It’s been said that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Research has shown that it is actually much deeper than that. Beauty is in the genes of the beholder!

So, first, let’s define what do we mean by “beautiful mind.” Put simply, a beautiful mind is one that fully exercises critical thinking.

In the words of Michael Scriven & Richard Paul Critical Thinking is “A disciplined process, to actively and skillfully conceptualize, apply, analyze, synthesize, and/or evaluate information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. It is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.”

Contrary to common human practice that likes to dichotomize and/or categorize everything and divide things into simple little parts, life does not follow human rules, regulations, or “logic.”

Life is a beautifully designed process that follows the best possible alternative of quantum physics!

It is patently obvious, at least to those who still manage to remain self-conscious, that the complexity of life, in every way, keeps increasing exponentially.

This dramatic complexity augmentation has also afforded humans the ability to develop the one and only skill they need to handle the ever-growing complexity, turbulence and hyper-uncertainty, namely, through critical thinking.

Tragically, though, most people feel they don’t have time to think, let alone to think critically!

A myriad of books have been written about a variety of human “intelligences” (e. g., Emotional Intelligence, Practical Intelligence, Analytical Intelligence, etc.) and thousands of studies have been conducted on cognitive skills that keep categorizing and dividing the brain’s properties and functions.

While this work is commendable, for it has contributed to our better understanding of the human mind in many ways, it has also created very misleading ideas in regards to how to go about fully utilising our brain power.

Many “experts” sell their services and/or products to “help” fellow humans handle the complexity of their daily lives by further developing specific properties of the brain separately, e.g., to further develop your creativity, your memory, your analytical power, etc.. This approach is very limited and counter productive. All we need is to further develop the traits of a beautiful mind ad infinitum.

Thus, what are the traits of a beautiful mind?

Based on the above definition these traits are infinite, but the ones below are of paramount importance:

1. Open-Mindedness

Open-mindedness is, by definition, unlimited or ‘limitless,’ and it is the very first step toward critical thinking. The power of an open mind cannot be overestimated and it is be best appreciated when dealing with a narrow-minded individual.

2. Depth Of Thought

The ability to delve into the unfathomable complexity of life itself mostly by asking “What if”?

3. Scope/Breadth Of Thought

The ability to encompass and envision extreme viewpoints considered impossible. This requires reconciling scientific knowledge (i.e., Refined Knowledge) and ecological knowledge (i.e., Common Sense).

4. Clarity Of Thought

A clear sense of a higher purpose. This also requires reconciling refined knowledge and common sense.

5. Accuracy Of Thought

The ability to avoid errors or distortions of thought to hit a target at a macro level.

6. Precision Of Thought

The ability to hit a target reliably and consistently at a micro level.

7. Consistency Of Thought

The ability to avoid cognitive dissonance, thus maintaining precision and accuracy of thought continuously.

8. Relevance Of Thought

The ability to determine priorities and remain grounded and pragmatic. This also requires reconciling scientific knowledge and ecological knowledge.

9. Intention/Fairness Of Thought

The ability to not only exercise emotional intelligence, i.e., to manage positive and negative emotions in order to avoid biases and remain objective but, even more importantly, to maintain moral, ethical, and Spiritual values and principles.

10. Inquisitiveness Of Thought

The ability to question everything, especially our own thoughts, in order to innovate. A good start is asking “What if”?

11. Plasticity Of Thought

The ability to mentally reshape our thoughts and become tropophilic.

12. Ingenuity Of Thought

The ability to imagine the unimagined, i.e., to be creative and innovative ad infinitum!

13. Pragmatism Of Thought

The ability to maintain the objectivity of thought by reconciling refined knowledge and common sense.

14. Passion Of Thought

The strongest desire, courage, perseverance, and determination — beyond life/death — to exercise and implement your thought.

15. Intuitiveness Of Thought

The ability to instantly tap into the subconscious while reconciling refined knowledge and common sense.

16. Positiveness/Good Reasons Of Thought

The ability to maintain a cheerful mind on a continuous basis, i.e., positive attitude for a positive reason which is intimately linked to the trait #9, intention of thought.

17. Active Inference

The ability to minimize free energy in order to reduce the prediction error and surprise. Thus, thriving on uncertainty and change, i.e., becoming Tropophilic.

18. Premonition

The ability to foresee the future beyond intuition.

19. Emotional Intelligence

The ability to accurately identify, understand, and manage our own emotions as well as the emotions of others, whether highly positive and/or highly negative. Each and every day we are exposed to positive and negative circumstances that will reveal our true colors, in order to remain objective and avoid subjective biases, we must exercise our emotional intelligence to use emotions as a source of energy to apply towards positive tasks and problem-solving.

All of these traits, and then some, are part of Critical Thinking. Scriven and Paul state that “Critical thinking varies according to its motives. When the motive is selfish, it is manifested in the manipulation of ideas to serve the vested interest. As such, it is intellectually flawed, however pragmatically successful it might be. When grounded in fairmindedness and intellectual integrity, it is of a higher order intellectually, though subject to the charge of “idealism” by those habituated to its selfish use.”

Critical thinking, therefore, includes scientific thinking, mathematical thinking, historical thinking, anthropological thinking, economic thinking, moral thinking, and philosophical thinking.

How can we further develop our critical thinking skills? Well, think of it this way, asking “Why”? is like knocking on a door. Asking “What if” is like peeking through a window.

As of yet, no human has been able to think fully critically, i.e., to use all traits of a beautiful mind. We are still subjected to undisciplined and/or irrational thoughts. Their quality is still a matter of degree and dependent upon, inter alia, the quality, and depth of our experiences. Hence, the importance of a nurturing environment from early childhood for the healthy development of Emotional Intelligence (EI).

EI embraces the last eight of the traits of a beautiful mind. Being able to manage our intelligence (including, of course, our emotions) is, therefore, the most important aspect of critical thinking.

As of yet, we can only be critical thinkers to a certain degree, with some given insights and blind spots, subject to given tendencies towards self-delusion and positive/negative emotions. However, through the power of evolution, this will dramatically change before the eyes of our grandchildren.

To sum it up, the best single trait of a beautiful mind is its ability to think critically on a continuous basis which, given the truth decay brought about by the exponential growth of data and information generation, is of paramount importance.

I have yet to find a more beautiful mind than that of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. And yet, these minds don’t even come close to that of The Son of the carpenter.

A Toast To Your Beautiful Mind And Its Critical Thinking Skills!

JC Wandemberg Ph.D.

President & Founder

About the author: Dr. Wandemberg is an international consultant, professor, and analyst of economic, environmental, social, managerial, marketing, and political issues. For the past 30 years Dr. Wandemberg has collaborated with corporations, communities, and organizations to integrate sustainability through self-transformation processes and Open Systems Design Principles, thus, catalyzing a Culture of Trust, Transparency, and Integrity.

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