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Published on January 1, 2020

How to Think Clearly and Become Smarter

How to Think Clearly and Become Smarter

One of the most tasking, yet valuable skills, is the ability to think clearly. The skill is self-taught as no school will teach you its methodologies. People who learn how to think clearly maximize the benefits, while those who fail to do so pay for the consequences.

With unclear thinking, you will spend most of your time trying to correct mistakes. If you want to make informed and smart decisions, you need to learn how to think clearly.

How Do You Learn to Think?

This question applies to different concepts. It could mean how to think intuitively and critically, how to resolve an issue, how to make smart decisions, how to innovate, memorize, learn, study, discuss, or plan.

The major challenge most times is not learning how to think, but discarding irrational thoughts.

If you assess the question, ‘How do you learn to think?’ from the other side of the coin, it could also mean how to be open, how not to have prejudices or be judgmental, how to communicate effectively with others, how not to practice emotional thinking, how to avoid making assumptions or arriving at a quick conclusion, how to avoid labeling people or practice name-calling, how to see the world from a better perspective, how to be conscious of what’s going in the environment and know what the future holds.

All these begin with learning how to think. According to Descartes,

“I think. Therefore I am.”

Your thinking determines the quality of your being and your living.

So how do you learn how to think?

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Start by analyzing your thoughts, identifying your thought pattern, and thinking errors. You can also discover learning tools that boost your morale about steps to take in learning new concepts. For instance, you can practice by analyzing the pros and cons of any topic. You will improve as you spend more time learning how to think.

Here’re 6 time-tested ways to learn how to think clearly:

1. Take a Deep Breath

This is the first step. Your body regains its balance when that oxygen flows through your respiratory tract to your neural network.

Your body will find calmness by taking a large breath and your brain will be enhanced to think more clearly.

2. Organize Your Thought By Listing

Anytime you discover many thoughts running through your mind, there’s a need to get organized.

It is possible to list those things in your head. That way, you will generate a list that can help you on how to think clearly.

Here’s an example:

  • Do the laundry
  • Wash the car
  • Fix the PC
  • Read the book

Organizing your thought with mental listicles will help think clearly and become smarter.

3. Assess Your Attitude

Have you ever wondered how your focus correlates with your desires?

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For instance, imagine how you can brainstorm several ways and techniques to achieve your goal when you are determined to achieve it. The same approach applies to when you don’t want to attain a goal, and you focus on its negatives – why it’s a bad idea to desire such a goal.

If you’re going to achieve a clear focus and thinking, you will need to be sincere with yourself. What do you want from life? Why do you want it? This may take much of your time in the beginning, but you will realize that clarity of goals will help you learn how to think clearly.

4. Be Specific with Your Goals

It takes specificity to achieve any goal in life. The reason is you can’t think about the direction of a moving object.

As long as you keep changing your goals, you will keep mounting pressure on your brain to change its laser focus. This can only make you lose direction.

To maintain specificity, take a nap for some minutes and write those goals down as clearly as possible.

5. Leverage Your Passion for Taking Charge of Your Emotions

There’s a rationale behind this statement. As you strive to become smarter and better, your passion surmounts challenges as it becomes consumed with the pleasure that comes with actualizing the goal.

Your emotions, on the other end, can be submerged in the pool of those challenges as they feel the pain to ‘failures of losing that goal.’ You need to press on and use your passion to control your emotions to achieve clarity in your thought pattern.

6. Utilize Your Negative Thinking to Generate Positive Action

Oh yes! It’s possible. Do you know your negative thought pattern is an asset?

Negative thinking is the code that can unlock your imagination to actualize your desires.

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Anytime you think ‘why not?’, then switch by thinking ‘how to?’. This approach will fire your imagination up to redirect your negative thinking in producing positive actions.

Instead of focusing on the reasons you may not progress with your career, you can stimulate your thoughts by thinking of ‘How To’ become successful in that career.

Also, delete every negativity in your mind. Negative thoughts will prevent your mind power from flowing to take the right step in the line of your goal. So, keep your head clear, especially when processing an idea.

The awareness of these six steps will help you learn how to think and become smarter. But that’s not enough! You will need first to shift your paradigms.

How to Train Your Brain to Think Differently

Based on some findings that were published in Translational Psychiatry, MRIs was used to check the changes in the brain of individuals with schizophrenia. After treating them for six months, the more neural connection was discovered between their amygdala — which coordinates emotion on the brain, and their prefrontal cortex — which oversees high order thinking. The changes had a long-lasting effect

In another study, people battling with social anxiety disordered had a decrease in brain activity and volume in their amygdalae after nine weeks of online cognitive behavioral therapy(CBT).[1] It was also discovered that CBT helps in reconfiguring the brain in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression as well.

