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What Is Logical Thinking and How to Strengthen It

What Is Logical Thinking and How to Strengthen It

When we say that something is logical, what we actually mean is that it makes sense. Logical reasoning skills are the ability to focus on the presented task by following the chain of the thought process by relating one statement after another, until finding the most logical conclusion.

Although many won’t notice, all of us face challenges on a daily basis which we overcome thanks to our reasoning skills. While calculating the prices in the supermarket, just to check if we can get everything we need for a lower price, or while trying to fit all our obligations into a single day, our thinking machine spins its wheels to find the perfect solution.

However, if you find yourself lost at the register, well, you might need to work on logical thinking development.

Division of Labor in Our Brains – The Left Hemisphere Is More Involved in Logical Thinking

The brain is a complex structure[1] divided into two hemispheres – the right and left.

Although the districts interact with each other, the truth is that one side is always more dominant than the other. Regarding this division, every side has its own purpose and a specific thinking style. For example, the right side is in charge of emotions and creativity, whereas the left side brings control to the mix and provides logic when things seem confusing.

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However, the right side of daydreaming can affect the process of logical thinking as well. According to researchers,[2] the logical reasoning performance is modulated by the emotional state. What is more interesting is that most children are ranked as being highly creative[3] before going to a logic-oriented school. Or at least it used to be, as the school system now offers some chance for creative outlets such as art and crafts.

The left side of the brain improves the understanding of math and science, as it processes the information from a part to a whole. Those sequences hidden in numbers, symbols, and letters are much clearer when arranged in logical order.

On the other hand, the right side looks at the entire picture, only so that it can break it into smaller parts. Likewise, the right side people love concrete things they can smell, feel or taste and have trouble verbally expressing.

The logical side of the left hemisphere includes:

  • Logic;
  • Facts;
  • Details;
  • Patterns;
  • Strategies;
  • Words;
  • Language;
  • Order;
  • Perception;
  • Past & Present;
  • Practicality;
  • Safety;
  • Comprehension;

Logical Thinking Is Not an Inborn Talent, But Something You Can Learn and Practice

Enhancing logical reasoning is simply learning to pay a closer attention to details. Therefore, there are a few easy techniques to help you overcome thinking obstacles and really focus.

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Stop Viewing Things from Your Own Perspective Only

To advance logical thinking process, it is crucial to differentiate established facts from personal observations. Concentrating on the environment and your senses is just individual perception, which mustn’t be confused with logic.

For example, let’s say that two people got together to share a meal. To one person the dish smells repelling, while the other is enjoying their lunch. The first person didn’t like the smell, so they concluded that the meal is inedible, unhealthy and not properly prepared. This is not a logical way of coming to the correct conclusion.

First of all, person A didn’t have any supporting evidence of the food being unhealthy or poorly made. Consequently, conclusions drawn from this observation are inadequate.

In order to get to a logical conclusion, one must shut off their own skewed opinions, and focus on proven information like the ingredients used to prepare a dish, ways of cooking the food, and the equipment used to prepare it, so that they can form a clear statement. Apart from the observed facts, the conclusion must also be drawn from culinary knowledge and not based upon calculated guesses.

Think Before You Start Doing – Create a Strategy

Since logical thinking implies noticing all the details and putting them together one by one until the picture becomes clear as day, strategy plays a major role in the thinking process. Learning to think strategically will not only power the brain, but it can also help you deal with business obligations faster and more proficiently. And how do you develop such useful skill?

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Start by questioning everything and trying to interpret repetitive patterns. Learn from mistakes so that you can anticipate what is ahead. Keep the mind constantly active and look for details and learn how they function individually and in the group before focusing on the bigger picture.

Dig into the Meaning of Words Carefully

As the logic is more verbal, the slight language variations make a big difference. Knowing the difference between statements will definitely tighten up the loose screws of logical thinking.

If you hear “necessary” in a statement, you immediately know there is a condition that needs to be fulfilled, unlike “sufficient” which denotes a minimal level of effort that will lead to a positive outcome. Every condition has a slight alteration in meaning, just as the word order in a sentence carries a certain meaning.

It is not the same if someone says: “if you do that, then you will get the reward” and “if you got the reward, then it was because I told you to do that”. It may not be detected at first, however, the variation still exists. In the first sentence there is a condition by which a person gets the reward, yet in the second it is inverse, meaning that it contradicts the first statement and its conclusion.

