What do you get when you mix a bit of information, a healthy imagination, and someone with too much free time? The answer is--an urban legend--one of those intriguing stories that sounds plausible, but turns out to be more fiction than fact. (If you want to read some of the wildest--and the tales they're tied to visit http://www.snopes.com/.)
There are also stories floating around that sound like legend, but are anchored in reality. For example, did you know that. . .?
- Two of Santa's reindeer were originally called Dunder and Blixem, not Donner and Blitzen.
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was created for a Montgomery Wards marketing program.
- Wassailing originated as a custom of honoring one's livestock and crops in hopes of a better yield next year.
- Two brothers exchanged the same pair of pants at Christmas for 20 years.
Here's one more line that is often assumed to be as fanciful as Marley's Ghost but is as solid as last year's fruitcake: Having problems isn't a problem.
If I asked you to make a quick review of the past 12 months and to identify the moments when you learned the most or matured the most--either professionally or personally, those defining chapters of 2007 were probably connected with your involvement in solving problems. Knowing how to engage in critical thinking doesn't insulate you from life's problems--it just gives you a more defined and reliable method for solving them.
Speaker and author John Ortberg reminds us, "When teachers want students to grow, they don't give them answers--they give them problems! ('If a train leaves Cleveland at 3:00 going 50 m.p.h...') It is only in the process of accepting and solving problems that our ability to think creatively is enhanced, our persistence is strengthened, and our self-confidence is deepened. If someone gives me the answers, I may get a good score on a test, but I will not have grown. Just as our bodies simply will not grow stronger without being challenged to the point of exertion, so it is with our minds and our spirit" (If You Want to Walk on Water, page 47).
An effective critical thinking process begins with a healthy attitude about problems--accepting the reality that life has problems and even the best efforts to anticipate and plan for them won't protect you from all of life's unexpected turns. As one wag put it, "There are only two problem-free states: comatose and dead."
From delayed flights, to unwanted gifts, to overconsumption, to weird family dynamics--the holidays carry with them an abundance of problems. If you perceive every challenge as a battle to be won, you can expect a lot of conflict during the next two weeks. If you see problems as opportunities for addressing the bigger issues (root cause), using creativity, making good decisions, and looking for what you can learn in each situation--you'll start the New Year wiser than you ended this one.