How to think clearly

“To make the best of what is in our power, and take the rest as it occurs.” – Epictetus

download (2)Remember how you feel when you just wake up after a good night sleep?

Many times I arrive home after work and life and everything and I still have the problems, situations, and challenges I’m dealing with in my life at that moment. I decide it’s better to let my sweet sleep handle them and so I just get to bed and forget about them for the day, the next day, bam, solutions, and answers start popping in my head as my brains feel refreshed after a good night sleep.

There are times, however, when my head is fried and I stilhave to use my brains, work and deliver. I know that thinking clearly is paramount to make the right decisions. Just hear old Epictetus:

“It is not so much what happens to you as how you think about what happens.”

In the morning, thinking with clearness is easy, but how do you do it when you are stressed, tired and ready to quit?

Navy Seal Eric Greitens describes in his book: Resilience, a method you can use to gain situational awareness and think more clearly whenever and wherever you are.

The method consists of asking a series of 4 questions:

  1. Why am I here?
  2. What is going on around me/with me?
  3. What am I going to do about it?
  4. How will my decisions affect others around me?

These 4 questions can be as simple or as deep and reflective as you want. Let me give you an example.

  • Why Am I here? I need to get this report done for tomorrow.
  • What is going around me/ with me? I’m extremely hungry and tired, the kids are yelling way too much and it’s hard for me to concentrate around here.
  • What am I going to do about it? I need a quiet place, I’ll ask my wife if she can take care of the kids while I go grab a coffee and something to eat at the coffee shop, I’ll hear some music while I finish my report.
  • How will my decisions affect others around me? My wife wasn’t going to do anything tonight so she’ll be fine, getting the report done will better my relationship with my boss.

Another one

  • Why am I here? I need to do the laundry
  • What is going on around me? There is no soap and there is a lot of clothing.
  • What am I going to do about it? I’ll go to the store to buy soap and get back and do it.
  • How will my decisions affect those around me? Everyone will feel good with clean clothes.

When you are extremely tired, challenges as dumb as the ones I just outlined get difficult. These 4 questions can help you to think clearly at any moment and will provide you with a framework to act.

With time, you’ll begin to use this method even without thinking and thinking clearly will become a habit. Practice it whenever and wherever you can to gain perspective.

I hope it serves you well.

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