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10 Timeless Lessons on Better Thinking

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1 10 Timeless Lessons on Better Thinking on Sun Aug 15, 2010 4:15 am


The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.
Winston Churchill

Our thoughts can make or break our life. Use it well, and we will
prosper. Use it badly, and we will suffer. Investing on your mind is
perhaps the best investment you can make.

I believe we can learn a lot about it from the great minds of human
civilization, so I read inspiring quotes from them and extracted some
lessons on better thinking. Here are 10 timeless lessons I found:

1. Beware of your thoughts

Our best friends and our worst enemies are our
thoughts. A thought can do us more good than a doctor or a banker or a
faithful friend. It can also do us more harm than a brick.
Frank Crane

Our mind is a double-edged sword. If we fill it with positive
thoughts, it will lead us to a productive and fruitful life. But, if we
fill it with negative thoughts, it will lead us to a defeated, inferior
life. So watch your thoughts and be careful not to let negative
thoughts occupy your mind.

2. Go beyond mere reading

Readers are plentiful; thinkers are rare.
Harriet Martineau

It’s easy to read, but it’s not easy to think about what we read and
act upon it. That’s why very few people experience what the books’
authors write. If we want to be productive, we should go beyond just
being readers to being thinkers and doers.

3. Think more

people think more than two or three times a year; I have made an
international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week.
George Bernard Shaw

Most people do not make conscious effort to think more, but those
who do will reap the fruit. While many people spend a lot of time for
other aspects of their lives such as their occupation and hobbies, only
a few people consciously spend time for thinking.

4. Think at higher level

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
Albert Einstein

should improve our thinking ability so that we can think at a higher
level. Only by thinking at higher level can we solve the problems we
face. Again, doing so takes effort and one way to do so is mind exercise.

5. Be curious

I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious
Albert Einstein

is an essential ingredient of great thinking. It gives you a strong
desire to know more than most people and makes the journey fun.

6. Be persistent

I think and think for months and years. Ninety-nine times, the conclusion is false. The hundredth time I am right.
Albert Einstein

Thinking requires perseverance. More
often than not, we can’t get the desired results as soon as we want it.
The road to discovery is long, and only with persistence can we hope to
reach the destination.

7. State problems the right way

The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.
Bertrand Russell

Many people recognize great thinkers through their ability to solve
problems, but great thinkers are first of all good at formulating
problems. It is their ability to formulate problems that allows them to
find elegant solutions.

Here is an example from the book Patterns of Problem Solving:

Hammurabi in Babylon changed the course of history by
asking the right question when dealing with the problem of water.
Instead of asking how to get the people to the water, he asked how to
get the water to the people. This led to canals. The rest is history.

8. Emphasize imagination

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.
Albert Einstein

Many people pursue knowledge, but great thinkers emphasize
imagination. While knowledge allows us to make incremental
improvements, imagination opens the way for fresh breakthroughs.

9. Use intuition

The intellect has little to do on the road to
discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or
what you will, and the solution comes to you and you don’t know how or
Albert Einstein

might be surprising, but rational thinking is not always the best way
to think; intuition often gives us better solution. I often experience
this myself. After thinking
rationally for some time and not finding a solution, I just leave the
problem or sleep on it, and all of a sudden a solution leaps into my
mind. Not only is this process less laborious, it often gives me ideas
with higher quality.

10. Dare to be different

It is not worth an intelligent man’s time to be in the majority. By definition, there are already enough people to do that.
G.H. Hardy

Great thinkers dare to be different and therefore they think
differently. Rather than just following what other people do, they move
beyond it and go up to a whole new level. Look at your situation and
yourself: what is the conventional wisdom for your situation? Then
don’t do it, move beyond it instead. This is easier said than done, but
that’s what the great thinkers do.


These lessons resonate with me. I need to work on emphasizing
imagination and daring to be different, among others. Being a great
thinker is a long journey, but the journey is an exciting one

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