In this post, we’ll have a quick discussion on how to think clearly.
Clarity of thought is perhaps one of the most important parts of decision making. As a general rule the more clouded your thinking the lower the quality of your own decisions. Taking substances cloud your thinking because they force the mind to look at things from a particular frame. Whether the frame is right or not is not important, since even when in the wrong frame of mind, if allowed, one can bring itself back to clear thinking.
This is an example of clarity of thought being reduced through chemical means, but there are certainly more ways to reduce one’s judgment objectivity, and below are a few of them.
How To think clearly
A Clear sign of clouded thinking
The tricky thing about clouded thinking is that for the thinker their mental sky is as clear as a hot summer day. It’s the same issue of insanity. The insane creates an internal world in which their behavior is completely justified. Sometimes going so deep that any questioner of that world is perceived as weak or unenlightened. What makes the issue difficult to address is that just because you feel objective doesn’t make you so. It’s easy to look for shortcuts as hints about your clarity of mind. One commonly used and not talked about shortcut is that of assuming that being positive is the peak of clarity, going down proportionally to de degree or number of negative thoughts. Here negative thoughts are labeled as pessimism and by extension a “sign” of clouded thinking.
There are also people who associate clarity of thought with the opposite side of the spectrum. Meaning that the more positively you think about life the more delusional you are, with your clarity decreasing with proportion to the number and/or degree of positivity you experience.
The truth is that life rarely is about extremes. Don’t get me wrong. At some point or another, you’ll get to experience the extremes of life, but more often than not you’ll not. The reason for this is that if that wasn’t so what you consider to be the extremes would be the norm and vice-versa. From this, it follows that when you find yourself thinking in extremes, be that positive or negative, chances are that your thoughts are out of sync with reality. In a depressive episode, we experience the negative end of the continuum. When under the influence of any positively mind-altering substance we experience the positive end of the continuum. Either way, we’re all able to tell that the person going through the moment is not clear-minded. So we should do the same for ourselves.
Identify your clarity time of the day
Sometimes some times of the day make you more prone to making the best decisions you can. IT might be when you wake up, just after lunch or just before bed even. The point here is to find what time you make your best decisions. We are taught that mental clarity is either an all or nothing kind of thing. Meaning that you’re either the kind of person who has it or you’re not. I’m sure you can testify to the opposite. I believe that chances are that you might even think of yourself as an outlier when it comes to this rule. Since, as you say to yourself, there are moments in which I find life to be more like an open book in which all I have to do is to make an effort to understand the contents of its pages. Other times, however, it sure feels like a mystery of the kind that astrophysicists spend their lifetime trying to decipher. So what’s the truth? Is life a mystery or an open book? Am I a clear-minded person or am I not?
One thing I learned over the years is that life is rarely black and white. Life is an array of colors each with enough depth for itself that one could spend a lifetime trying in vain to understand its most basic outer layers. Since just when you think you have begun to understand it, and another layer is revealed to you.
Black and white thinking is easy thinking. Not accurate. Easy. And mental clarity is among one of the things about life that one might find very hard to put into neat little boxes. Some times of the day might be the best for your thinking and find which are which is probably one of the most important things anyone can do for itself.
Use time as a tool
One thing I learned about thinking is that time can often be a very helpful tool. Many can testify for the countless moments in which they thought an Idea they had was good, only to later, after a few hours/days of reflection to come to the conclusion that their idea had no grounds in reality. We are now taught that when we quit on an idea is because we’re afraid of the journey it might lead us to. Sometimes that’s true, but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes an idea is just weak and time, not fear is what brings that level of clarity to us.
This is a simple and yet powerful idea that most people use once in a while and still many of the ones who use it downplay its value. Not sure about your career path? Give it time. Give it a try and see how you really feel. Not sure about your relationship? The same rule applies. See, the biggest enemy of clarity of thought is the fabric of thought itself. It’s good at making us see the world for what it is, while also feeding us a fairy tale we can’t help but believe in. Neither is distinguishable from the other and just like a person in the dark we use hints as the small and fragile candle of thought to finally get us to firm ground. Sometimes those hints areas not so subtle as the whole world telling you how faulty your thinking is.
Watch what you put in your mouth
The human body is one of the most mysterious and sensitive systems that there are. We talk about the weather as being the kind of system that happens to be very sensitive to small changes in variables, but the human body is arguably even more sensitive. They say a small and inconsequential swing of a butterfly can cause a tornado in China, but we forget that a small change in diet or habit can have effects as profound as a complete life change. What you eat or drink is definitely a part of it, and perhaps one of the most powerful. Most of us fail to make the connection between the things they eat/drink and their levels of mental clarity 2 or 3 hours later. I noticed this effect after several failed attempts at continuing my exam preparations just after eating this or that kind of food. The effects are so predictable they are not even funny. I would start by studying. I would assimilate the material easily for a while until my stomach urged me to go to the kitchen. After the meal, all would feel like night and day. When before I was able to learn and memorize fairly easy, now my only desire would be to binge-watch anything non-school related on youtube.
Everything changed when I successfully made the connection between eating some foods and not others and my mental focus and productivity. If none of the tips above work, it might pay off to pay attention to your body’s chemistry. As Dave Aspery the author of the book headstrong said once: “It’s not a character flaw, it’s an energy delivery problem”, meaning to say that sometimes, or often even, the things we blame our “lack” of self-control as the source might be due to the ironically energy-draining properties of some of the food we love so much to eat.
Another thing I learned over time was that one of the best ways to know what works for you, in particular, is experimentation. Some so-called “healthy” foods might not only not work for your mental clarity but they might even make it worse. Reading up about health information from books or blog posts might definitely take you closer to the ideal nutrition advice for you, but the only way to really know whether it applies or not, is to test each nutritional advice for yourself, and one important thing to keep in mind is to not fall for the trap of deluding yourself on this or that supplement simply because most people or everybody tells you it works for them. Meaning that it’s certainly possible to be the only one in a crowd who doesn’t function well with some popular supplement, and the reverse is also true.
It is all about knowledge and experience 😉
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