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8 Ways To Think Different And Develop Your Own Opinion

8 Ways To Think Different And Develop Your Own Opinion

Think out of the box! How many times have you heard this phrase and wondered how can ‘I think out of the box’? Thinking ‘differently’ is a skill most sought after. Look at most professional job descriptions and you will see critical thinking as a required skill.  People who think differently are the ones getting paid lucratively.
So how can you think differently especially if you have never done it before? The first simple step is that –  to think differently, you have to do differently.

1. Play children’s games

Yes, you heard me right! So many of the kids’ games nowadays are challenging and mentally stimulating, forcing us to think different. Games such as SnapCircuits, Swish, Set, Gravity Maze are just a few examples from thousands of exciting and challenging games. Play them with your kids or with friends and have fun while developing the abilities to think differently!

2. Different people enable different thought processes

Meeting new people is a great way to learn new things, become aware and open our mind to new possibilities. As an example, I was talking to the granite installation guy at my house earlier today. It was a fascinating conversation to learn about his origins from Cuba and how he came to be in the US and in the granite business. This spurred several streams of thought about immigration issues, career choices, granite industry and even food!!

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A simple 3 minute conversation not only spurred these different thought processes but inspired me to do some research on a few of those things. I learnt something new. Meet new people at every opportunity you get. Through networking or through friendly referral introductions or in the community you live and work in, each person you meet is a treasure trove of information and ideas.

3. New experiences trigger new thoughts and opinions

Every new experience whether good or bad, triggers a new way of thinking. A few ideas worth exploring here are:

  • Experimenting with new cuisines
  • Taking a new route on the way to work and observing what is outside
  • Indulging in different travel experiences – possibly traveling to different destinations or traveling alone or traveling with family, traveling with friends, traveling to a spiritual destination, traveling to a foodie destination, architectural vacation, cruise, art destinations and so on. Each experience will leave you with something new and a new way of thinking about something.
  • Experiencing new cultures. This is a big one! Learning about a new culture by experiencing it, opens up our senses and our thought processes significantly.  If you have the opportunity to live in a new culture situation for a few months or a year, that is a great way to become aware and learn to adapt new ways of thinking.

4. Exposure to different ideas

People are filled with ideas. It’s fascinating to read about these ideas in various books on different topics. We are living in an information overload world and there is no dearth of information and ideas. Developing interests in varied range of topics by reading different books on different subjects by different authors is another great way to develop the ‘different way of thinking’ mindset. Go to a bookstore, walk randomly and pick a book and read it. Pick random magazines at the doctor’s office and read them.

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Now that you have learned some exciting ways to think out of the box, that is not enough! It’s not enough to just think differently, it is also essential to be able to use that thinking ability to develop one’s own opinions and express them.

Why is it important for us to be able to form our own opinions? Because we are part of a larger fabric of society and there are many instances and situations where our opinion matters. If not singularly, as a collective entity our opinion matters. It may be in politics, it may be on your school PTA board, it may be in your community, in the workplace or even at home! There are umpteen instances where we need to be able to form our opinions and express them clearly. Sometimes we may be speaking for ourselves, but at other times we may be the voice of many others who are unable to express the same view!

5. Get your facts right

The first step to forming your own opinion is to form it based on the right facts. It is one thing to form your opinions based on emotions and feelings and perceived intentions, it’s another thing to truly investigate and ascertain the facts before forming an opinion. Do your homework – talk to people, research, do whatever it takes to get the facts right. The easiest way to get into this habit can be to start with simple matters. At home or work when you notice yourself forming an opinion about someone or a situation, force yourself to answer the questions :

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  • How do I know this to be true?
  • What are the facts that support my opinion?

6. Write a persuasive essay on a high school topic

Pick a persuasive topic from a high school list of prompts. Do the research, gather the facts, spend time thinking about your views on the topic and your takeaways. Write a persuasive essay convincing someone of your view on that topic. Make sure to back it up with facts and a logical line of reasoning taking the reader along with you through your thinking process. Do one essay a week and your skills should be sharp in no time!

7. Hold a group discussion with a group of friends

Gather a group of friends and hold a group discussion. This is similar to a book discussion meeting, but instead a topic is given on the spot or picked from a list of prompts that are prepared earlier. The sky is the limit with the topics you can choose from. You can go from politics, religion, sports, healthcare to parenting, work and many more.

Limit the group to about 5-6 people. Split the group into 2 sub teams. One team will talk in favor of the topic and the other team against the topic. Start off with giving each member about 3 minutes to speak. Once all members have had a turn, open it up and let the members question and support their points. This activity not only helps in forming an opinion but also helps with expressing your opinion persuasively and succinctly.

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8. Use the objective lens

As much as we would like to think that our thinking is right and logical and that we could never be wrong, the fact of the matter is, we could be wrong!! The key thing to remember is that we view the world through the lens we have adopted – a lens that has trained us to see the world a certain way clouded by our experiences, our upbringing and so on.

When we form opinions, it’s critical to take off that lens and use a more objective lens, one that will not cloud our judgements. Have we arrived at an opinion viewing all pieces of the information available objectively? Or have we conveniently ignored certain relevant pieces of information? This way of viewing the world comes with conscious practice. Start practicing it today!

What tactic from the 8 listed above, are you going to try first?

Featured photo credit: Jacob Botter via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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