Imagine a scenario you want to evaluate. Push your mind to explore possibilities and interactions. Consider potential outcomes and consequences, long and short-term effects. Iterate and refine. Challenge the assumptions you are making during the thought experiment, and consider contrarian ideas. Identify unrealistic assumptions. Explore alternative points of view. Ask yourself what could change in the future in the environment you take for granted today. Ask yourself how the scenario you are considering would change you, and if you would be comfortable with that change.
Thought experiments can help us understand what going along a certain path would imply in the not-so-near future, and discover that we are not so comfortable with the long-term implications, without actually investing time and resources.
You don’t need to wait for important occasions to use this powerful tool. Also, to use this tool effectively, you’ll need some practice. Another reason to use it frequently.