Practice Several Kinds of Thinking

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Your mind is a complex, powerful tool that’s helpful in boosting your level of productivity, earnings, and success. So there’s every reason to learn to use it well.

One important way to use it is by smart thinking – and not just using one method, but mastering and applying several different techniques of thought.

Here are brief descriptions of some of the many different ways you may want to think about matters that concern you in your work and your life:

Objective Thinking

We all believe we think this way, and many of us do, at least some of the time. So it’s not a stretch to utilize this mode of thinking when you face a problem or opportunity.

Objective thinking focuses on the facts of the situation, with as little pre-judgment and bias as possible. To do this kind of thinking, you gather information, analyze the forces at work, strive to recognize any existing and developing patterns, and plot out the implications of all this for the future.

In short, you try to understand what’s going on and what you can say and do to bring about an outcome you want.

Intuitive Thinking

This kind of thinking happens a lot more than most of us realize. In fact, Intuitive Thinking often drives and distorts what we believe to be Objective Thinking, introducing bias, hidden assumptions, and illogical analysis to influence some of the conclusions we reach.

You’re thinking improves, therefore, when you consciously focus on Intuitive Thinking, which helps to bring out the hidden feelings, drives, and potential distortions that might otherwise lead your thinking astray.

When you think intuitively, you listen to your guts, introspect to identify the emotions you are truly feeling, give extra credence to hunches and guesses you can’t fully support with objective facts, and generally accept the subjectivity that nearly always colors your take on the situation at hand.

You also try to understand and factor into your conclusions and plans not just your own feelings, but how other people may be feeling about the situation.

Negative Thinking

Negative Thinking normally has a bad rap: people think Negative Thinking is necessarily pessimistic, cynical, and distrustful of facts and people. But Negative Thinking can be quite constructive when you focus it on the facts of the matter.

For example, you can use Negative Thinking to identify weaknesses and problems you should address. You can evaluate real and potential risks, as well as unwanted possible outcomes. You can look at the likely disadvantages of any tentative conclusion you’re contemplating.

You can also use it to figure out the reasons behind all these negatives. Such understandings can feed into your separate Positive Thinking and help you recognize how you might make certain negatives more favorable.

Positive Thinking

Everyone loves Positive Thinking, which helps explain why we use it so frequently. Generally, Positive Thinking focuses on the “good side” of the situation: what’s working well, what’s going right, what parts of it do we like, and so forth.

Positive Thinking need not make you a Pollyanna, however. Without drifting into unbridled optimism, you can learn to limit your Positive Thinking to such topics as: a fair-minded assessment of what’s likely to support a favorable conclusion, what strengths you bring to bear on the situation, and the advantages a particular conclusion might yield.

Creative Thinking

Thinking creatively is an important ability that many people do not cultivate sufficiently or utilize often enough. Creative Thinking is what usually separates the exceptional leader, problem solver, or artist from the crowd.

There are many techniques to stimulate and make use of Creative Thinking, from brainstorming and juxtaposition to consciously taking a unique perspective, such as Einstein’s famous thought experiment: “riding on a beam of light.”

Basically, Creative Thinking helps you come up with unusual approaches, new ideas, and surprisingly helpful responses to difficult situations.

Procedural Thinking

One of the least-used modes of thinking is Procedural Thinking, a kind of mental process in which you heavily discount the content of the situation and focus more directly on its form or structure, and on steps you can take to find a way out of it, through it, or past it.

Procedural Thinking is often aimed at coming up with a series of “next steps,” without knowing or even fretting about where those steps might lead.

Of course, just knowing these various modes of thinking will not solve your problems for you. You must still practice each of them enough so you can utilize them effectively. And you must also gain enough perspective to recognize when and where each one of them can best serve your need to think fruitfully.

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