Enhance Your Logical Thinking at Leisure – Games and Mystery Books

Every day we escape into the digital world searching for a new form of entertainment. But why not use it for improving our logical reasoning? Math doesn’t have to be boring if used as a game.

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There are plenty of mental challenges online or in a form of an app to boost our memory and our logical thinking. One can even benefit from Facebook Poker games. Playing card games makes you more focused and analytical, hence, it activates the left side of the brain.

Also, getting lost in a mystery book is not only for the right brainers. Actually, a good puzzle book can help you work on the strategical thinking process through solving all the different enigmas within. The same goes for a game of chess.

Even geniuses were not born all-knowing; they studied, explored, and worked on their logical thinking skills. So, use the simple methods listed above in your day-to-day life to improve not just your logical thinking, but also your overall productivity. After conquering the field of logical reasoning no one will ever be able to call you an unrealistic dreamer again.

Featured photo credit: Volkan Olmez via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Vladimir Zivanovic

CMO at MyCity-Web

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Published on November 23, 2020

How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

Your neighbors downstairs are playing loud music. Again. How do they not get tired of partying? And why do they choose songs with such a heavy downbeat that the glass in your cupboard is vibrating every two seconds? What can you do to get some peace that you deserve? What should you?

Human mind tends to go in circles whenever faced with a problem without a clear solution. It becomes easy to forget the big picture and get lost in anger and self-pity, wasting our precious time, energy and enthusiasm.

Would it not be nice if we always remembered to put things in perspective?

Would it not be more efficient to face all kinds of problems, from tiny annoyances to life-changing emergencies, with a calm demeanor, sharp focus and fearless determination to promptly take the most efficient action possible?

Alas, humans are not like that. All too often we let anxiety or greed get the best of us and make a rushed or shortsighted decision that we quickly come to regret. Other times, we spend weeks or months at an impasse, rehashing the exact same arguments, unable to accept the compromise required to move forward with any of the available options.

Buddhists talk about getting lost in the “small self.” In this state of mind, we literally forget the big picture and focus on the small one. We start taking our daily problems too personally and, paradoxically, becomes less capable of solving them in an efficient manner. And this is the opposite of big picture thinking.

Let me share with you a story related to big picture thinking…

In 1812, the French army of Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia.[1] After a decisive Battle of Borodino, the capture of Moscow and therefore Napoleon’s victory in the war seemed inevitable.

Unexpectedly, the Russian Commander-in-Chief Mikhail Kutuzov made a highly controversial decision of retreating and allowing the French to capture Moscow. Much of the population had been evacuated taking supplies with them. The city itself was set on fire and large parts of it burned into the ground.

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After waiting in vain for Russia to capitulate, Napoleon had to retreat in the middle of a bitterly cold winter. He won the battle but lost the war. The campaign ended in a disaster and the near destruction of the French army.

What can we learn from this historical lesson?

1. Focus on the Consequences

Napoleon focused on the important part: capturing Moscow. Nobody could accuse him of thinking small. Yet he overlooked that the Russian army could still fight even after giving up the country’s most important city.

So was Moscow not an important target after all?

Success expert Brian Tracy has a litmus test: things are important to the extent that they have important consequences. Things are unimportant to the extent that they have no important consequences.[2]

When faced with a choice, ask yourself, what would be the consequences of each option?

  • Want to spend an hour studying or watching the new series on Netflix? What would be the consequences of each option? Netflix can sometimes be a better choice, but it helps to put things in perspective.
  • Want to maintain your apartment by yourself or to pay a cleaning service? Would would be the consequences of each option?
  • Want to meet up for coffee with this acquaintance of yours or catch up on your work instead? What would be the consequences of each option?

The choice can be different for different people. An aspiring filmmaker may have a legitimate reason for choosing Netflix. Personally, cleaning your own apartment can be relaxing and nourishing even if the economics of hiring a cleaner looks compelling because you are earning a high hourly rate.

This is where you will need a basic idea of who you are — what are your goals, values and aspirations.

2. Flip Defeat Into Victory

Kutuzov managed to turn Russia’s defeat into a historic victory by recasting the problem in a wider context: losing Moscow need not mean losing the war.

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Despite the symbolic meaning attached to the Kremlin, the churches, the priceless treasures that had been stored in the city for centuries, the outcome of the campaign was ultimately determined by the strength of the remaining armies.

