What Kind of Thinker are you?

Are you a Refractive Thinker?

As we look toward understanding the world around us, the process of thinking becomes a crucial element.  What kind of thinker are you?  Do you lead or follow?  Do you think inside or outside the box?  Or perhaps do you go further and think beyond the box?  Are you one that asks why or why not?  Do you settle for what is, or are you adventurous and prefer to think about what might be?  Join me to see if you might just be a refractive thinker.

Who is a Refractive Thinker?

A refractive thinker is someone who is insatiable with their curiosity.  They are not satisfied within current conventional parameters or the prevailing wisdom.  They are frustrated by provincial thinking or analysis.  They do not follow the crowd.  Instead the crowd follows them.  They do not like the constraints of only an either / or option where many believe there are only two options: in the box or out of the box boundaries.  Instead of merely preferring to color outside of the lines, they prefer to redefine the very rules that constrain the very lines themselves, questioning their very structure.  Refractive thinkers are those who feel constrained by boundaries.  Instead, they prefer to not only test the limits but expand well beyond them.

Refractive thinkers are often the ones who create new business models, those who make new scientific discoveries, and those who offer never before held theories to try explaining existing or new phenomenon.  They are the explorers of thoughts, those willing to ask the right questions that often take them–and those following them–in new and unchartered waters.  The refractive thinker is comfortable with limitless boundaries and the suspensions of rules.  Refractive thinkers are the pioneers such as Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo da Vinci, Mohandas Gandhi, and Madame Curie to name but a few.  They are those who not only ask why, but why not when attempting to unlock the secrets of the universe and beyond.

How did Refractive Thinking Begin?

Having taught critical thinking in the collegiate academic classroom for nearly 12 years, I found myself as an instructor feeling that somehow our critical thinking discussion was incomplete and inadequate—as if something were missing.  There was always this nagging question in the back of my mind that wanted to know if there was something more.  What I am trying to get away from is the invariable discussion of the dichotomy of either / or, black or white, either ‘your way’ or ‘my way’ type of limited thinking.  Some adult learners seem to only embrace the zero sum gain of I can only win if you lose type of mentality.  Society seems to be conditioned to think there are only two extremes where thinking is either inside the box and everything else or critical thinking is outside the box.  Somehow as a society, we are uncomfortable without having labels or descriptors, if only for a short time and boy do we love that proverbial box.

Creative Thinking

If thinking is inside the box, and critical thinking is outside the box, then refractive thinking is beyond the box.  This invariably begs the question where and how creative thinking fits into the picture.  Creative thinking and refractive thinking are indeed close cousins.  Think of creative thinking as the initial process—the brainstorming, the mind mapping, the unique ways of incorporating different ways to look at something—the ability to think of ingenious, remarkable, and usual solutions.

Typically this is the point at which thinking then stops.  While many adult learners use these thinking tools and techniques—their use is still within their perceived boundaries of either in or out of the box, coloring in or outside of the lines—the either or extreme.

Instead, refractive thinking is designed to look toward existing without boundaries, suspending judgment, freeing one’s mind to be limitless.  Creative thinking is often a challenge because we are still thinking along the lines of what are the rules and can solutions be offered either within the rules or to break the rules entirely.  Refractive thinking goes beyond the rules, the very instance between rules and no rules, simply existing where one suspends and resists any type of confinement, boundaries, labels, or parameters of any kind.  This free thinking without any convention at all is something that few truly can obtain.

Pioneers of Thought

Einstein was one of the rare few who could truly think thoughts that had not been previously considered.  He began to think of thinking as trying to decipher behavior that simply did not follow conventional thinking or the prevailing wisdom.  Few could grasp the radically different concepts he put forth initially.  Much like during the time of Sir Isaac Newton or perhaps even further when the earth was believed to once be flat, these are the pioneers of thought—the true pioneers of refractive thinking.

Refractive thinking requires a leap of faith, belief in the process whereby suspending judgment, labels, boundaries, and any type of traditionally held constraints, that one’s mind can begin to simply ponder the improbable, reflect on the impossible, bend thought beyond the plausible, to truly explore the infinite—truly to infinite and beyond.


What is it that prevents most people from achieving this refractive thinking state?  Why is it easier to cling to the safety of the confines of the proverbial box allowing only the dichotomy of opposites, or either or extremes?  Instead, why not break this cycle and simply stop?  Choose to simply exist and go well beyond the box.  Perhaps the solution is not a box at all.  Instead, this space is yet some free form that is fluid and dynamic, without an exact or known label.  Can we exist without having to define the parameters of that existence definitely?  This is the quest of the refractive thinker—to discover the yet unknown; to ask not just what is, but what could be.  Are you a refractive thinker?


With respect,


Dr. Cheryl Lentz

Chief Refractive Thinker®

Award winning author and publisher
The Refractive Thinker® Press, where discriminating scholars publish.
Las Vegas, NV PST: Join me at Facebook, Linked IN, and Twitter.

*Join us for our Spring 2013 Publication of the award winning series: The Refractive Thinker: Volume II: Research Methodology, 3rd Edition. Details may be found here at http://www.lentzleadership.com

September 20th, 2012 by admin

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