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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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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

Do you forget stuff every now and then? Are you trying to enhance your memory but not sure how?

All you need is the right memorization techniques to make the most of your memory.

The human brain is fascinating. More specifically, the vast interconnections within our mind. Mendel Kaelen compares the human brain to a hill covered in snow,

“Think of the brain as a hill covered in snow, and thoughts as sleds gliding down that hill. As one sled after another goes down the hill a small number of main trails will appear in the snow. And every time a new sled goes down, it will be drawn into preexisting trails, almost like a magnet. In time it becomes more and more difficulty to glide down the hill on any other path or in a different direction.”

The intent of Kaelen’s discussion is to think of new ways to temporarily flatten the snow. Kaelen remarked,

“The deeply worn trails disappear, and suddenly the sled can go in other directions, exploring new landscapes and, literally, creating new pathways.”

The idea here is to temporarily rewire your brain, or as Michael Pollan remarked in How to Change Your Mind,

“The power to shake the snow globe, disrupting unhealthy patterns of thought and creating a space of flexibility-entropy-in which more salubrious patterns and narratives have an opportunity to coalesce as the snow slowly settles.”

So, how can we rewire our brain allowing deeply worn connections to disappear and new connections to form? The answer is quite simple. We must change the way we store information in our mind.

    Let’s examine 5 specific memorization techniques that will change the way you think and remember information.

    1. Build a Memory Palace

      What is it?

      The method of loci[1] (aka memory palace) is a method of memory enhancement using visualizations with the use of spatial memory. It uses familiar information about your environment to quickly recall information. It is a method that was discussed by Cicero in an ancient dialogue called De Oratore.

      How to use it?

      Ron White discusses in How to Memorize Fast and Easily: Build a Memory Palace, that it’s essentially a room or building that you have memorized and you use locations in the room to store data. Ron informs us,

      “You memorize locations in a room and then you later go back to those locations to retrieve the data that you want to remember.”

      Example

      An easy 5-step example, in the form of a Wiki, can be found at Artofmemory.com. Let’s examine the the steps:

      • Step 1. Choose a place that you know well. For example, your house or office.
      • Step 2. Plan the route and pick specific locations in your route. For example, your front door, bathroom kitchen, etc.
      • Step 3. Decide what you want to memorize. For example, geography, list of items, answers for a test, etc.
      • Step 4. Place one or two items, with a mental image, and place them in your memory palace. Exaggerate your images. For example, use nudity or crazy images forcing it to stick in your mind.
      • Step 5. Make the image into a mnemonic.

      You can learn more about this technique here: How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything

      2. Mnemonic

        What is it?

        A mnemonic is a memory device that aids in retention and/or retrieval of information. Mnemonic systems are techniques consciously used to improve memory by helping us use information already stored in long-term memory to make memorization easier.[2]

        How to use it?

        Mnemonics make use of retrieval cues to encode information in our brain allowing for efficient storage and retrieval of the information. The trick is to learn how to easily create mnemonics. If you find that you struggle with creating your own, try the following website: Mnemonic Generator.

        Example

        I recently came across a video using mnemonics to memorize countries. Memorizing Countries using Mnemonics is a video created as an introduction to a class for using memory techniques to learn the names of countries on maps.

        I actively search for videos that provide enormous educational value, yet receive very little exposure. At the time of this writing, this video has received less than 4k views. Let’s examine the video.

        Goal: Create a mnemonic to memorize the countries in the Caribbean (just the countries you need to learn).

        Step 1. Looking at a map – write out each country (for which five were chosen).

        Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico.

        Step 2. Write the first letter of each country vertically.

        C

        J

        H

        D

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        P

        Step 3. Create a sentence or phrase.

        Cubs

        Just

        Hate

        Doing

        Push-ups

        Cubs just hate doing push-ups. (Cuba Jamaica Haiti Dominican Republic Puerto Rico)

        3. Mnemonic Peg System

          What is it?

          According to Artofmemory.com, a mnemonic peg system is a technique for memorizing lists and it works by memorizing a list of words that are easy to associate with the numbers they represent.[3] These objects are the pegs of the system.

          How to use it?

          The trick is to create a Number Rhyme System with each number having a rhyming mnemonic keyword.

          Example

          Let’s look at an example of a Number Rhyme System:[4]

          0 = hero

          1 = gun

          2 = shoe

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          3 = tree

          4 = door

          5 = hive

          6 = sticks

          7 = heaven

          8 = gate

          9 = line

          Another technique like the Peg system is the Number Shape System.[5] Here you are assigning mnemonic images based on the shape of the number. Watch the following video for an example of this system: Number Shape System for Memorizing Numbers.

          4. Chunking

            What is it?

            Chunking is a way to remember large bits of information by chunking them into smaller pieces of information. We are more likely to then remember the information when we put the small pieces back together to see the entire picture.

            How to use it?

            In the video Chunking – A Learning Technique, we can see that there are several ways to chunk information.

            Example

            Let’s examine a simple example using a nine-digit number.

            Step 1. What is the number you are trying to remember?

            081127882

            Step 2. Cut the number into smaller pieces through chunking.

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            081 – 127 – 882

            Let’s look at one more example from the same video.

            “Piano teachers will first demonstrate an entire song to students. They will then ask their students to practice one measure at a time. Once the part has been learned and the neural connections in the brain have been built, then students go on to the next measure. After all chunks have been played separately, they are combined until the entire piece is connected.”

            5. Transfer of Learning

              What is it?

              Transfer of learning is a way to learn something in one area and apply it in another. Authors of Thinking at Every Desk, Derek and Laura Cabrera inform us about the transfer of learning,

              “If a student has a high transfer skills, she can learn one thing and then teach herself 10, 50, or 100 additional things.”

              How to use it?

              There are two specific ways to use it:

              1. Vertical Transfer (aka Far Transfer). Think of learning something in grade school and applying it another grade or later in life.
              2. Horizontal Transfer (aka Near Transfer). Think of learning a concept in history and applying it in math.

              Example

              I provide a detailed step-by-step example for this technique in this article:

              Learn How to Learn: How to Understand and Connect Difficult Ideas Easily

              The Bottom Line

              The key to using the techniques discussed here is to remember that we must actively think about information.

              We cannot simply drill information into our brain through rote memorization. We must change the way we think about memorization. We must find a way to “shake the snow-globe” in our mind or flatten the snow so that we can create new learning paths.

              Or as Derek and Laura Cabrera point out, we must insert “Thinking” into the equation,

              “Information X Thinking = Knowledge”

              More About Enhancing Memories

              Featured photo credit: Nong Vang via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Remember Everything: Memory Palaces and the Method of Loci
              [2] The Learning Center Exchange: 9 Types of Mnemonics for Better Memory
              [3] Art of Memory: Mnemonic Peg System
              [4] Art of Memory: Number Rhyme System
              [5] Art of Memory: Number Shape System

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