Top Tip #2

Tip: Don’t think nonsense; instead, think smart by training yourself in the life skill of UPPER LEVEL SMART THINKING.

Here, we can barely scratch the surface of the subject of smart thinking, but hopefully you will get a taste of the topic to stimulate your interest in being as smart as you can be about everything in your reality that is important to you.

LEVEL 1 – The training technique

In principle, training yourself in the life skill of smart thinking is to be constantly aware of your thinking and to always be thinking about (not just thinking of) everything important to you in your reality. The process of thinking about issues is the key to making smart decisions, being logical, understanding, being creative, being inventive, solving problems and whatever else you need to be smart about.

Side tip: You are likely to do your best thinking when you are relaxed. Upset emotions “put a monkey wrench” into your mechanisms of smart thinking. This is why Tip #1 is my Tip Top Tip.


LEVEL 2 – The training tool template

There are countless important issues you want to be smart about. Here, I am going to illustrate only one application of smart thinking: training yourself in thinking about your thoughts and your emotions in order to feel better. This is important because obviously everyone wants to feel good, which is more likely if you are smart about it.

Make a chart on a blank page consisting of two vertical lines to make three equally sized vertical columns. At the top of the page, label the chart as Smart Thought Charting or another term that could be used is Cognitive Charting (the word cognitive being a fancy word for “thinking”).

Label the top of the left hand column as Negative emotions. Label the middle column Negative Thoughts, and the right hand column Corrective Thoughts. Whenever you have a negative emotion, such as anxiety, write the emotion, “anxiety” in the left hand column. Other negative emotions your might like to chart could be depression, anger, hurt, guilt, and so on. Then go to the middle column to write down the thoughts in your mind at the time you feel the negative emotion. These are words in your mind that you can write as sentences. An example might be thoughts in your imagination of people having negative thoughts of you and perhaps other thoughts of being rejected, impending doom, failure, sickness and death, and so on. At first, you may not be aware that you have thoughts generating your negative emotions, but they are there and you need to become aware of how they work to make you feel bad. Write down those thoughts in the middle column under negative thoughts. Then go to the right hand column and here you think about creating corrective (smart) thoughts in order to neutralize the negative thoughts in the middle column, to tone down the negative emotions in the left hand column.

There are two tricks for the column of corrective thoughts that often work. The first one is to take the statement in the middle column, turn it upside down and write it in the right hand column. As an example, the thought “people are judging me” upside down is “no, they’re not.” Then compare the two opposing thoughts in the middle and right hand column and choose the one that is more reasonable, rational, logical, sensible, and realistic. It should be the thought(s) in the corrective column. Choose those to believe and stick with them. The second trick is to write the statement: “I don’t care” in the corrective column and try rethinking the issue from that perspective. Of course you have to care about your responsibilities, but there may be many issues that you can appropriately care less about for good reason, such as because you have no control over them. One or the other or both of the above two tricks should work better for you. If neither works you can think about creating other corrective thoughts tailor-made to neutralize the negative emotion.

At the beginning of training in rethinking your thinking, it helps to use this charting tool when you feel a negative emotion and write it all down to re-think your thinking. As you develop more skill, you can do the corrections just mentally in your head.

LEVEL 3 – Try a trial test to see what happens

Start with the negative emotion that plagues you the most, such as anxiety. Do the charting and see if re-thinking your thinking is helpful to tone down the negative emotion, especially in combination with relaxation training.

LEVEL 4 – The target goal

The goal with cognitive charting training is to always manage your emotions appropriately with smart thinking. Moreover, the goal in life is to always use smart thinking to become as smart as you can be in all things important to you through life so that you feel good and function well in creating order and avoiding making chaos.

LEVEL 5 – Typical cases in point

Many of my patients care too much about too many things and as a result are anxious people. That is not smart thinking and it can be helpful for this type of anxiety to think about caring less about many things, when appropriate. I am sure you know from your own experience, many other examples of people’s thinking that is not smart. For example, in my own practice, I have seen many people making terribly bad choices generated by bad thinking or because they haven’t done enough appropriate thinking.

LEVEL 6 – The theory

The way we end up thinking and what we believe, is our choice, in spite of our primary automatic thoughts, which largely determine how we feel emotionally. This means that you can largely control your negative emotions through managing your thinking. Further, you can largely control your life better by employing upper level smart thinking.

Metaphorically we have two levels of thinking: lower and upper. At the lower level of thinking, you have automatic thoughts that you passively think of when they are stimulated and they are the first to pop up in your mind. They take little or no effort and time and they reflexly influence how you feel emotionally. These are the thoughts to record in the middle column of your cognitive chart that need your attention when they generate negative emotions such as anxiety or depression. At your upper level of thinking you have the ability to think about what you think of, in an active intentional effort to create new and better ways of thinking. Smart thinking at the upper level has the quality of generating new thoughts for creating order and good in life. This is the nature of the corrective thoughts to create for the right hand column of your thought chart.

Your upper level is, or can be superior in power to your lower level of thinking, which can be made to be subordinate. This means that you can just go along with your established lower level thoughts, or you can take charge of your thinking functions and govern them with your upper level capacities of creatively thinking about everything important to you. This is one important application of the life skill of self-control, which we will discuss in more detail later (life skill #8).

Unfortunately, correcting the negative thoughts don’t make them or the emotions they generate disappear. However, correcting them gives you the opportunity to “smarten up” and go with smart thoughts to retrain your automatic thinking patterns for the better in the long run. The more you push your negative emotions down with corrective thoughts, the more they tend to stay down and the better you feel.

 LEVEL 7 – Try more Tests and Trials

Expand your charting to other negative emotions that plague you in order to re-think all your thinking that generates your negative emotions. Try thinking carefully about other issues besides your negative emotions and see if you can re-think more things out better. You can combine this skill with the life skill of relaxation. They work well together in dealing with life events if you use the two life skills in the following order:

first Stop → then Relax → then Think (properly) ———- →

Tension interferes with smart thinking. The important principle here is to stop, relax, and think about everything that is important to you. Figure out how you can do better in all things, but especially when things are not going well. There are endless applications. The more you try upper level thinking, I predict the better you will like it. It is good to be a smart person, not just a person who is smart sometimes.

LEVEL 8 – Tracking your progress

After each month or two of training, think about what percent better are you at smart thinking since the start of your training in the skill.

LEVEL 9 – Take off

Use this life skill to launch yourself away from the problems it can help you solve or resolve and to go on to a better way of living in which you can feel good and function well. Make an extensive list of the specific problems and issues this life skill empowers you to rise above and leave behind. Visualize yourself doing so.

LEVEL 10 – Texts for this topic

Our discussion here has barely scratched the surface of all there is to know about smart thinking. For further in-depth reading on the subject, I can recommend:

Books are not available at this time.