Change Your Results By Changing The Way You Think
"Successful people use critical thinking “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” — Albert Einstein
As a society, we are facing decaying infrastructure, growing government debt, mass shootings, and terrorism. As individuals, we are facing shrinking paychecks, more expensive housing, and the lack of affordable healthcare.
These are all issues that are critical to our survival.
Issues can’t be solved with the same level of thinking that created them, and we need to change our thinking if we want to resolve them. So, to move forward as a society and as individuals we need to improve the level of our critical thinking skills.
At this point, you are probably thinking, what is critical thinking, why is it important, and how can I get better at it?
This rest of this post is my attempt to answer these questions for you and to provide you with five things that you can do to improve your critical thinking skills today.
What Is Critical Thinking
“Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.” — The Foundation for Critical Thinking
Wow — that’s a mouthful.
You could say that critical thinking requires clear, rational, open-minded, disciplined thinking that is informed by data. Or, you could simply say it is the objective analysis of facts to form your own judgment.“Critical thinking is the opposite of regular, everyday thinking.”— Ransom Patterson
Critical thinking is the opposite of what most of us do. We tend to accept things at face value. We don’t question the facts, and we don’t question other people’s conclusions.“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.” — Henry Ford
We don’t think for ourselves because critical thinking requires effort and patience. Critical thinking is hard work, and most people are lazy and happy to let others do their thinking for them rather than thinking for themselves.
Why Does Critical Thinking Matter?
"If there was one life skill everyone on the planet needed, it was the ability to think with critical objectivity "— Josh Lanyon
Critical thinking matters because it is at the core of everything we do in life. It has been said that shallow thinking leads to a shallow life, and critical thinking leads to a life of meaning.“There’s less critical thinking going on in this country on a Main Street level — forget about the media — than ever before. We’ve never needed people to think more critically than now, and they’ve taken a big nap.” — Alec Baldwin
Unfortunately, most of our thinking is not critical thinking.
Actually, most of our thinking doesn’t need to be critical thinking. If you applied critical thinking to every decision you make, you would be exhausted before you even got to work in the morning.
Things like what to wear, what to eat for breakfast, and what route to take to work don’t require major decisions or critical thinking.
Where we run into problems is when we use automatic thinking to make important decisions. When we use don’t use critical thinking for important decisions we tend to go with the flow and let others make our decisions for us.
A good example of this is choosing our government. In the 2016 elections, only 58% of us chose to vote. That means that 42% of Americans decided to let someone else make critical decisions for them.
Critical thinking can also help in the workplace. As more and more businesses are faced with the challenges of increased competition, government regulations, and a changing workforce, the need for employees who can use their critical thinking skills to solve these challenges is critical for their success.
According to Dave Root,“Critical thinking is more than a desirable soft skill; it’s a valuable competency that is the basis for innovation and problem-solving. When properly cultivated in the workplace, critical thinking can help individuals and teams overcome challenges and meet business goals.”
Critical thinking is a skill that is critical to solving government issues, making businesses more competitive, and making your life more meaningful.
How You Can Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills
1. Eliminate Distractions
One of the most common barriers to critical thinking is distractions. Anything that prevents you from thinking critically is a distraction. Items like your smartphone and TV can simply be turned off. In the case of the internet, you might need to install a distraction blocker.
It is impossible to think critically if you are constantly distracted. So, you need to remove as many distractions as possible if you want to improve your ability to think critically.
2. Improve Your Focus
Removing distractions is the first step to being able to think critically, but removing distractions alone is not enough for you to become a critical thinker. You also need to develop the ability to focus on the problem that you are trying to solve.
Focus and concentration are not easy.
Elie Venezky says,“Focus is a muscle, and you can build it, too many people labor under the idea that they’re just not focused, and this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once you drop this mistaken belief, you can take a much more realistic approach to build focus.”
Focus is a muscle, and like any other muscle, it can be developed with training and practice. Start developing your ability to focus and concentrate today.
3. Create The Right Environment
It is nearly impossible to focus and concentrate if you don’t have the right environment. If you are able to think critically in a noisy Starbucks, you are not the norm. Most people can’t focus in that environment and they find the noise distracting.
That is why it is important to create an environment that is both comfortable and quiet. A place where you will not be distracted and you are able to focus your thoughts on the issue that you are trying to resolve.
4. Question Your Basic Assumptions“When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.” — Jerry Belson
If you want to improve your critical thinking skills you need to learn to question basic assumptions. Some of the greatest inventions in human history have come from men and women who have questioned basic assumptions.
A good example of this is when Edwin Land’s 3-year old daughter asked why she couldn’t see her photographs right away. This question led her dad to develop Polaroid’s instant photography system and change in the way the world viewed photography.
Amazing things can happen when you question your assumptions and use your critical thinking skills to rethink what is possible.
5. Use Both Sides Of Your Brain“Envision the thinking process as a kayak with two paddles. One paddle represents critical thinking while the other represents creative thinking. If you were to use only one paddle (i.e., critical thinking), you’d end up going in circles. To make the kayak move forward, you’ve got to alternate between paddles.” — Tim Hurson
History suggests that great critical thinkers use both sides of their brains. They use the right side of their brain to get a big picture view of the problem and the left side of their brain to develop creative solutions to the problem.
Einstein was one of the greatest critical thinkers of all time, and he was also a concert-level violinist. Da Vinci was a great artist, and his developments in science and engineering are considered as innovative as his artistic work.
If you want to improve your critical thinking skills, make sure that you are engaging both sides of your brain.
Bringing It All Together“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Learning how to think critically can make a huge difference in your life. In some cases, it can be the difference between success and failure.
This is because critical thinkers can make more effective decisions based on objective facts and not the opinions of others. They question assumptions and look for creative solutions to problems.
Unfortunately, critical thinking is not that common because it involves hard work. It also requires the ability to focus and ignore distractions. But it is worth it in the end because critical thinking is a desirable skill in academia, business and in life and can truly make a difference in the world.
The good news is that you can develop your critical thinking skills with practice, which will set you apart from most other people. Start to develop your critical thinking skills today, and be on your way to a more successful and fulfilling life.
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(P.S. I have included some Amazon affiliate links to help defray the ridiculously high cost of my daughter’s education)