How to Think Clearly | The Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius
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Almost everyone thinks they are a good thinker, but in reality, few people really are. A truly great thinker is constantly growing and evolving, so take a look around you: how many people do you see moving forward in life? How many people do you see solving problem after problem? And on the contrary, how many people do you see running in circles? How many people do you see still trying to solve the same problems they were working on years ago?
The better you get at thinking, the better you get at solving problems. And good thinking begins with clarity. A clear thought is unambiguous, captures the essence of a thing, and is formulated logically. A clear thought can be communicated through a simple if-then statement. For example, if you turn on the tap, then you can get water. A clear thought leads to clear and intentional action. For example, the statement “if you turn on the tap, then you can get water” leads to clear action when you’re thirsty. And clear and intentional action leads to clear feedback. When you go to test the tap for water, you will immediately find out whether your original thought was true or not. Either water will come out or it won’t. And because clear feedback proves or disproves your thought, it helps improve your understanding of the world. Either you’ll find out that your understanding of the world is correct or incorrect, and finding out you are incorrect helps you move closer towards correctness. And the more correct your worldview is, the better you’ll be at solving problems.
Let’s take a look at an example. Marcus Aurelius earned the titles of “the last of the Five Good Emperors of Rome” and “philosopher king” by becoming a great leader. And he became a great leader by becoming a great thinker. And he became a great thinker by learning to think clearly. And he learned to think clearly by writing a private philosophy for himself which we now refer to as his Meditations. In his Meditations, Aurelius organizes his thoughts in a logical way, reflecting on the relationship between his actions and their effects.
And if you want to think clearly and improve your ability to solve your own problems, it would be wise of you to do the same. Organize your thoughts. Reduce their ambiguity and make them clear by turning them into simple if-then statements. Clear logic leads to clear thoughts. Clear thoughts lead to clear and intentional action. Clear and intentional action leads to clear feedback. Clear feedback leads to an improved understanding of the world. And a clearer understanding of the world leads to a better ability to solve problems. For example, let me formulate a clear, logical thought: “If I publish a how-to video with a philosopher in the title, then it will get over 100,000 views”. That’s a clear thought with clear logic. That clear thought leads to clear action: I will write that video and publish it. Now when this video is published, I’ll get clear feedback. We’ll both find out if that thought is true. And once I find out whether that thought is true or false, my understanding of the world will improve. And by improving my understanding of the world, I’ll be better equipped to solve my problem of being a successful YouTuber. So in conclusion, good thinking begins with clear thinking, and clear thinking begins by turning your thoughts into unambiguous, logical statements.
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As always, thanks for watching and I’ll see you next time.
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