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by Donald B. Ardell, Ph. D.
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Wellness in the Headlines
(Don's Report to the World)

Good Thinking Skills Training should be a Foundation Element of Worksite Wellness

Tuesday November 24, 2015

The interest I have in believing a thing is not a proof of the existence of that thing. ~Voltaire, in reference to Blaise Pascal’s infamous wager on God.

Introduction: The State of Reason at the Workplace

The workforce in American companies is quite diverse, particularly with respect to gender, race, political leanings, socio-economic levels and so on. Many organizations have an unusually large percentage of highly educated employees owing to the nature of the business (e.g, aero-space, universities, banking). However, in all companies, there is one commonality—and it is one risk factor that gets no attention in worksite wellness programming.

Employees lack basic skills in good thinking. In some cases, the incidence of poor reasoning patterns compares with the amount of dark matter to be found in the nearby galaxy known as Triangulum II.

Why Reason MattersQuack

Reason is the foundation of science and human progress. It is the surest path to safeguarding democracy and intellectual liberty. It is the only way we have for comprehending and verifying the laws of nature. Reason conquers ignorance, intolerance and poisonous certitude. It alters lives for the better and enables everyone who practices it to more effectively deal with problems and challenges. It is the most reliable system of inquiry that we know and thus the surest pathway to understanding our world. It is a dimension of REAL wellness because it guides people who wish to liver safer, more productive, smarter and more productive lives, as well as pursue healthier lifestyles and high qualify of life.

The Source of Poor Human Reasoning

Why do so many people succumb to the allure of easy answers to life’s persistent questions? What explains the popularity of foolish beliefs? There are mind-numbing examples of beliefs that are explainable only by faulty thinking. Libraries could be filled with books about fads and movements, programs and theories with a wide following that a consensus of scientists has convincingly shown to be bogus beliefs or approaches. For examples, consider subjects on which there are beliefs attached that are founded on poor reasoning, ignorance and/or the power of superstition:

Psychics/ghosts/pseudoscience//astrology/ESP//homeopathy/Bigfoot/Atlantis/UFOs/conspiracy theories/Area 51/haunted houses/fake moon landings/alternative medicine/cults/telepathy/get-rich-quick/anti-vaccine/tarot/Bermuda Triangle/cults/black cats and varied superstitions.

Note that I did not include religion in this list of examples of foolish beliefs. Is it because there is no way any company would want to introduce the volatile topic of religion at the worksite? If so, is that because it is widely believed that such conversations, even carefully introduced, would set employees at each others throats, or be made to feel uncomfortable, violated, offended, insulted, outraged and otherwise agitated and flummoxed? Is it because In America, religion is off-limits, at least as a topic of polite dinner table conversation, along with sex and politics—only more so at worksites.

So, I readily acknowledge that this is indeed one factor in my decision not to mention religion in the list of examples why we need to teach reason skills at the worksite.

Want to guess what the other factor might be?

everything happensGive up? OK, here’s why: Religion is all true. The application of reason will just prove the obvious, namely, that all religions, even Scientology and Pastafarianism, are absolutely correct in every way. All 10,000 gods that humans have worshipped over the course of about 200,000 years are real—and they are all omnipotent, all-powerful, all good and all deserving of all our love and devotion, adoration and total dedication. What's more, we should believe everything they want us to believe. All holy books are the inerrant word of the one true god, even though there are 10,000 of them, though most are not well known anymore. If there is anything in the Quran, Bible, Bhagavad Gita, Tipitaka and Torah that seems off base, or if there are any errors, inconsistencies, crazy sounding stories or impossible claims in any of these sacred works dictated by one or more infallible gods who wrote, dictated or carved the sacred creeds on tablets or gold plates, it’s surely a typo. Gods do not screw up—and there’s a place for anyone who dares to think otherwise.

Many factors are citied by critical thinking experts to explain poor decision-making, but all boil down to two facts: 1) critical thinking skills do not come naturally and 2) such skills are not emphasized in our educational systems. Students and adults need continual schooling in the basics and subtleties of processing information in ways that facilitate accurate comprehension. The consequence of ignoring these two requirements, as Guy Harrison noted, is that “an epidemic of poor reasoning looms as humankind’s great unrecognized crisis.” (See Harrison’s new masterwork entitled, “Good Thinking: What You Need to Know to be Smarter, Safer, Wealthier and Wiser.”)          

 A New Focus for Worksite Wellness

The good news for the wellness industry is that the great majority of U.S. employers (77 percent) expect their commitment to health to increase over the next three years. Management most favors a wellness menu that emphasizes weight loss, stress management and lifestyle reforms that mitigate ill health. Unfortunately for companies, employees are decidedly unenthusiastic about the existing worksite wellness menu. Only one-third of nearly 2000 employees surveyed reported that wellness initiatives contributed to healthier lives; tellingly, 71 percent said they’d prefer to manage their own health.

Maybe employees would be more receptive to worksite wellness if such programs were less medically focused while generous in varied REAL wellness options, especially training in how to think (reason) effectively in order to make smarter choices, live safer and more enjoyable lives, become wealthier and in all ways better off, including confidence in one’s ability to make good choices at the ballot box. (See Jack Craver, “Is wellness working?” BenefitsPro, November 20, 2015.)        

Signed Don Ardell

(Ed. Note: Views expressed in this and other columns are those of the author and not necessarily those of the SeekWellness Editorial Board.)

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