Lighthouses shine out to show where the shoreline is. They need to have a powerful light that beams through raging storms to show the way. Because of that brilliant light, ships can navigate safely even in a terrible tempest.
Your mind is a living lighthouse. It can guide you to make good decisions in dark times. This chapter helps you increase your brightness, think clearly, and shine your thoughts in any direction.
Becoming a Clear Thinker
There is no magic formula for becoming a clear thinker. Like everything worthwhile, it takes practice. However, the suggestions that follow should help you.
Be patient. 🟪 Don’t expect quick solutions to every problem or challenge you face. Clear thinking often takes time and requires you to plan, listen, and discuss.
Set goals. 🟪 Separate the tasks you can do now (short-term goals) from those you need to work on step-by-step to accomplish (long-term goals).
Get involved. 🟪 Read books, magazines, and Web sites; watch films, view documentaries; participate in sports, join a club; look at art, create your own art.
Think logically. 🟪 Think beyond your feelings and emotions. Don’t accept the first answer that pops into your head. Look at all sides of a problem and consider all the possible solutions.
Ask questions. 🟪 Be curious about what you read, what you hear, even what you see. If you think you know “what” it is, then ask why, who, when, where, how, how much, why not, what if?
Be creative. 🟪 Do not settle for the obvious answer or the usual way of doing things. Look at things in a new way—redesign, reinvent, rearrange, rewrite.
Make connections. 🟪 Pay attention to the details and how they are tied together. Use what you have learned to help you solve new problems. Make comparisons and connections.
Write things down. 🟪 Writing can help you clarify ideas and remember them longer. It can help you discover things you didn’t know you knew.
Note Writing can help you sort through your thoughts and see them in a whole new light.
Using Facts and Opinions Correctly
A fact is something that is true—something that really happened and can be proven. An opinion is something that someone believes; it may or may not be true and cannot be directly proven. Facts tell us the way things are; opinions tell us how a person thinks or feels.
Opinion: Lonely people should adopt pets from shelters.
Fact: Studies show that pet ownership reduces loneliness and depression.
Fact: Pets in shelters need homes.
Writing an Opinion Statement
First, you must decide what your opinion is. Then you need to put your opinion into words that others will understand. Follow this basic formula to help you write a good opinion statement.
Formula: A specific topic (Adopting pets from shelters)
+ your opinion (benefits animals and people alike)
= a good opinion statement
Adopting pets from shelters benefits animals and people alike.
Tip Opinions that include absolute words such as all, best, every, never, or worst are difficult to support.
All homeowners should have at least one pet.
Supporting Your Opinion
Use clear, specific facts to support your opinion. Readers are more likely to agree with an opinion based on facts.
Opinion Based on a Fact
We recommend a rescue adoption, which saves the life of the pet.
Opinion Based on Another Personal Opinion
We recommend a rescue adoption, which is the right thing to do.
Avoiding Fuzzy Thinking
When you’re trying to convince others, you need to think and write clearly and stick to the facts. Avoid lazy or fuzzy thinking. Use these suggestions to keep your thinking clear and logical.
Don’t make statements that jump to conclusions.
“Because a dog can live for 15 years, people over 65 should never get a puppy.”
This statement jumps to a conclusion. It assumes that no one lives to 80 (which is false), and that older people cannot make arrangements for their pets when they are unable to care for them.
Don’t make statements that compare things that aren’t really like each other.
“A dog is like a guardian angel living in your home.”
Some dogs may be like guardian angels, but many others are not. Behavior varies. Also, unlike a guardian angel, a dog needs food, companionship, shelter, vet visits, and opportunities to relieve itself. The comparison is not very accurate.
Don’t make statements that are based on feelings instead of facts.
“Big dogs are goofy and friendly, but little dogs are mean.”
Some big dogs may be goofy and friendly, but others are not. Some little dogs may be mean, but others are not. The writer’s observations about dog size and temperament are based on personal feelings rather than facts.
Don’t make statements that are half-truths.
“Dogs understand human language; they just can’t speak it.”
While it is true that dogs learn the meaning of some human words, they do not understand whole conversations. Knowing a few words of Spanish doesn’t mean that you understand the Spanish language.
Don’t say that things are worse—or better—than they are.
“We have a loneliness epidemic that is killing people in their homes and killing pets in the shelters. Rescue a pet to save its life and your own.”
Loneliness is a real problem for people and for pets in shelters. However, calling it an “epidemic” that is “killing” people and pets is overstating the case. The writer sounds untrustworthy and overly emotional.
Don’t make statements just because most people agree with them.
“All you have to do is look a dog in the eyes, and you know who is a good boy.”
Dog lovers would agree with this statement, but some people are afraid of dogs. And some dogs are deserving of fear. Besides, some dogs are good (or bad) girls.
Tip After you have read each of the six Don’t statements, go back and read them again. Then rewrite each of the “fuzzy” examples so that they are clear. Compare your examples with the examples written by your classmates.
Making Good Decisions
You make many decisions. You decide what to wear to school, where to sit at lunch, what book to read for your next report. Many of these decisions can be made quickly and easily.
Other decisions are much more difficult and take time and thought. Use the following guidelines when you face a tough decision.
1. Define your goals.
- What are you trying to figure out or accomplish?
- What decision do you have to make?
2. List your options or choices.
- What options have already been tried?
- What other things could be done?
3. Study your options.
- Think carefully about each option.
- Write down the pluses and minuses of each one.
4. Rank the options.
- Put your options in order from best to worst, from easiest to most difficult, from quickest to longest.
- Ask for help from someone who knows about this issue.
5. Choose the best option.
- Consider all your options carefully.
- Select the best option. (The best option for you might not be the best option for someone else.)
6. Review all the steps.
- Let some time pass.
- Repeat the process to see if your thinking has changed.
You have to solve problems every day. Some problems are small and easy to solve. Other problems are big and hard to figure out. For big problems, you need a step-by-step plan to find the best solution.
1. Identify or name the problem.
- What is the problem?
2. List what you know about the problem.
- What exactly is wrong or needs to be done?
- What caused the problem?
- Has this problem happened before?
3. Think of possible solutions.
- What could you do right now?
- What could you do a little at a time?
4. Try out the solutions.
- Imagine each solution in action.
- Imagine the result of each solution. What will happen?
- Try out different solutions if you can.
5. Choose the best solution.
- Think of what’s best for others as well as for you.
- Put your plan into action.
6. Evaluate the result.
- How did things work out?
- If you had it to do over again, would you choose the same solution?
Basic Thinking Moves
This chart shows you the kinds of “thinking moves” you can use to help you gather, organize, re-examine, and evaluate your thoughts.
Talk to others
Read, write, draw
Ask who, what, when, where, why?
Ask how, how much?
Put in the right order
Argue for or against
Create new ideas
Wonder what if . . .
(Is this the best way?)
(Is this the best order?)
(Is this the best wording?)
(Is this the best form?)
Criticize (Is it interesting?)
Persuade (Is it worthwhile?)