How can I expand my ability to think deeply? by Leon Hulett
Answer by Leon Hulett:
“How can I expand my ability to think deeply?”
There are basic principles in the subject of study that can be applied to this question. You might want to familiarize yourself with these principles.
Earlier in my life I had asked about 500 people if they had ever had a course in “How to Study.” It was a long time before anyone ever said, “Yes.” When people said they had taken one, it turned out to be library science, speed reading or something that did not contain the basic principles of study. Teachers have said to students, “You don’t know how to study.” That is nearly always followed by them providing no effective means to study. One person recommended a book, “Effective Study” by Francis Pleasant Robinson that they said was effective for them. This book is like an early Coursera type of book that has a few helpful tips, but does not address basic principles, and both of these sources do contain a lot of false information. Not being able to think with something, is a symptom of having false data on that subject. Not having the basic principles though, that means you have a collection of data or suppositions rather than an organized subject.
To specifically address “the ability to think deeply.” One might first consider the basic principle called “Gradients in Study.” The idea is that if you start simply enough or early enough in a subject, learn the subject step by step, and gradually increase the level of difficulty one can learn anything, no matter how complex. You don’t want to use too low of a gradient of increase because the person will get bored. You don’t want to go too fast because the person will experience definite physiological symptoms related to too steep a gradient. When that happens you want to notice those things, and then you cut back to where you were doing well. You will find you did not quite get that part, so you have to fill in that part and then you can continue on that same gradient again without the symptoms of too steep a gradient. The symptoms are: “a sort of confusion” relating to what you are studying. “A reelingness” related to what you are studying. So if this is happening to you, you want to fix the gradient you are using to study. You notice the confusion and reelingness and you stop, cut back and learn the earlier step more thoroughly.
I would expect this if you were not studying something step-by-step, where the subject is NOT arranged (using gradient technology) to learn each part, the knowledge and skills of each part, then building on that going on to the next more complex step that is dependent on the earlier knowledge and skills, and adding up at the end to a final product of the student having all the knowledge and skills of that subject, and the ability to use the terminology of that subject.
Put more simply, if you are not experiencing, or have not experienced, a sort of confusion and a reelingness when you were trying to “think deeply,” then you should look to another basic principle of study for a remedy.
Basic principle: The only reason a person becomes unable to learn is that they have gone past a word they do not understand.
The next thing to check is for words you do not understand, specifically while reading what you are reading. I would have a student read the material they are having difficulty with, out-loud to me while I have a copy of the same material and I follow along closely in the material and observing what they are doing.
If they come to a word and can not pronounce it, I would stop. If they come to a word and hesitate, I would stop. If they substitute a word, I would stop. I want them to have the ability to read out-loud comfortably, quickly and easily. If I see pretty much anything that amounted to stress or strain while reading, I would stop. Normally, the person has another explanation for this and it seems a little embarrassing to them. They might say, “I did not get enough sleep last night.” One student said, “I am being tutored on Phonics, at night.” In that case, I just pronounced the word for him, and had him reread the material. If he still stumbled, then I would find the word that caused that, then have the person re-read the material. I would expect them to now read it quickly and easily, comfortable without stress or strain. When I do this I notice the person starts reading faster and faster. If the person has a very small vocabulary and can not yet use a dictionary, I would just say the appropriate meaning for the word quickly and see they got it, and move on.
I would estimate that there is an 80% or 90% probability that your difficulty is from a word early in the same subject that you went past and did not understand (well enough to not cause you trouble later on.).
Here is another principle from the subject of study; “There are no misunderstood concepts, only misunderstood words.” If you feel you do not understand a concept, the best remedy is to find the earlier word, or words, you did not understand, that clarifies the concept.
“I struggle to grasp complex ideas presented in tough classes such as physics and economics.”
I, as a Tutor, would look for and find, an earlier word in that subject that allows your willingness to learn, and your ability to learn, to return. I would then see you restudied the material up to the point of and including the complex idea. Then I would expect you will learn the concept much more easily. Then you should take a good course on how to study so you know how to study well enough, and can recognize when something is going wrong, so you don’t need a Tutor.
“Moreover, I feel overwhelmed when reading complex philosophical/spiritual/science books that present unconventional/new ideas.”
I would have you demo each of the concepts of the book from the beginning of the book forward to where you are having trouble.
Basic principle: ”There must be a balance of mass and significance.” If the complex ideas you are having a problem with, have any mass or energy connected with using them, you may have this problem. You will see these physiological symptoms: The student may feel “squashed”, “bent”, “sort of spinny”, “sort of dead”, “bored”, or “exasperated”. Just supply the mass and energy needed to do the subject or a reasonable approximation, and the person will brighten up very quickly. If there is an imbalance, an if you have the student demo the masses, energies and actions of the subject with little objects then they will brighten up quickly. I use little stones, or coins from one’s pocket or nuggets of copper ore from a river bed. So, this is a quick test you can use to check for this principle.
“How can I transcend beyond the “conventional” way of thinking and expand my mind?”
I would have you learn a new definition of concept. Then learn to apply that to each thing you are studying.
A concept is: “A high level thought devoid of (completely without) symbols, pictures, words or sounds. It is the direct idea of something rather than its sound or symbol.”
This will place you beyond the conventional way of thinking.
I once had an Engineering Department and I was able to increase their productivity by 4X with one simple trick. I took the idea of “concept” and the idea of “demonstration” and combined them. I had each Engineer repeat each task 5 times. When they did this they could do the tasks without thinking about them, there was no memorization, they were super fast. When I did this with students I found it usually only required 2 or 3 repetitions for them to be able to do the task quickly and easily with comfort. I think that would be a definite expansion of your mind, if you could do that.
Good luck, and let me know how you do on this. – Leon