How To Think Logically: A Simple Mental Model For Getting Better Results

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I’m going to take you through a thought experiment rather than go on and on citing famous people quotes and trying to inspire you that way.

My singular goal here is to infect your mind with a way of thinking about your problems and decisions. You probably suck at thinking. Most do, so don’t feel bad.

No one teaches us how to think? Have you ever taken a “How To Think” class? Doubt it.

Humans are born without an operating manual. You are a sack of flesh and bones which amount to a small pile of stardust when picked apart, yet you have the most powerful machine the Universe has ever created sitting between your ears—the human brain.

This power is greater than most people know how to control. So they misuse it or don’t use it at all, both a waste.

The thing I want to focus on today is a first principle of the human condition. To start, we need to go back to Ancient Greece.

Let’s kick it off with a simple quote from my favorite Stoic philosopher:It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. -Epictetus

Accepting things outside of your control is a foundational tenant of Stoicism. People need to understand and accept this idea more than ever, which is why Stoicism has surged in popularity in recent years.

This idea is the lens we’re going to use to get better at thinking logically and making better decisions in general.

The first way to immediately level up your thinking is to stop wasting time in bad thinking patterns.

What are bad thinking patterns?

Well, there are many, but they usually stem from not respecting the quote above.

Most people spend time blaming others and playing the—poor me, how could they, etc.

This thinking trap is nothing more than gunk clogging up your mind, and this keeps you from thinking logically.

Simply put: don’t think emotionally.

If you think emotionally, you aren’t thinking logically. If you are thinking logically, you aren’t thinking emotionally.

See how that works?

So the first principle of thinking logically is removing all emotion. And you do this by identifying the law of your physical reality: you can only control how you respond to things.

You can never change the past no matter how many dreams of Marty McFly you wake up to. This is why the past is the ultimate grounding tool for reality: it forces you to accept and to go inward.

And this is the first step to better thinking.

Thinking logically comes in two parts:

  1. Accept you can’t change what has come to past no matter how unfair it is
  2. So the only choice you now have is to remove all emotion from your thought process.

Now that we’ve established some ground rules for thinking better—accept things outside your control and remove emotion—we can get to the other piece of the puzzle: personal responsibility.

Extreme ownership is a book you should read. The concept is a counterintuitive way of thinking more logically. It doesn’t seem like it should help you think better, but oh does it.

You see, most people waste time in hypotheticals, what-ifs, and maybes. These are usually based on other people or random circumstances—things outside of your control.

These are huge time-wasters, and they pull your mind away from things that move the needle.

Taking extreme ownership of your situation and what you’re going to do is paramount to thinking logically. Ownership is integral to the Stoic principle of accepting things outside of your control.

So what does this taking ownership thing look like?

Well, the answer to this is person dependent, but it generally involves intense focus on yourself and what you can do.

For example, start with making lists about possible actions you can take. Pro and con lists are useful. As are feature lists and benefit lists. You could journal away and brain dump anything that comes to mind.

By focusing on yourself and taking full responsibility for thinking about your situation, you’ll uncover better ideas for thinking logically, critically, and unemotionally, and this will help you get better results in life across the board.

Let’s review:

  1. Accept the things outside yourself rather than wasting time or energy fretting over them
  2. Channel your focus into what you can control as the center of your thinking
  3. Take extreme ownership of the things in your control and reason up from there

There are other strategies for thinking logically and some situations that may be more abstract and less on your shoulders, but you can’t go wrong with building these principles into strong thinking muscles. They are, after all, first principles of life, not just thinking, and are worth the investment.

The Daily 6

Daily tip or recommendation:

You can’t think logically if you are upset. Don’t even try. Take a day or an hour and get outside to take a walk or workout.

Daily book recommendation:

Mental Models by Farnam Street - short book, highly recommended

Daily health tip:

Thinking about your health should be simple. Do not complicate it. Here are the principles to focus on: eat real food, sleep a lot, move daily and often, let go of things, be in the moment, get sunlight, have relationships, have purpose, have hobbies, care about things, stop letting negativity and junk into your mind and body. That’s pretty much it.

Daily cooking tip:

Cook at home. Just do it. If you want anything for your health, you must center it around cooking real food.

Daily thoughts about money:

Don’t think about money in a fearful state. That’s how you end up repelling money. Always know that money can always be got.