Many people just take in information and struggle to even remember it.
Others soak some in and understand a little, even applying some of what they learn to their lives.
And then, there are higher-level thinkers who truly analyze and evaluate the information they take in and use it to create new things and build wisdom.
Are you a higher-level thinker?
If you recognize these ten non-obvious signs in yourself, you probably are, and that can make you stand out from the crowd.
1) You’re very curious
I don’t mean you’re weird!
I mean that you’re curious about other things, most things, even everything that you encounter.
When we’re young, we’re little sponges, sopping up information without trying. Our little child brains are simply designed to absorb almost everything.
But as we get older, our brains become less plastic, less flexible, and more stuck in our ways.
Most of us limit our areas of interest and curiosity to just a few hobbies and likes and seem to be perfectly happy that way.
Not so for the higher-level thinker. They’re richly endowed with inquisitiveness and a thirst for learning that is never quenched.
So, while other people seem to have their brains full already, these people have unlimited storage space into which they can constantly add new information.
2) You see connections others miss
I can’t help but think of Sherlock Holmes here.
After all, this is what this character is known for, isn’t he?
He’s incredibly observant, seeing things that most people overlook.
Then he’s a genius at synthesis, at putting things together and finding patterns where others see nothing.
Now, you might not use your mind palace to solve dastardly crimes, but you still see connections that others don’t.
And this can lead to great opportunities.
You could pick up on a trend that no one else notices and end up riding at the front of the wave with a new product.
You could also pick up on social cues that give you insights into people, which let you help them if they’re friends or outcompete them if they’re adversaries.
Seeing what others miss is essentially your superpower.
3) You pay attention to things most people don’t find significant
Not only do you see what others don’t, you see value in things that others feel are unimportant.
Yes, they might pick up on these things just as you do, but they brush them off as meaningless or irrelevant.
But you don’t.
Think about oddly named billionaire Elon Musk. Among his other accomplishments, he helped develop the fintech company PayPal in the early 2000s.
Musk saw internet activity on the rise and understood that it could be used to send money just as easily as sending emails. So, while most people didn’t put this together, he saw the value of how the internet could meet people’s banking needs and used this to make a fortune.
You might not be a tech mogul in the making, but your higher-level thinking allows you to pay attention to things that can certainly give you an advantage in life.
4) You ask thought-provoking questions
It might not be exactly obvious why asking questions is a sign of higher-level thinking.
In fact, it’s the types of questions that you ask that set you apart.
Anyone can ask simple yes/no questions or who/what/when/where/why questions to get details.
A two-year-old is a genius at asking, “Why? Why? Why?”
But only people who have higher levels of thought can ask questions that really stop others in their tracks and really make them pause for thought.
They get reactions like, “I never thought about things like that before,” and “That’s going to take some time to think about,” when they ask their poignant questions.
In most cases, these questions are going to be taken well by people who realize they’ve been helped by the asker’s insight.
But sometimes things go the other way. Some people’s plans or ideas will completely crumble and fall apart under scrutiny, and they don’t even realize it.
But when they’re asked the right question, it can reveal the weakness of their foundations, and that’s not always something that people like!
5) You’re deeply creative
When most people think of creativity, they think of artists who can paint imaginary scenes or musicians who can create songs out of the music in their own hearts.
But creativity goes a lot deeper than that, and for a high-level thinker, creativity can pervade every aspect of life.
This kind of creativity includes finding unique solutions to problems, discovering novel ways to do things, making things that are new, and experimenting with experiences.
Most people tend to do things in the same old ways and think about the world the way it is.
But creative higher-level thinkers think about what could be and are usually the ones who make it happen, too.
6) You’re very fair and reasonable
You can think with your brain when other people are thinking with their hearts.
You’re the sort of person who others can go to when they have problems that they can’t resolve because they trust that you have good judgment and that you’ll be fair.
You also use your insight and creativity to pick out solutions that other people wouldn’t have thought of.
It’s as though you’re your own local Solomon the Wise.
Just remember that people don’t always want fairness and impartiality. Sometimes, your friends and family want you to pick sides, and you can end up upsetting or even alienating them when you don’t.
7) You don’t mind contradiction
People who think in simple terms often see things as just binary, black and white, with nothing in between.
But higher-level thinkers have a lot more to work with.
They’re able to look at complex situations and hold them in their minds at the same time, even if they seem to be totally contradictory.
Think about hearing about a disagreement between two people who have told you two different stories that don’t add up.
The average person might say, “They can’t both be right,” and take a side in the argument.
However, a higher-level thinker is able to look at things from both perspectives at once.
And they might see that they’re both right or both wrong after all.
8) You don’t like pop
Not soda-pop. I mean pop culture.
This might not seem so obvious, but trust me, it’s a sign you’re a higher-level thinker.
Pop culture is about what’s popular. It’s about what appeals to most people at once, not about what’s the most special, unique, thought-provoking, or interesting.
While it may seem to change rapidly through fashions and fads, pop culture is actually very static in the way it doesn’t stray too far from norms.
Pop music sticks to what works – major scales and simple, fun-sounding beats.
Popular movies have easy-to-follow storylines and stereotyped characters.
But for higher-level thinkers, these might not be very interesting or stimulating since they’re not thought-provoking and don’t reveal anything new.
9) You’re very independent
What does independence have to do with higher-level thinking?
Pretty much everything!
Being independent requires you to find your own path, make your own choices, and solve your own problems.
And it takes a special kind of thinker to do all of this and still negotiate life successfully.
Being independent means, you don’t need a lot of input from others to make things work.
It also means you don’t need to follow the crowd, and that’s why higher-level thinkers are often going their own way and doing things that others don’t dare to do.
10) You’re concerned with global issues
It may be non-obvious, but being concerned with issues the world over is a sign that you’re a high-level thinker.
Let’s face it. Most people are concerned with their own small patch.
They think about the place where they live, the job they do, and the people they know, and that basically fills up their attention.
But higher-level thinkers are able to see a bigger picture.
Because they see more connections and pay attention to what others don’t, they can hold more things in their minds at once.
They can consider environmental issues, global politics, flows of trade, population pressure, and more without feeling overwhelmed.
They can also relate these global issues to their own lives and understand how things are all connected.
This is an impressive skill and one that takes some higher-order thinking to perform.
These not-so-obvious signs can let you know that you’re a higher-level thinker.
They might seem familiar, and you might even feel that all people think in these ways. But trust me, they don’t.
Most people use their mental energy to concern themselves with the basic issues of their everyday lives.
But as a higher-level thinker, you consider the past and the future, connections and interrelations.
And you have a beautiful mind.