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Jerry Martin: Tap into the power of Sudoku

Power is a major psychological need of all humans. According to psychiatrist Dr. William Glasser’s Choice Theory, all humans have four psychological needs: belonging, power, freedom and fun.

We receive power from a variety of sources, including muscles, beauty, money, skills, knowledge, familiarity, seniority, connections, weapons, family, athleticism, education, wisdom, character, courage, curiosity, personality. All of these are achieved by a functioning brain (the hard drive) which is driven by the mind (the programmed soft drive).

All power requires information management, and not all people manage information well. Information is best managed using logic, a system of operating developed by our most intelligent ancestors.

When solving problems, answering questions or making decisions, employing logical information management will always produce the best results. But many human minds don’t think logically, so their thinking is not as good as it could be. These minds need a tune-up, just as an old car that hasn’t run in 10 years will run much better with a tune-up.

All STEM education — comprised of science, technology, engineering and math — trains many skills to use logical thinking. Students learning these subjects develop their minds to think logically so as to function as well as possible.

There is a puzzle, a game, called Sudoku, that also trains logical thinking without knowing any science, technology, engineering or math. Solving Sudoku puzzles develops thinking habits that employ logic, and this is a shortcut that bypasses the schooling necessary while learning STEM subjects. It also is useful for training children’s developing minds to think logically from their start into a complex world that requires maximal thinking skills. And most kids like it. So do many seniors.

I’m not saying Sudoku should replace STEM subjects, all of which teach practical subjects that have given humanity all the many inventions we enjoy today. And students of STEM can get jobs in a huge variety of activities. Nobody gets a job solving Sudoku puzzles.

For many years I’ve wondered what it is about Sudoku that attracts many adults, including myself, to voluntarily solve three or four puzzles every day with no tangible reward. Now I believe it’s a feeling, a confirmation of power, like a detective solving a mystery.

We live in increasingly complex times, far more than those of previous generations. In addition to the complications of many common machines, appliances, tools and vehicles, all of which demand we hire an expert to fix and even operate, there is the common problem of misinformation being regularly spread over TV, radio, print and social media.

On many subjects it’s difficult to decide who or what to believe. Over 35 million people firmly believe Trump won in 2020 despite the total absence of evidence. Though most science and medical experts recommend vaccines, about 40% of Americans are opposed. Many conspiracy theories are believed by many people. And the cow jumped over the moon.

Sudoku puzzles give us something we can be sure of, something which, when solved, provides positive confirmation of our mental power. Every puzzle has only one correct solution, and finding it requires logical thinking. Sudoku is absolute, either right or wrong. No in between.

Being able to lift great weights, being beautiful, having millions of dollars or an important job or the ability to fight crocodiles won’t help at all.

But learning to solve increasingly difficult Sudoku puzzles feels good even though there is nothing worth keeping when finished. All you have is a small piece of paper with meaningless numbers in squares.

For psychological power, Sudoku contributes to self-esteem and satisfaction for a wide range of humanity. You can be bed-ridden, incarcerated, friendless and unable to speak or be heard and 95 years old, but if you can solve a Sudoku, you have a fresh drink of power that satisfies a need like water after a long trek in a desert. It’s something you can be sure of without an expert’s confirmation.

Independent power, delivered conveniently by available puzzles, makes us feel accomplished, free from the need of others’ expertise and explanations. Alone we bring order out of the chaos in our world. We are happy and confident as a dachshund in a limbo contest.

Jerry Martin lives in Grass Valley.

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