The sequential process for thinking clearly is this: learn good or better knowledge and then apply it to your personal circumstances or use it to solve specific problems. Repeat and make it an enjoyable habit — not a chore.
If you learn first principles, you will be able to deconstruct your problems and solve them from the ground up. That way, conventional thinking won’t stand in your way.
First, second and third-order consequence thinking can help you make better decisions because you will consider the many and different consequences of every possible scenario or outcome.
Instead of looking at problems from the conventional (forward-thinking), learn and use the inverse principle: imagine everything that could go wrong or consider the opposite of the good outcomes you want. It’s a thinking process that reduces or minimise risks.
If you can improve your worldviews, perceptions and thinking, you are setting yourself up for better outcomes and judgment later in life.
Elizabeth Thornton explains it beautifully, “We all have mental models: the lens through which we see the world that drive our responses to everything we experience. Being aware of your mental models is key to being objective.”
Laying a solid thinking foundation is not always exact science though, you can learn and apply the knowledge simultaneously. Sometimes it’s a better approach.
For example, if you want to be a better writer, start writing at the same time as you learn. Experiential learning can help you retain knowledge better.
You could take it another step by embracing lifelong learning for future use. If you are not learning to solve a specific problem, you can pick ideas every day through books, podcasts, newsletters and courses.
You don’t even have to change your schedule to learn something new every day. You can use your source of knowledge a few minutes at a time without disrupting your current schedule.
Lifelong learners are more likely to engage in high order thinking than people without a growth mindset. Stacking thinking skills makes decision making incredibly better and efficient.
Building thinking models/knowledge/principles set the stage for applying good knowledge in life and career.
Wisdom precedes a better life
“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” ― Plutarch
There are better principles that can serve as your foundation knowledge for a good life for everything you want to do or every path you want to take.
Your job is to find, learn and apply them in your life. A good foundation can help you think through your obstacles better and solve problems faster.
Good thinking encourages learning, and learning drives better thinking.
Your capacity to reason better improves significantly when you have a better foundation. And your ability to connect the necessary knowledge also grows when you lay a solid foundation.
If any domain-specific knowledge is essential for your life or future, dig deeper, learn better, find the basic principles you can build upon and do more to become wiser over time.
Here are a few habits that encourage thinking clearly:
- Learn from people more intelligent than you.
- Read topics you usually ignore.
- Take a walk or take a break. A brain break is the best way to allow your brain to make better connections.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” wrote Blaise Pascal.
Give your brain time to rest and recharge or find something interesting and start examining your thoughts for any irrational fears or assumptions. “Become your own toughest critic,” Rolf Dobelli said in his book, The Art of Thinking Clearly.
The human mind is insanely agile: you change it, improve it, solve problems better, generate ideas quicker, and make better decisions if you learn better.