The Thinker’s Way

Most of us, the author says, seek a meaningful life and a range of real, free choices in pursuing it. Yet often our own mindsets prevent this. In an era with little awareness of either the past or the future, we are surrounded by the constant buzz of “data scum,” which diverts us from thinking deeply about anything. John Chaffee believes such surface living, and thinking, keeps us from discovering our better selves. In THE THINKER’S WAY: 8 STEPS TO A RICHER LIFE, he sets out a program to remedy the problem.

While most self-help books aim to uncover emotional blocks, or build on religious premises, this one does neither. Instead, it assumes that self-defeating acts are usually caused by flawed thinking. Good, critical thinking means seeking out and evaluating the full range of facts that bear on an issue or decision. Chaffee’s approach is not a rigid one based on facts and logic alone, however. It includes ways to live more creatively, and to develop good relationships and a solid set of values.

The first step, thinking critically (chapter two) is essential background for the rest of the book’s exercises. Beyond it, readers may productively go first to the areas that most concern them. The section on problem solving, for example, lists ways to tackle common faults like smoking and procrastination. In later chapters, Chaffee uses many news items to show how to analyze issues. Media bias is revealed as nothing new; three articles from reputable papers on Malcolm X’s murder in 1965 illustrate how adjectives and details can be selected to influence readers’ perspectives. Opinion polls and science reporting are also examined, with tips for separating the reliable information from the “spin” or “hype.”

The last chapters are about family life and moral values. Critical thinking is not seen here as opposed to emotional support or firm standards; rather it provides the tools to make them work better. The sections on talking to children about death, and on building trust in relationships, offer little gems of thought— insights that are obvious, yet often overlooked. This book is full of ideas for anyone who wants to think, or to live, more effectively.