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Top tips for smarter thinking

Drs Jamie Barker and Martin Turner from The Smarter Thinking Project  share their best advice on smarter thinking for improved performance. 

Recognise


One of the most important things about Smarter Thinking is realising and gaining some insight into your own thought processes in adverse situations. It is important to recognise that your emotions and behaviours are driven not by the situation or event, but by your thoughts and beliefs. Therefore, a useful question to ask when experiencing unwanted emotions is “what am I telling myself about this situation, that is causing me to feel like this?” This question is useful to trigger thoughts about the Smarter Thinking process, and also ensures that you recognise that you are responsible for your emotions. 

Another useful way to gain insight into your thoughts and beliefs is to keep a thought diary or log. This actually serves two purposes. The first is to record what you are thinking to reflect back on and understand what some of the key thoughts driving your emotions are. Second, by writing the thoughts down, you actually combat worry and rumination so that you are not bogged down with unhelpful thoughts. 

Reappraise


This phase is all about challenging your beliefs. The most effective way to do this is to dispute your beliefs from three perspectives. If you are able to answer 'no' to any of the following challenges, then your beliefs are not 'Smart'.

  1. Is there any evidence that your belief(s) are true?
  2. Do your beliefs make sense? Are they logical? Are they consistent with reality?
  3. Are your beliefs helping you to manage your emotions? Are they helping you to deliver a performance? In other words, are your beliefs pragmatic?

Replace


After challenging your thoughts and beliefs, it is important to replace the discarded ones with new and useful beliefs. Your new beliefs should be (a) true, (b) logical and (c) pragmatic. This can be tough, as you won't automatically accept the new thoughts straight off the bat. For example, you may change "I am a failure if I fail" to "Failure is bad, but does not make me a failure". You have changed your illogical belief to a more logical belief. But next, give the new logical belief a score out of 100% for how much you really believe in it. As you hold and use that logical belief overtime, your % score will increase. Really, it's all about forming new and healthy thoughts and habits, which takes time.

Mentally rehearse the replacement phrase, so that you are able to visualise how you will implement your new beliefs in the moment. This involves using imagery to mentally put yourself into difficult situations, and practising using your new thinking to take control of your emotions and behaviours. This takes practice, but means that you are able to rehearse your Smarter Thinking safely and repetitively.

Reinforce


Once 'new' beliefs have been created a Smarter Thinking will reinforce these beliefs on a regular basis to enable them to live and breathe this new philosophy. Therefore it is important that these beliefs are visible to you as you navigate your world. For example, these beliefs can be put onto cue cards in wallets and purses, used as mobile phone screen saves and displayed on the fridge door. This way, the new beliefs you have developed become imbedded, and then after a while, you won't need the cue cards.

Set diary notifications on your phone/laptop to Think Smarter. This might be at 8am every day, giving you your new beliefs as a daily boost to your Smarter Thinking.