How to become more rational in 3 steps
By valuing understanding above all else
Perhaps at some point in our future, our cultures will find common ground in valuing understanding. As a society, we’re currently still far too obsessed with our own little preferences and differences to make such a drastic leap. But as individuals, we’re fortunate to live in a time where have the freedom to reject shallow ideals if we so choose.
For those who want to override decades of confusing conditioning and become consistently mindful and present, committing to understanding is a powerful way to achieve just that.
My favorite philosopher dedicated his whole life towards valuing understanding:
“The highest activity a human being can attain is learning for understanding, because to understand is to be free.” — Baruch Spinoza
The first step towards changing your mindset would be to ensure that one has a genuine appreciation for logic, rationality and science. While some of us are born and raised with a thirst for these virtues through their parents and teachers, some have a higher mountain to climb. One could go through these steps in just few hours, while another person might need a week or two.
It can be profoundly inspiring to learn about how physics and mathematics, for example, underpin everything in the vast and intricate complexity of our universe. It can also be empowering to realize, as you learn, that even when we don’t know them, the answers to all our questions exist.
It also helps to be aware that science and logic are not about certainties but about how we can find out what is most likely. Our universe is a probabilistic phenomenon: Even a hypothetically perfect simulation could not predict with complete certainty how events would unfold.
There is a profound sense of acceptance in acknowledging that nothing is ever truly certain, but with our ability to reason, we can come up with solid approximations of what the best course of action is at each point in our lives.
The first step can be achieved simply by reflection, or learning about logic and science from books and documentaries (or even TV-series such as Cosmos).
“If you want the present to be different from the past, study the past.” ― Spinoza
The second step is to find what drives you emotionally. In this step, you pinpoint what it is that throughout your life your reward system has turned into its primary focus. It can simply be comfort, success or social validation for example.
Being brutally honest to yourself is required in this process of reflecting and understanding why, and what you did in your life. Writing down key moments and scenarios in your life can be very useful in this step. It will make you understand your motivations more clear. Meditation can be useful for the self-reflection needed in this step.
Your emotional core value will often be traced back to the moment you submitted your will to what gave you safety, and it is usually connected to the feeling of not being worthy or not able to take care of yourself.
Be aware that the extent to which you are too comfortable with your current core value will decide whether you have an easier or harder time following through the next step.
Realize that your current core value does not work for you. Connect it to a negative emotion in a similar process to how you would tell your inner child that what you are holding on to is not beneficial for your safety.
With enough self-reflection and inner dialogue, you can begin comparing how understanding everything is a much more solid foundation to live your life through than seeking comfort or social validation for example.
This process must happen on an emotional level, by discarding your current value and automatically holding on to understanding instead. If you are able to reach to your emotional core, the paradigm shift usually happens instantaneously.
When this leap happens, you will experience a huge relief, and the biggest rush of euphoria you can ever imagine.