• Think intelligently: Seven ways to understand issues more clearly

    by  • November 5, 2012 • Masterclass, Think Wisely

    We are much more effective when we understand things. It helps us to see them more clearly. Opens up more options for us. And gives us more influence over them.

    You need to start with the basics. This is the best way to learn how to understand issues. You can use the simple basic areas of your every day life for this purpose. When you have a very deep understanding of them. You will be able to move onto more complex issues. And achieve a very deep understanding of them.

    Successful people understand the basics better than the rest of us do. They think a lot about them. And strive to find a deeper understanding of the issues that matter. This is why they are more successful than others in their field.

    1.Think about the basics

    To know something deeply you need to refine your skills and knowledge of basic ideas and examples. You need to do this again and again. To get new insights. To dig deep. And to create a sound bed of knowledge on which you can grow and flourish.

    Think of a skill you wish to understand. Like learning for example. Take five minutes to write out the basic elements of the skill. My list is: Observe, discover, assimilate, use, correct mistakes. Take one of the items on your list. And study it for thirty minutes. I choose observe. And I saw sides of it I hadn’t seen before.

    2. Test your understanding

    Thinking seriously about simple everyday things can help you to understand difficult, illusive and deep ideas. Repeatedly going back to basics. And thinking deeply about them will enable you to master any subject. And to create ideas beyond those that now exist.

    Pick a subject you think you know. Or one you would like to master. Write a clear statement of the basics of this subject from memory. Do not consult any source documents or texts.

    Then compare the finished work with expert sources. What gaps in your knowledge does it show? How good is your big picture of it? And how well did you fit the pieces together?

    Learn from this exercise. By filling in the gaps in your knowledge. Making a note of the new insights you have discovered. And deepening your understanding of the topic.

    Do this exercise regularly. To track your learning of the finer points of the subject. See them as bench marks on the road to mastering it.

    3. Problem solving

    When faced with a big challenge that is a little too much for you . Rather than get bogged down. Focus on working on a part of it that you feel you know enough about. Use this and other parts you work on as building blocks to mastering the subject as a whole.

    The challenge of complex issues is the clutter that surrounds them. To think clearly about the issue you need to clear away the clutter. Then the essentials will become clearer and more manageable.

    Every issue has features that will distract you. You need to identify these and put them to one side. So you can focus on what is essential. Your task then is to analyse this issue. And use what you learn from this analysis to understand the whole issue.

    4. Think about the gaps in your knowledge

    Owning up to what you don’t know helps you to spot the gaps in your knowledge. Getting good at doing this is the key to learning. Once you know what you need to know. Then you can fill in the gaps. This will give you a deeper understanding of the issues.

    5. Think about your opinions and beliefs

    Question the basis of your opinions and beliefs. Use the “How do I know?” test on them. When the answer is satisfactory focus on the source of your opinion. If you have doubts about it and can’t find a better one to support your view. You may have to rethink it.

    6. Think about other people’s opinions and beliefs

    Think about another persons opinion that differs from yours. They should be someone you respect. And the opinion should be one that you hold firmly. Try accepting the other view as if it was yours. Don’t resist. Let yourself go with the flow. Do this for a set period. Say a quarter of an hour or a full hour even. Putting yourself in the others shoes will help you to understand their view of the issue and of the world.

    7. Think deeply about the things you know best

    Look very searchingly at the familiar things, acts, thoughts and feelings of your world. Enjoy the discovery. Unearth the depth and wonder of your life. Experience the reality of what is and see what you have never seen before. You are now understanding at a deeper level than you thought possible.

     Suggested Learning Exercises

    1. If you have not already done so buy a copy  The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Burger and Starbird and read pages 13 to 46.

    2. Imagine in detail how a more skilled thinker would deepen their level of understanding.

    3. Identify the added knowledge, understanding and previous experience an expert would use to deepen their understanding.

    4. Instead of thinking that deepening your understanding is going to require more concentration and effort. Identify the knowledge, skill and strategy that would make it an easier task for you.

    5. Use this knowledge, skill and strategy to deepen your understanding.



    Burger E. & Starbird M. (2012) The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking. New Jersey: Princeton University Press




    We can use positive psychology to improve how we live our lives. So I love to share my understanding of it with others. To help them grow and flourish as I have. The posts on this blog set out to do just that. You need a lot of skill to make a relationship a happy one. So I write about relationship skills. Skills you can learn how to use in your own relationship. To keep it in good shape. To solve problems that may arise in it. And to improve the quality of your relationship. To make both of you happy.