So what are the CBT therapeutic skills recommended? Here are three of them to help you train your mind to think in new ways.

1. Prove Yourself Wrong

Sometimes, your brain tells you lies. So when it comes to that limiting thought that you can’t complete your degree or you can’t finish reading that book, take it up as a challenge.

Stretch yourself some more after you think you have reached your tipping point. Or challenge yourself to keep reading the next page until you get to the last page.

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Each time you nullify the negative prophecy, you’ll train your mind to think in a new way and see possibilities. In no time, your brain will begin to develop a new paradigm by understanding your capabilities and limitations from a different perspective.

2. Create Your Mantra

Do you think limiting thoughts? Or do you discourage yourself from attempting a challenge where you think you might fail?

You need to curate your mantra that you can utilize to talk down the negative messages. You can repeat things such as “Beat the best” or Do the impossible!”. These words will discard every form of negativity and limiting thoughts.

As you begin to speak positively, you will outgrow the negative thoughts and subsequently gain clarity in your thought pattern.

3. Reframe Your Negative Thought Pattern

Thinking things such as “I’m such an idiot,” or “this will never become successful” is not helpful. Every negative prophecy becomes self-fulfilling if there is no positive action taken to negate it. You cannot take a giant step with belittling thought.

Here’s the good news:

You can negate the negative thoughts with a true statement. When you think, “I’m not going to amount to anything in life,” speak to that thought,” if I keep trying, I will be what I want to be.’

When you think,” This is going to end in tears,” look at yourself in the mirror and say, it will turn out a success. Establish a more realistic statement by reframing your mindset. The more you do this, the more you become smarter.

The Bottom Line

Since every new skill requires constant practice, pay the sacrifice by putting these steps to work.

The more you practice clear thinking, the more you will build your mental muscle. Also, your brain will undergo changes that will positively impact you.

More Tips on Thinking Smarter

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on November 2, 2020

How to Use Your Unconscious Mind to Get What You Want

How to Use Your Unconscious Mind to Get What You Want

I get my best ideas when I’m not trying—when I’m zoning out in the shower or taking my dog for a walk. Suddenly, something I’ve been racking my brain to figure out seems to just come to me. It may seem like magic, but it’s actually just my unconscious mind coming through for the win.

What Is Conscious Thought?

Let’s start by explaining what the unconscious mind is not. I want you to think about what your dream house would look like if money were no object. Then, think about where you were the first time you can remember feeling joy.

That voice in your head that was talking you through those two tasks is your conscious mind. Simply put, any thought process that you are aware of (conscious of) is part of your conscious mind. I’m using my conscious mind as I sit here and write this article.

One of the major brain centers for conscious thought is in your prefrontal cortex. This is on the outside of your brain behind your forehead. Some of the downsides of conscious thought are that it’s energetically taxing and finite. What I mean is, your conscious mind can only think one thing at a time, and it burns through a lot of glucose to do so.

Try to figure out the square root of 2400 while creating a grocery list. You can skip back and forth between those two tasks, but your conscious mind can’t wrestle with both simultaneously.

Also, think of a time when you were utilizing your conscious mind for an extended period. Maybe you were in classes all day or busy with a tough work task late into the night. You were probably exhausted after such intensive and extended conscious thought.

What Is the Unconscious Mind?

That’s why the unconscious mind is such a valuable resource. It isn’t energy taxing, and it is virtually limitless. Your unconscious mind could be trying to figure out thousands of problems right now.

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The downside is that you aren’t conscious of any of it until you are—until your unconscious thoughts make it into your consciousness.

That’s why it behooves us to figure out how to create the right environment for our unconscious minds to flourish.

System 1 and System 2 Thinking

Daniel Kahneman’s seminal book Thinking, Fast and Slow gives us another way to think about the difference between the unconscious and conscious minds. Kahneman describes two different modes of thought called System 1 and System 2.

System 1 is quick, emotional, and intuitive, while System 2 is slow, methodical, and logical. System 1 works in tandem with System 2.

For example, if you see someone looking at you, your System 1 might assume they are upset with you. Then, your System 2 takes over to process information and discern what might actually be going on at that moment.

Kahneman warns us that System 1 and System 2 are metaphors for how the mind works.[1] It would be an oversimplification to try to explain specific regions where System 1 and System 2 thinking takes place. However, System 1 and 2 is a powerful way of thinking about different modes of thinking. Kahneman calls System 1 automatic thinking and System 2 effortful.

The idea of focus is key here. In a famous experiment, participants were told to watch a video and count how many times people in the video passed a ball to each other. This required their System 2 thinking. However, the intense focus required for this experiment caused most people to miss the fact that while the people in the video were passing the ball, a person in a gorilla suit slowly made his way through the shot.

