Nance was recently asked by Upjourney how to be a quick thinker. You might recall she is a bit of a brain nerd. Here’s what she had to say:
As scientists and researchers discover more about how our brains work, I gobble up the information. I learned several years ago that I am a lot happier and more productive when I am keeping my thoughts in check. I often tell my clients, “Our brains play tricks on us.” Or, as a few of my coaches and mentors have reminded me, “Our thoughts are not a reliable test for reality.”
Experts estimate we have more than 6,000 thoughts per day. I’ve read we might actually have five to 10 times that many. Regardless, we have far more than we are aware of and acting on. I work with my clients to release the ones that are harmful or hurtful and pay attention to the ones that inspire or empower them. With practice, this also allows them to think more quickly.
It is not unusual for us to overthink situations because they seem familiar and trigger exaggerated responses. I am told this is the amygdala being triggered to keep us safe. We sometimes respond as though we’re about to be eaten by a bear, when emotional pain is more likely than physical pain or death. Apparently, our brains have not evolved to distinguish between these two types of pain very well.
I’m no scientist, but what I have learned through my independent research and observation of clients is that the three most important things for us to do to think quickly are:
- Resolve past hurts. When we carry the burden of self-judgment, shame, and fear, we slow our response time. We tend to first filter our thoughts through the fear and question whether our initial thoughts are real. We second-guess ourselves because we’ve forgotten who we are. Instead, we think we are what we’ve done or felt.. Clearing these brain patterns will make us “think” more quickly.
- Know your areas of competence. “I don’t know” is an acceptable thought and answer, especially when something is outside an area that interests you. Don’t feel the need to comment or have an opinion on everything.
- Take great physical care. Our brains need rest, exercise, nutrient-rich foods, and proper hydration. When we don’t get these, we don’t think as quickly or clearly. Likewise, alcohol and other substances will slow our thinking.
For the record, it’s sometimes okay to think slowly, too. Be careful not to push yourself to an unreasonable (and probably unhealthy) standard of quick thinking.
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Nance L. Schick, Esq., is a workplace attorney, ethno-religious mediator, and conflict resolution coach based in New York City. Her goal is to keep you out of court and build your conflict resolution skills so everyone has a better work experience. She helps managers and business owners have empowering conversations about emotionally-charged issues such as gender, race, religion, and disability. She is creator of the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process, author of DIY Conflict Resolution, and an award-winning entrepreneur acknowledged by Super Lawyers (ADR, 2018, 2019 & 2020), the New York Economic Development Corporation/B-Labs (Finalist, Best for NYC 2015 & 2016), U.S. Chamber of Commerce (2015 Blue Ribbon Small Business), Enterprising Women Magazine (Honorable Mention, 2014 Woman of the Year awards).