life past my front porch,” way of looking at life. And it is a terrible mistake, and it’s one of the reasons so many people and even countries are at war with one another.
Macro thinking on the other hand is looking past the tree in front of you. It sees the entire forest. It says, “Yes, there is a tree here, and while I may want to cut it down… if I do that, then THIS is going to happen.” It is the thinking that considers what that “this” is that may happen, and why that matters. I suppose any natural born philosopher is by nature a macro thinker. But it bugs me to no end that so few people value philosophy, at least in this sense.
I remember calling a philosophy professor at the junior college in the city I lived in at the time, and asking him, “How is the philosophy course there? I don’t know anything about philosophy other than that I think I am a philosopher. I have loved the few works that I have read and it resonates with me. Can you tell me about my career options if I choose to pursue this?” He seemed a bit puzzled. He told me it would be great to have another student enrolled in his course. But if I had any ideas of actually DOING something with my time spent in this class, that I should think again. He informed me that there is virtually nothing that can be done with a philosophy degree other than… becoming a philosophy professor.
This baffled me. I found it nigh impossible to believe that there was no path for someone who had such sharp critical thinking skills, such rich ability to use formal logic, mathematical thinking, and analytical reasoning. It pretty much blew me away. Of course, I didn’t end up enrolling, I was so taken aback by his advice. But, that’s exactly what’s wrong with our world today. There is so little use for things that are of so much importance. You know why? Because the world is chock full of micro thinkers.
If the world was full of macro thinkers, they would understand that business and philosophy are more important subjects for people to study than advanced algebra and what year Christopher Columbus began his genocide. At the very least they would at least discuss the facts pertaining to that genocide. But I digress. The point is, to say that the things that we are being taught in school are of the “utmost” importance, while critical thinking and business skills are useless and hence taught is an absolute travesty. It is an injustice, every single day. In American schools, we teach pre-pubescent girls how to put condoms on bananas, but not how to love themselves, become their own bosses, or see things from a bigger picture, or how to conduct business in a sufficient manner to take care of themselves in the event that the degree they end up getting proves not to be as fruitful as once thought. But wait… that’s the whole point of micro thinking. Think only about the degree. Not how useful it is.
Macro thinking takes your vision away from the tree, and looks at the forest and says, “You know what? I’ve never been to that side of the river. I wonder what’s over there for me to explore?” It’s the thinking that prompts one to pack up some things and make that trek over the logs and into the river, to discover what more there is to be seen out there. I’ll never forget my father telling me that growing up in the Bronx, New York, all he thought there was in existence was the concrete jungle. Enlisting into the military was for him an experience that was almost surreal. He saw people, places, and cultures he didn’t even know had an actual existence. So many of us suffer from a similar plight. We think that because something is all we know, that’s all there is. I can’t tell you how many times my father and I have had conversations in which I implored him, one intellectual prodding after the other, to GO BIG… to think wider, and to think macro.
My father is an excellent bass player. But the problem for him, at least in his case, was… that’s pretty much all he saw himself as. When he thought of himself and his abilities, he pretty much just saw himself as a musician. But that’s bullshit. My dad is a wonderful friend, my best friend in fact. He’s a fantastic painter, a trait he undoubtedly inherited from his father, who left behind multiple paintings, sketches and drawings when he passed. (Unfortunately, the visual arts gifts stopped at my dad, I can’t draw stick figures with any more complexity than a hangman.) He is great at fixing things. I used to call him MacGyver, haha. But the point is, there’s so much more to who we are than who we see ourselves as. And it is Macro Thinking that allows us to understand this.
When you think small, your opportunities are small. When you have limited beliefs about what you can accomplish, then the possibilities become likewise limited. Of course, NLP is centered around this, but what actually makes it all work? Macro Thinking. (In NLP there is also use for Micro Thinking, it’s called chunking down, but that’s for another article.)
When you think big, opportunities open up that you never knew existed. You never knew they existed because you didn’t bother to take your blinders off and see them. But they were there the whole time. It’s like peripheral vision. Just because you are looking straight ahead doesn’t mean objects to your side don’t exist. They do very much exist, but we can’t see them because we aren’t focused on them. Thinking works just like vision. So Macro Thinkers are people who essentially expand their vision to include the bigger picture. Probably the person who taught me more about this topic than anyone else is Robert Dilts, an amazing NLP coach who has a terrific ability to explain concepts that were originally quite a bit more difficult to understand.
At the end of the day, Macro Thinking will add incredible amounts of value to your life. Learn to see the forest for what it is; an entire ecosystem. Don’t just look at one isolated event in your life, one day, one person, one twig, one anything. Look at that thing in context with the rest of the world around you. Think about things with a larger scope, and you will immediately begin to transform your life in powerful ways.