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How to Make Your Unconscious Mind Work For You

Focusing too intensely can cause us to miss details and solutions better suited to our unconscious mind. That’s why we sometimes have to stop and chill out, instead of forcing solutions.

Here are five ways to make your unconscious mind work for you.

1. Manage Stress

Your unconscious mind is not a big fan of you being stressed out, overworked, or overwhelmed. Managing stress is important if you want to be able to come up with those effortless “aha!” ideas.

Imagine that you’re under a strict work deadline. Your anxiety is compounded by the fact that you’re worried about losing your job and that your entire family relies on your income. This is an incredible amount of pressure that makes it tough for your unconscious mind to break through with that effortless creativity.

Think back to the video where the person in the gorilla suit sneaks through all the people passing the ball around. Most people are so focused on the task at hand that they don’t see the most interesting part of the video. Stress and pressure can lead to a kind of tunnel vision that works the same way. Our attention becomes so narrowly focused that we aren’t able to zoom out and connect the dots between broader patterns and ideas.

That’s why it’s crucial to find ways to manage stress. I recently spoke with humor engineer Drew Tarvin who explained the 4 R’s of managing stress.[2]

First, try to reduce stress by eliminating stressors from your life. This might mean finding a less stressful job or leaving earlier for work.

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Next, reframe the stresses that you can’t eliminate. Reframing isn’t pretending that your stress doesn’t exist; it’s trying to think differently and change your perspective about stressors that do exist. This might mean looking at the bright side or trying to see the bigger picture. If I don’t want to quit my stressful job, I can try to reframe by thinking more about the money I make or the times I feel fulfilled at work.

The third step is to relieve stress. This means finding ways to relax throughout the day. You might try meditating or watching funny cat videos on YouTube to clear your head and relieve your stress.

Finally, refresh. Find ways to take more extensive breaks where you completely de-stress. Pre-COVID, this might have meant taking a vacation to a beach somewhere. But now, you’ll have to get more creative as you find ways to put your phone down, forget about work, and come back completely refreshed.

2. Take Breaks

Part of stress management is taking breaks. But taking breaks is also an important part of tapping into your unconscious mind.

When I’m trying to figure out how to structure an article or put together ideas for a larger project, I schedule in time to completely put the project down. This allows my unconscious mind the freedom to come up with some truly novel solutions, and unlike conscious thought, it feels effortless.

This is that experience of the light bulb suddenly going on while you’re showering or driving to work. When you aren’t focused on anything in particular, your unconscious mind has the quiet it needs to bubble up to become conscious thought.

So, take breaks. One strategy is what’s called the Pomodoro Technique, which is when you stop to take a five-minute break after every 25 minutes of work. This allows you to recharge. Plus, by systematically easing your intense focus, you are giving your unconscious mind opportunities to come up with some truly novel ideas.

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3. Get Creative

The unconscious mind is great at effortlessly seeing patterns and finding interesting solutions, but for this to happen, it needs some inspiration. That means creating and consuming as much creativity as you can.

Pick up an artistic or creative hobby. Paint, write, build, or dance. It’s also helpful to consume creativity. Go to museums, read poetry, and walk in nature. Taking in creativity with your conscious mind will give your unconscious mind all the inspiration it needs to be able to do its thing.

4. Don’t Force It

The most crucial takeaway about the unconscious mind is that you can’t force it. You can struggle and strain all you want when you’re using your conscious mind, but the unconscious mind can only bubble to the surface when you aren’t trying so hard.

Think back to that phenomenon of having an aha moment while you’re showering or walking your dog. The unconscious mind is better able to break through when you aren’t focused so intensely on whatever it is you’re trying to solve.

So, relax and give yourself some time and space. That’s when your unconscious mind is most likely to breakthrough.

5. Play

Finally, don’t forget about the power of play. Play is inherently fun, and a playful mode of thinking allows your unconscious mind more of a chance to innovate. If you turn your task into a game, you’ll be more relaxed, have more fun, and collaborate better with your colleagues. That means you’ll be more likely to riff and get to a more creative “unconscious mind” solution.

You can also add play throughout your day to tap into this freer, less constrained kind of thinking. Turn your commute into a game, play hide and seek with your children, or join a local bowling league. This will help you get reacquainted with your childlike sense of joy, wonder, and curiosity—all key ingredients to nurturing and fostering your unconscious mind.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with and utilizing your unconscious mind is very different from doing so with your conscious mind. Tapping your unconscious mind is a technique that, when done right, can help you get what you want by untapping your potential.

Featured photo credit: Katerina Jerabkova via unsplash.com

Reference

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