Want to make the best use of your brain over a lifetime? The first step is to embrace and consistently pay attention to the following seven points. These are the essential keys to making fewer irrational decisions, identifying deceptions at a higher rate, while also discarding or avoiding most delusions that come your way:
• An understanding of the evolutionary history of the human brain and how it has left us with a thinking organ that goes about its business in unexpected ways that often mislead us about reality.
• Knowledge of the basic structures and functions of the human brain, how vision and memory work, for example. How personal recollections and sensations can seem real even when they are not.
• Awareness of the prominent role of the subconscious mind in daily life, and the understanding that we inherited our brains from ancestors shaped by extremely competitive and dangerous environments that made fast subconscious reaction a priority over slower conscious reflection and imagination.
• An alertness to many of the natural and common mental biases and shortcuts that can undermine rational thought.
• The courage and maturity not only to question everything but also to accept the absence of answers and those answers that may contradict hopes and beliefs that appeal to us.
• Sufficient humility to prevent one from placing absolute trust in sensory perceptions, personal experiences, and even thoughtful conclusions. A willingness to always reconsider, revise, and change one’s mind when better evidence demands it.