Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Nuggets From Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes

* . . . we have to be motivated to think in a mindful, present fashion, to exert effort on what goes through our heads instead of going with the flow.

* Any habit is a habit that can be changed into another habit.

* When it comes right down to it, there is no such thing as free attention; it all has to come from somewhere.  And every time we place an additional demand on our attentional resources - be it by listening to music while walking, checking our email while working, or following five media streams at once - we limit the awareness that surrounds any one aspect and our ability to deal with it in an engaged, mindful, and productive manner.

* It's a fine line between efficiency and thoughtlessness - and one that we need to take care not to cross.

* When we are engaged in what we are doing, all sorts of things happen.  We persist longer at difficult problems - and become more likely to solve them.  We experience something that psychologist Tory Higgins refers to as flow, a presence of mind that not only allows us to extract more from whatever it is we are doing but also makes us feel better and happier; we derive actual, measurable hedonic value from the strength of our active involvement in and attention to an activity, even if the activity is as boring as sorting through stacks of mail.  If we have a reason to do it, a reason that engages us and makes us involved, we will both do it better and feel happier as a result.  The principle holds true even if we have to expend significant mental effort - say, in solving difficult puzzles.  Despite the exertion, we will still feel happier, more satisfied, and more in the zone, so to speak.

* When we are forced to do multiple things at once, not only do we perform worse on all of them but our memory decreases and our general well-being suffers a palpable hit.

* Walks have been shown repeatedly to stimulate creative thought and problem solving, especially if these walks take place in natural surroundings, like the woods, rather than in more urbanized environments (but both types are better than none - and even walking along a tree-lined street can help).  After a walk, people become better at solving problems; they persist longer at difficult tasks; and they become more likely to be able to grasp an insightful solution . . .

-- Maria Konnikova, from Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes

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