Learning How to Think Better Means Continuously Learning From Great Minds

Intelligent and curious people are not afraid to challenge what they already know. Friedrich Nietzsche was right. “There are no eternal facts as there are no absolute truths.” Every reality of life can be questioned, improved, upgraded or transformed.

You can teach yourself to think better.

Learning to think better means you are ready to expand your decision-making tools. It also means you are prepared to improve your thought processes. It’s one of the fundamental steps smart people take to become better versions of themselves.

As Jim Winer writes, intelligent people “are not afraid to say: ‘I don’t know.’ If they don’t know it, they can learn it.” Scientists don’t know all the answers, so they keep experimenting, refining, asking better questions and questioning the obvious until they get close to the “truth”.

Albert Einstein once said, “All of science is nothing more than the refinement of everyday thinking.” You can think beyond what you already know if you are willing to learn from people smarter than you. That’s how you gather the best thinking tools you can rely on every day to make informed choices.

When you start questioning your initial thoughts, emotional responses, thinking processes and habits, you make room for growth.

The human mind is insanely biased towards defaults and conventional wisdom. It relies on logical fallacies, mental shortcuts and even cognitive errors to help you make quick decisions. That’s how it conserves brain energy.

As Francis Bacon once said, “The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion, draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects.”

More often than not, many people rarely stop to ask themselves the second or third consequences of their life-changing decisions. That’s why we tend to have a lot of regrets in the future.

Knowing what I know now, I probably would have studied different subjects at university. “In most of our decisions, we are not betting against another person. Rather, we are betting against all the future versions of ourselves that we are not choosing,” writes Annie Duke in her book, “Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You.”

Learning to think deeper is a lifelong experience

How you think today is a result of experiences, beliefs, values, worldviews, perceptions, ideologies you’ve gathered over the years. Everyone uses different mental models or tools to make decisions. No two thinking processes are the same. Choose to improve your technique through learning.

For every decision you want to make (whether small or big), your brain naturally provides evidence (information) based on what you already know to convince you that what you are about to do is the right thing. Your thinking can never improve if you fail to question how you think.

Like any skill, good thinking takes time and practice. The more time you spend reading and learning about how great minds think or the set of tools they consistently use to make better choices, the more likely your thinking process will improve.

Unless you deliberately learn new thinking tools, you will consistently rely on the same set of mental shortcuts for your decisions in the future. Now, imagine if those set of cognitive tools you are not good enough. They will still impact your future choices.

Real learning or thinking happens through resistance. When you are not comfortable, you are thinking slowly (your brain is very active throughout the process). It’s like learning how to drive. It’s more challenging in the beginning because it’s not familiar, but your cognitively smart brain is at work.

The brain is rewiring throughout the learning process. It gets better with practice. Once your brain registers all the signs and things to look out for, the process gets closer to fast thinking (automatic and unconscious).

Many people don’t think deep enough to know that they are not thinking better enough. The good news is you can change that. You can start thinking about your thinking (metacognition).

Practice introspection to analyse your thinking processes. Get to know your unconscious thinking brain better. That knowledge can help you know when you are making irrational decisions. Question why you make decisions that way you do. Would you make a different decision if you had more information?

Practice slow thinking by learning new topics you are curious about or better tools for thought. Any learning experience that slows your thinking process can be good for your brain. Subscribe to newsletters that focus on thinking clearly, making better judgements and living your best life.

Check out Farnam Street, Wait But Why, Brain Pickings and Maker Mind (a few of the best blogs that will make you think). Read great books on thinking clearly. The Art of Thinking Clearly and Super Thinking are two of my favourite books on learning how to think better.

Learning from curious and intelligent minds is an enriching experience (a discovery process that can improve your set of thinking tools). It’s a journey worth your time. Your future self will thank you for the investment you make today. In an information rich-world, choose to think deeper.