Have you ever wondered how come some people have no difficulty grasping complex ideas in an instant, while others need a lot of explaining and navigating through other associated concepts before they know what is being talked about? One might say this is simply a matter of IQ — and perhaps it is.
But there are ways of tricking the way you think and think about thinking (!), resulting in broadening your understanding abilities and therefore allowing you to take more in and — in turn — give more back. Knowing more and learning fast is a simple way to being more productive and valued at work, at school and in life. So — what can you do to think better?
Practice retaining information
With the way the schooling and higher education systems work, it’s common for us to learn something very difficult very well and have no recollection of it after a little while. It’s unfortunate, but we’re happy to let go when it comes to things we know we’ll never really need in the future. It’s worse however, when the same happens for useful skills and valuable knowledge, that gets lost with time. If you really care about remembering and utilizing something you’ve just learned — put an effort into making it stick. Repeat it. Write it down. Draw it. Make a mental map of it. Talk about it with friends. Perhaps (claimed to be the most effective one) try teaching it. Keep coming back to it. These are some of the ways of making a conscious effort of retaining good information.
Try to think ahead
This inevitably goes with broader thinking, doesn’t it? If you see an idea or issue as a whole, you’re able to foresee possible trouble ahead and get prepared for it. Doing that teaches applying a wide perspective and taking responsibility. A good way of learning this is by playing chess.
Practice creative & lateral thinking
These are the quickest working tricks to broaden your perspective. By leaving no restrains on how you think, you’re opening to creativity. Thinking laterally means using non-standard solutions to standard problems, trying opposite of the expected and not always going for the logical solution. To think creatively try absurd solutions, look at problems the other way round, de-construct ideas and put them together your own way, joke about things and accept no failure — all solutions teach you something.
Those that require thinking, of course. As with any ability — practice makes perfect. By training your brain to solve problems and search for solutions in a mathematics, words, geometry or logical puzzle, you’re getting closer to the ability to solve real-life problems quicker too. Just try.
Read & increase your vocabulary
New words need pondering on. By learning them you’re automatically widening the spectrum of your understanding. Also, the more words you know, the less time it takes for you to present an idea to others. The easiest way to learn new words is in a context (not by reading the dictionary). So, take up reading books or magazines (those with fewer pictures than text ;) to make getting to know new words easy for yourself.
Staying healthy and in good shape facilitates clear thinking. By reducing stress levels (always done through sport) you’re allowing your mind to relax and focus better on what you’re trying to solve / understand. This one no-one can argue with!
Question what you know & experiment with it
It’s not difficult to fall into the trap of deciding that you now know it all and can stop learning. A safe bet on avoiding this is always questioning what you know, getting second (and third) opinion, mulling over ideas and experimenting with new concepts. If you want to test your fresh knowledge, immerse in experimenting with it. By doing we are learning and growing the most.
Study great thinkers
No-one is expecting you to reinvent the one good road to effective thinking. Get inspired by those that came before you. By reading great authors in the fields most interesting to you, you get a chance to discover what drove them, how they came to the conclusions that they did, what were their goals and their issues. There is no need to go it alone — get help of the ones who’ve already made it.
Spend time with people who show the characteristics that you want to get
It’s no secret that we adopt some of the behaviour, some qualities and quite often a lot of the opinions of the people we spend a lot of time with. Try using this to your advantage — stick with people that have the qualities you desire and it’s quite likely that they’ll be passed onto you. Clever!
Take all opportunities to increase your experience
Whether you’ve been raised in a tiny village or a highly populated city, what you’ve experienced so far determines the way you perceive new ideas and any problems you come across. Getting around, doing new things, meeting people from different backgrounds — all this increases how you think and how much you can grasp. So do take any opportunity to do new activities, meet new people and cross your own limits — in order to change your thinking perspective and be able to understand more.
Why not make a little effort, and try some of these ideas to see if the way you think and act changes at all? There is nothing to lose, and quite a lot to gain. The broader your thinking ability and perspective, the more valuable you are for a potential employer and to your friends, but most of all — the better your own life experience. It’s worth trying.
__________________________________________________________________First posted on the Kanban Tool Blog.