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Last Updated on January 11, 2021

How to Think Clearly and Become Smarter

How to Think Clearly and Become Smarter
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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.

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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

How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide) A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success How to Get Motivated Every Day When You Wake Up Can’t Focus? The Mistake You’re Making and How to Focus Better 17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd

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Published on August 2, 2021

What Is Loss Aversion And How To Avoid This Bias

What Is Loss Aversion And How To Avoid This Bias
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Have you been feeling particularly cautious lately? Do you find yourself avoiding making major or seemingly risky decisions until you feel life has returned to “normal”? This isn’t unusual, and you are not alone. In these uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic, people would rather stick with what they perceive as safe. They veer away from making any sudden changes that could rock the boat and resort to loss aversion instead.

After more than a year of having to take drastic measures to secure our safety as well as those of our loved ones, it’s not surprising to find that some people would choose to hunker down even when faced with issues that don’t pose any mortal danger to them.

The pandemic has challenged us to become more resilient—a good thing—and even pick up an additional useful skill or two.[1] However, the flip side presents us with a potentially unfortunate side effect—that it could have altered our risk-taking behavior.

Read on to learn what loss aversion is and how you can avoid this bias.

Taking Risks, Making a Change

Why is it important to have a healthy view of risk? Shouldn’t we approach life with caution to avoid making mistakes?

I would say that, indeed, making careful, decisive choices will yield great results, so long as you can identify the line between being reasonably cautious and being downright fearful. There are also certain patterns in decision-making that you must watch out for.

To illustrate further, I present you with this example: Let’s say you meet a kind stranger who offers you your choice of a great deal with absolutely no tricks. He gives you $45. Then, he asks you if you want to hold on to the money or give it back to him in exchange for a coin flip. If it’s heads, he’ll give you $100 right then and there. If it’s tails, you get nothing.

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So, which one do you choose? Instant cash in your pocket or a chance to flip the coin? Think hard before you read further.

When I present this coin scenario to different audiences, about 80% say they’ll take the $45 from the stranger. That’s the choice I made when I was also presented with this scenario many years ago. The same can be said for most people in studies of similar choices.[2] And why not? The $45 is a sure thing, after all.

Back then, I thought that I’d certainly feel foolish if I took the risk just for a shot at getting $100 only to lose out. My gut instinct told me to avoid losing. I suppose anyone would feel the same way initially.

Here’s the thing, though. If we run the numbers, the chance of getting heads is 50%, so in half of all cases, you’ll get the $100. In the rest of the cases, you won’t get anything. So, that’s equal to $50 on average, compared with just $45.

Now, imagine if you flipped the coin 10 times, then 100 times, 1,000 times, on to 10,000 times, and then 100,000 times. At 100,000 times, on average you would win $5 million if you picked the coin flip for $100 every time, compared with $4.5 million if you picked $45 each time. The difference is an amazing $500,000.

This means that picking $45 as your gift from the stranger leads to you losing out. The correct choice—the one that will mostly not lead to you losing—is to pick the coin flip. Pick the other choice and you’re pretty much guaranteed to lose over multiple coin flips.

However, you might reason out that I presented the scenario as a one-time deal and not as a repeating opportunity. Perhaps, you’d say that if you knew it was a repeating scenario, then you would have picked differently.

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The problem lies with this: studies have shown that our gut addresses each scenario we face as a one-off.[3] In reality, we are presented with a multitude of such choices every day. We are goaded by our intuition to deal with each one as an isolated situation. However, these choices are part of a broader repeating pattern where our gut pushes us towards losing money. We avoid risks—fearful of losing—and end up losing in the end.

Why Are People Afraid to Take Risks?

We are prone to shying away from risks due to a mental blindspot called loss aversion.[4] This is one of the many dangerous judgment errors that result from how our brains are wired—what scholars in cognitive neuroscience and behavioral economics call cognitive biases.[5]

Research has shown that people are more sensitive to possible losses than potential gains.[6]

Loss aversion goads us into having an unhealthy view of risk, causing us to have a knee-jerk and one-size-fits-all approach to risk-taking, which is to outright reject it. This rejection runs counter to the resilience and flexibility we gained during these uncertain times. It also poses a threat to how we can continue to adapt to the shifting nature of this pandemic, as well as how to smoothly transition to a post-COVID life.[7]

The Sweeping Influence of Loss Aversion

It’s easy enough to think that loss aversion only comes into play during major decisions or turning points. However, we are presented with a multitude of similar choices daily that—much like in the coin-flip scenario—represent a broader pattern that could cause us to lose out in life.

Remember that loss aversion isn’t just limited to decisions that have a corresponding monetary result. It also applies to situations and circumstances where avoiding a possibly negative outcome might blind you to potentially positive changes in your life.

Here are some aspects of life that can easily be derailed by loss aversion.

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1. Exiting Toxic Relationships

Have you ever stayed in a relationship (romantic or otherwise) that has clearly already run its course? Perhaps this relationship already causes you distress or keeps you from reaching your personal goals.

Yet, despite indications that you would have a healthier, happier life without this stressful relationship, you find it difficult to walk away because of the disruption it would cause in your life. You worry about the loss of your routine, and this holds you back.

2. Making Much-Needed Career Changes

People are particularly cautious about making career changes especially during this pandemic, opting to “wait it out” and just trudging on until life returns to “normal.”

We need to remember that we may never get back the version of normal that we had pre-pandemic. Just as the world changed and readjusted to COVID, so did each individual, and so did employers.

Jobs and employment are constantly shifting and evolving, more so now than before, so you have to weigh and consider if the loss of an old job is truly that daunting versus transitioning to a new career that could enrich your life mid- and post-pandemic.

3. Dealing With Your Current Pandemic Life and Looking Forward

Loss aversion can trickle down even to the smallest perceivable things in life. With our wariness of COVID-19 modifying our behavior when it comes to going out, physical distancing, and socializing, it’s perfectly understandable to someday come out of this pandemic more cautious, more health-conscious, and more aware of our security than we were before 2020.

However, as we start to consider what the world will be like after the pandemic, we should also plan our lives accordingly. This means that while our social and networking circles were forcibly shrunk in the last year, there is no need to let our lives deliberately stagnate for fear of leaving our comfort zone.

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It also means that, when the time is right, we must be willing to reintegrate our lives into a changed world and balance the risk with a potentially more meaningful life.

Conclusion

While it might seem daunting, looking ahead into the future calls for a reexamination of loss aversion. If left unchecked, it will keep you from living your best life as it goads you into focusing on what you could lose versus what you might gain.

With or without the pandemic, viewing risk with a steady perspective can indeed be helpful when weighing how to proceed with major life decisions. However, focusing too much on the risk may lead to abject fear, which can keep you from making balanced, decisive choices.

Identifying the repeated pattern of our choices and knowing how to tackle and transform each possible loss into a gain will go a long way in winning in life—with or without a pandemic.

More Biases That Unconsiously Affect Us Every Day

Featured photo credit: AJ Yorio via unsplash.com

Reference

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