It’s Time to ‘Socrates’ Your Assumptions!

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Yes I used Socrates as a verb. Now lets move on.

We all have things we just do without questioning them. Whether personally or professionally we all do things, right now, we should challenge; a process, a thought or an action, and ask “why?”

Why do you work 40 hrs a week? Why not 20? Or 80?

Why do you eat 3 meals a day? Why not 6? or 1?

Why do we have to work in a office? Or why 9-5? 

Reasoning is something many people are poor at. Socrates knew this in 450 BC and spent his life helping people (sometimes against their will) challenge preconceived notions and to reason out, for themselves, alternative perceptions.

Too much of our society moves about under the notion “that’s just how it is done.” We all assimilate to some so-called “common sense.” From the clothes you put on, to the meals you eat (and when you eat them), to the hours we open our business, how we market a business, or why we even have a job at all!?

HOW OFTEN DO WE TAKE THE TIME TO ASK...

“Why am I doing this?” or

“Why I am I do this, this way?”

Socrates was seen as somewhat of a protagonist and often made people uncomfortable with his unrelenting investigation into his fellow conversationalists’ thought, (or lack of.) As these dialogues play out, you see the power of questions take root in peoples minds and how he allows the other person to reason out for themselves. He does not tell anyone what to think about a topic but HOW to think, about all topics.

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THE PURPOSE OF THE WHYS? 

Although the "Why? Why? Why?" may just sound like an annoying 4 year old debating the merits of eating gummy worms for breakfast, it does have use in our business and our personal life. Socrates used "The Test of Three" in an interaction with a student about to spread a rumor. He asked the man to pause and tell him if the information was going to be either Truth (objective not subjective), Goodness, or Usefulness? The answer was "No" on all counts and Socrates declined to hear any more. These are tests we can apply to all we do. It is not always a easy process and can cause discomfort, but that is a valuable process that often leads to improvements.

Many successful people will tell you that some form of discomfort or pressure is required for you to be at your best. Losing your job (or threat of), new business competition, bills that outweigh the bank balance, the new guy at work with new ideas, and so on. New pressures often help move us out of the comfort zone and force us to try harder, be better or take risks. I believe the Socratic form of questioning can create that sense of discomfort to drive those results, without the impending doom of losing a job or eviction.

QUESTIONS THAT CAUSE DISCOMFORT

Many of us coast in jobs we don’t care about, or put on uncomfortable clothes we don’t like, or eat three times a day whether we are hungry or not. We also have ingrained ideas about what success is, or deeper and more complex issues like good and evil, right and wrong. But most all of these things, if taken through a Socrates format of inquisition, will often leave you in a very different state of conclusion, than you probably began with.

Essentially what we are talking about is the art of critical thinking.

About 4 months ago I began eating just one meal a day. It goes against a lot of what many of us would know as conventional wisdom for health, and certainly against what food manufacturers tell me I need. But so far, it feels great and it seems there is science to support the health benefits. I intend to test and evaluate for myself. 

WHAT ARE YOU DOING TODAY THAT COULD BE QUESTIONED, TESTED AND POSSIBLY IMPROVED?

I would recommend for anyone who enjoys this way of thinking to grab a copy of 'The Consolations of Philosophy' by Alain De Botton - Its a great primer on Socrates and many other philosophers.