One thing you need to do to think better is check your emotions. We have conscious thoughts constantly running through our brains and it’s only a mere fraction of what’s going on in them. Every minute, our unconscious mind is taking information that we aren’t actively thinking about and processing. Our brains then generate emotions based on this. Therefore, you don’t want to disregard that feeling that you are getting that tells you to avoid eating the salmon special. Your brain is powerful and it’s always trying to tell you something.
There was a moment in my life where this came back to bite me. I was 12 years old and I was in a recreational basketball league. In this particular game, we were down by a single point. I was at the free-throw line. If I made the two free throws I was taking, my team would win the game. Unfortunately, I missed both. Rather than relying on my unconscious mind that’s engaged in autopilot, I thought too deeply about the shots I was taking. I was analyzing everything from how I was holding the basketball to where I needed to put it. I ended up using many areas of my brain that had nothing to do with shooting a basketball. Once you’ve developed a good amount of muscle memory with a particular task, it’s time to put yourself on autopilot and trust your gut instincts more than anything. Click here to find out more about being in the moment.
There is a special trick that a lot of professional poker players use that can be very effective. They think about how a player would act if they weren’t bluffing. The brain already naturally filters through things to achieve confirmation bias. This is typically why you will find a liberal watching MSNBC and a conservative watching nothing but Fox News. However, this is something that can negatively impact your ability to constructively think and it can limit you in a big way.
Much like the beliefs discussed above, other things can negatively impact your way of thinking. Anything that you prefer is likely to play a role in what you think. Anything you like or dislike can limit your thinking. For instance, I used to be a wine enthusiast. Some would call me a wine snob. However, I put myself in a situation where I did a completely blind taste test and found out that there is no correlation between price and enjoyment. Figure out what you like and enjoy it without thinking about anything else. Not only will it help you get more out of life, but it can save you money.
One of the best times to get in critical thinking is in the shower. There have been studies that show that the best insights typically arrive when you aren’t consciously thinking about a problem. This tends to be why a lot of people get a lot of critical thought done when they are out for a brisk walk or while taking a relaxing shower. This is because the insights are generated by getting a rush of high neural activity and the mind is much better able to tune into the right hemisphere when the body and mind are both relaxed.
When you are looking to think better, always be a skeptic. There have been scientists that have shown in recent years that human memories are typically not very honest. Recalling an event can be difficult and the structure of the memory can be altered easily. Both the details and the narrative of the memory can be changed. The more you try to recall a memory and the more you think about it, the less accurate your recollection will be.
The prefrontal cortex of your brain is the area that is responsible for both cognitive thought and managing your willpower. It’s one of the easiest parts of your brain to deplete. There was a study that asked participants to remember a number that was 7 digits long. From there, they were offered to snack on something. Those participants were much more likely to opt for cake over fruit salad than the participants that were only asked to memorize a single-digit number. It turns out, the first group of participants’ muscles that regulate their self-control were completely exhausted. Thus, you can do everything you want, but not all at the same time.
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