If you can adopt this result-oriented perspective, many of your personal defeats may be flipped into victories as well. Few events in a human life are absolutely good or absolutely bad, and it usually takes many years to recognize in retrospect, what role a particular encounter did play in your story.

Therefore we have every reason to look for the good in the things that happen to us.

This is a very practical attitude, far from baseless “positive thinking.” After all, if something unfortunate has happened to you and you find good sides in this circumstance, you will then be better positioned to take advantage of those good sides.

Say your noisy neighbors are affecting your productivity. What if it is a blessing in disguise? How can you turn this defeat into a victory?

  • Perhaps you are too serious about life and could learn how to have more fun. Join your neighbors or go out for a walk instead of working;
  • Perhaps you only wanted to be productive while instead procrastinated on social media. Now that your procrastination has been interrupted, stop and acknowledge this much greater obstacle to your productivity;
  • Perhaps you are too sensitive to interference. Take this opportunity to practice ignoring the noise and doing your best anyway;
  • Perhaps you have a victim mentality and the feeling of unfairness drains you more than any actual nuisance your neighbors might have caused. Try accepting this lapse in your productivity the way you would accept bad weather.

Get used to finding opportunities in your problems. This is the quintessential big picture thinking.

3. Ask for Advice

Both Napoleon and Kutuzov had trusted advisers to discuss their affairs with. In general, getting a different perspective — or several — can only help inform your understanding and lead to better decisions. Just ensure that the people giving you advice are competent in the particular area where experience is needed.

Paying money for advice can also be a wise investment. Lawyers, tax accountants, medical doctors spend years learning how to assist people like yourself in living more successful, more fulfilling lives.

A quick legal consultation can save you a fortune down the line or even keep you out of big trouble. A medical check-up can uncover potential issues and help keep you healthy and active for years to come.

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Even big, complex dilemmas at your job or in your romantic relationship can be tackled more effectively by partnering up with a coach or a therapist or, of course, with the help of a wise friend.

4. Beware of Biased Advice

Many imperfect decisions occur in response to an imperfect piece of advice that you choose to act on. This advice often comes from a biased party.

For example, we are often encouraged to buy something that we supposedly need:

  • Protect your skin from harmful UV rays by using a special lotion.
  • Fortify your health by taking multivitamins.
  • Connect with your friends by sending them elaborate gifts.
  • Brighten your weekend by consuming a delicious pastry.
  • Become more productive by getting a faster computer.

However, most purchases are unnecessary.

Some, such as the sunscreen, do have legitimate benefits when used properly.[3] Others, such as multivitamins, only make a difference for a small group of people.[4]

Advertisers of those benefits inevitably want to narrow your focus in order to overstate the importance of their product. They frequently present it as the only solution to your problem, whether real or imaginary.

After all,

  • Skin can also be protected from the sun by wearing appropriate clothing.
  • Health can be better fortified by consuming a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
  • Spending time or talking on the phone with your friends is the foremost way of connecting with them, and it is virtually free.
  • Your weekend can be brightened by doing something that you love.
  • You can become more productive by focusing on the tasks that have the most important consequences. A faster computer can, in fact, decrease productivity by making it easier to multitask and by enabling your favorite distractions.

There are other sources of imperfect advice. Politicians also frequently want us to focus on a particular “big picture,” to the exclusion of the alternatives.

Even loving parents can be guilty of the same. They can advise their children to pick a career path that is safe and respectable, based on their “big picture” that in life one has to make a living. A child may disagree, however, based on another “big picture” that one’s life has to have meaning and fulfillment.

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Bottom Line

It is human nature to make rushed, emotional decisions based on incomplete information, then regret those decisions later on.

You can protect yourself from poor judgment by striving to attain the big picture when careful consideration is called for.

Focus on the consequences of your decision before considering how you feel about it.

Play with the cards you’ve been dealt, but look for opportunities in each situation and you will find them.

Ask knowledgeable mentors for advice, but beware of biased people who have an opinion, but do not necessarily have your best interest in mind.

Yet remember, true big picture thinking comes from hard-won experience. Legendary military commanders Napoleon Bonaparte and Mikhail Kutuzov were both injured on the battlefield.

Clear thinking comes from putting your big picture to the test of reality.

More Tips on Thinking Clearly

Featured photo credit: Haneen Krimly via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Wikipedia: French invasion of Russia
[2] Brian Tracy: No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline
[3] American Academy of Dermatology: Say Yes to Sun Protection
[4] Harvard Medical School: Do multivitamins make you healthier?

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