5 Ways to Become a Better Thinker

Today I’m re-posting an article I read on LinkedIn.

I’m always on the lookout for sound, practical advice, to incorporate into my daily practices. I found this interesting. Maybe you will too, Rick Amitin.

 

Colleges and universities don’t offer courses in thinking, although it is arguably the most valuable skill anyone can master. When people try to improve mentally, they might aim at increasing their IQ or gain a larger vocabulary. It’s disputed whether anyone’s intelligence can be meaningfully increased, but there is so much else that can be improved if you stand back and approach thinking per se as a skill.

 

Here are five tips that will improve almost anyone’s ability not simply to think but to think effectively in any situation.

 

  1. Use your brain efficiently.

Although thinking is mental, it is intimately connected to the brain, which has its own specific physiology. As a physical organ, the first thing the brain needs is adequate sleep every night. Medical science still considers why we need sleep a mystery, but there’s no doubt that we do. Insomnia needs to be overcome, if at all possible, without sleep aids, because even over-the-counter remedies leave most people feeling groggy and dull the next day.

 

It’s also extremely beneficial to vary the brain’s activity by giving it some down time during the day, which can amount to sitting alone quietly with eyes shut for 10 minutes every six hours or so. Standing up and moving around once an hour refreshes the body as a whole. Using caffeine or sugar to stimulate a fatigued brain is nowhere near as effective as adopting the practice of meditation, which is the best brain “reset” ever discovered, along with a host of other benefits.

 

  1. Check in on your state of mind.

The psychology of thinking is just as important as the physiology of thinking. It begins with knowing what your general mood is. We tend to approach thinking a purely rational and logical at its best, but this conception is not entirely adequate. A bad mood can distort anyone’s judgment and decision-making abilities. Various psychological studies have found that the same is true when we’re in a good mood–people tend to pay too much for things if their mood is either good or bad. Don’t deny to yourself that you happen to be in a certain mood. Only if you recognize your mental state can you deal with it and take it into account.

 

  1. Don’t separate reason from emotion.

Psychology research has found that it is impossible to separate out rationality as a pure trait untouched by emotion. All thinking is colored by emotions, which is especially true with decision-making. People who believe that they are cold-blooded rationalists whose decisions contain no personal element are fooling themselves, which makes their decisions not only suspect but blinkered. Since emotions are always part of the equation, be aware of them; don’t push them away. By the same token, if you see that you are anxious, depressed, hostile, envious, or otherwise affected by negative emotions, don’t make important decisions–or even mundane ones–until you have calmed down.

 

  1. Recognize bad thinking when it occurs.

Although the human mind will never be as mechanically precise as a computer’s calculations–and shouldn’t aspire to be–there are definite flaws that can be improved upon. Bad thinking comes in several major categories, and it’s good to know what they are so that you can avoid them in yourself and others.

  • Conflicted thinking occurs when you aren’t clear about what the topic is and how to clearly define the major terms.
  • Wishy-washy thinking comes from the refusal to commit to a position.
  • Arbitrary thinking is a stab in the dark after a reasonable way to reach a conclusion has failed.
  • Hidebound thinking resorts to old, familiar prejudices, biases, and viewpoints that refuse to change in the present circumstances.
  • Blinkered thinking comes from the habit of not looking at things that make you uncomfortable; you blind yourself either on purpose or unconsciously.

Look at yourself in the mirror and be honest about whether these flaws have crept into your thinking process.  They too easily become ingrained and repetitive if you aren’t watching out. Any or all of them can be labeled irrational thinking, but that’s too vague a term. See the next point below for why so-called irrational thinking or illogical thinking is quite often beneficial.

 

  1. Develop a strong intuition.

Most people discount intuition and its power to improve their thinking. For decades intuition was called “feminine” as a means of disparaging or discounting it, yet almost all creativity is based on intuition. So are “aha” moments that deliver insights and unexpected solutions. Without intuition the mind plods and becomes routine. It can be argued that the deepest source of the mind is totally intuitive, as validated by centuries of meditative and contemplative practices. The validation consists of discovering things in ourselves that became the basis for art, philosophy, spirituality, morality, and the whole concept of truth itself. Labeling these vast accomplishments of the human mind irrational makes no sense, even if it has become a trend today, when computers are held up as an ideal of pure logic. Your thinking will become infinitely richer a/s you welcome intuition and learn to develop it.

 

All of these points are valuable if you want to improve your thinking, but the last point, about developing intuition, is important enough that we’ll discuss it in detail in the next post.

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Chopra is the author of more than 80 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph Tanzi, PhD  and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.  www.deepakchopra.com

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