By Francis Keith Robins, author of ‘Power of Objective Thinking’
Adopting an objective way of thinking i.e. not seeking reality / creating perceptions will solve what the New Scientist describes as one of the greatest mysteries known to philosophy and science: consciousness. Objective thinking brings your conscious and subconscious in line. Thus, your mind is free from the clutter of perceptions and generalisations.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is looking at plans to ensure all school pupils in England study maths in some form until the age of 18. It’s a move that will delight cosmologists who believe the universe is one mathematical object and holds the key to order and peacefulness in our lives. As a mathematician myself, I believe that everything is connected and that by adopting a mathematical way of thinking we can all take a step closer to achieving personal happiness and fulfilment.
If we think of everyday tasks as mathematical sets, we can train our brains to operate objectively and create a more efficient way of understanding and accepting what is going on around us. We can treat what is around us as simply a set of knowledge: computer, table, carpet.
However, we must also be aware that information we receive through our senses is not always accurate. It is not necessarily a factual representation of the outside world. When we receive information through our senses, we add our own interpretation and emotion onto this information. This can create false characteristics. Therefore, we should put this ‘knowledge’ into a separate set so that we are not tempted to create a picture of the world around us based on this erroneous information.
Sets are groups or lists of objects with specific characteristics – they are connected. For example, if we want to travel from A to B we create a set that contains all the transport options. This helps us to think objectively without pre-sorting options based on subjective feelings or perceptions.
But the modern world, in which we are bombarded with information, including a heavy reliance on social media, has deteriorated our quality of thinking and with it, our level of personal happiness. We are now heavily influenced by external snapshots of other people’s lives, which leads to shaped, and often false, perceptions. Learning how to think objectively can be hugely beneficial in overcoming stress, especially for teenagers suffering with mental health problems, as it is often the perceptions that are creating the stress.
By moving away from creating a subjective picture of the world, and instead focusing on objective mathematical thinking models you can concentrate on making the most of your life. You can seek members of sets that you wish to try. For example, a set of TV channels, with subsets of programmes to watch. Or a set of elements in your neighbourhood to visit with subsets like museums, shops, cafes, etc.
Adopting a mathematical thinking model in order to reduce stress and anxiety doesn’t involve ‘doing’ any maths. It is about thinking differently so you can stop feeling overwhelmed by classifying information and putting it into what is known as mathematical sets. In particular, we can classify information we receive and ensure we focus on what is important, like kindness, helpfulness, loyalty, honesty, etc.
Here are a few tips, based on a mathematical way of thinking, that will help reduce stress and overwhelm. Although these ways of thinking may not immediately appear mathematical, each suggestion comes from mathematical thinking where the facts are what matters, not the assumptions, or external influences or the things we cannot control – just ourselves, what we can control, and the facts we can be sure of.
- Reference the past only to find learnings or things you’d like to enjoy again. Don’t refer back to bad experiences, whether yours personally or someone else’s, or even those of humanity as a whole. Refer back only to learn. You can put the event in a ‘mistakes’ set and the learnings in a ‘new approaches’ set. You can also have a refer-back set called ‘experiences I loved’ so you can look to this set for things you’d like to do again.
- Ignore what you can’t control. In general terms there is little you can do to change the outside world; you can’t stop the war in Ukraine, or the rising price of fuel, so stop focusing on what you can’t control and instead focus on what you can. Worrying about the outside world doesn’t help you and won’t change it. Don’t try to control things you can’t control. Focus on what you can do. This frees up the mind and ensures it is not cluttered with perceptions and generalisations which is far better for our mental health.
- Adopt a childlike quality that allows things to go over your head. When we are very young, we don’t really think beyond what makes us happy. We don’t worry about what other people think of us and we are much more in tune with our sensory pleasures such as touch, smell and sound. A child’s faith is unshakable, they don’t question, doubt or seek explanations when they are doing something that gives them pleasure. As long as what you are doing is not dangerous or life-threatening, enjoy it for what it is.
- Remember every decision has a consequence. This can be mathematically represented by an equation: decision = consequences. Both sides form a set, and this can be used for teaching/learning purposes whether talking to children or adults about the consequences of their actions.
- Stop making generalisations about people or stereotyping them – this is the source of many conflicts. Everyone is unique, which can be represented as a unique set of knowledge (although everyone is based on the same template). Allow them the courtesy and opportunity to show you their uniqueness, rather than pigeon-holing them before you even know anything about them. This applies to individuals, and groups of people. By thinking of them as mathematical sets, the emotion can be removed and only the objective fact of the set remains.
- Everyone should create a routine and structure in their lives that allows them to ensure the important parts of life are dealt with and included. These need to be in the ‘priority set’. Focus on things that matter to you. Someone else will have different priorities.
- Learn philosophical phrases such as ‘worse things could happen.’ It reminds us that perhaps things are not as bad as we think. Saying these phrases will help lessen the stress you are feeling over a particular issue/incident. This is not a panacea but it can help.
- Remove all objects from your environment that you know will cause weakness. These can be in mathematical sets of mistakes, precautions, etc. For example, eating crisps is a mistake if want to lose weight. So, add ‘remove crisps from the house’ to the precaution set. Having constantly to battle temptation is enough to make anyone feel overwhelmed.
- Everyone makes mistakes, don’t beat yourself up about them. If they are important mistakes, break them down into sets – the mistake, and the learning. And then share these sets with colleagues and other connected individuals. Remember, the mistake is in the past, make corrections if you can and learn for the future. I believe it should be role of the parent, with a backup of education, to teach children possible common mistakes and their relevant precautions. This means actually making mistakes is not the only way youngsters learn.
- Consider adding non-academic skills to your routine, such as sport or art and join groups where you will find people with similar interests. As a parent or teacher, look for the child’s non-academic skills too. Learning new social skills can help you make friends if you find this challenging. Being among like-minded people can be a real tonic. We are not alone, our problems can be shared, and we can see that other people are also struggling with their own overwhelm.
- Challenge celebrity culture, bullying, crime and racism. Concentrate on living your life and focus on the qualities we can’t discern from our senses, like kindness, helpfulness and empathy, as these are far more rewarding for the body and mind.
- Don’t automatically assume that everything you hear is true. Treat the information as words/language that could be true or false. It’s easy to focus on appearances or on the tangible thing in front of you, but what matters most is the things you don’t discern directly through your senses, such as kindness, honesty and loyalty. As the saying goes, ‘you cannot always judge a book by its cover’.
Everything that exists in the universe is in a relationship with something else. Nothing exists in isolation. The mathematical element of life is not about number crunching, it’s simply about creating sets.
The important thing is to try not to get set in your ways. Humans are creatures of habit but the more flexible we can be in our everyday life, the more we are engaging our mind and connecting with what is around us.
We are already unconsciously adopting math sets in our daily lives but by changing or even tweaking the combinations or items in the set, we can achieve some of the contentment we remember feeling as a child.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Francis Keith Robins is author of ‘Power of Objective Thinking’ which shows us how to use, tried and tested objective thinking patterns to reduce stress and a sense of overwhelm or helplessness. Francis has a hypersensitive mind and thinks objectively by default. He has developed a template to create an objective model for any experience or system. See: www.powerofobjectivethinking.com