Updated: Jun 17, 2021
Critical thinking is more than a skill that employers demand. It’s a key ingredient for leading a meaningful life.
While critical thinking can be complicated to describe, it’s basically thinking about thinking. You come to understand the essence of life lessons instead of just memorizing facts. At the same time, you gain more knowledge because creating a context enables you to retain more information. Teach yourself critical thinking skills with this brief guide.
Understanding the Fundamentals of Critical Thinking
1. Gather evidence. Put together facts to support your conclusions. Consider multiple points of view. Consult a variety of sources from your own personal experience to scientific studies. Collecting a large pool of valid evidence helps you to develop an informed opinion.
2. Test your logic. Counter your own arguments. Pretend you hold the opposite position, Look for weak points in your reasoning that you need to address.
3. Sort out emotions. Emotional responses often shape our thoughts. Feelings enrich our experiences, and protect us from harmful situations. Critical thinking helps you to manage your emotions. You can acknowledge your feelings while choosing to take constructive action.
4. Question assumptions. Evaluate information. Look closer at ideas you take for granted or statements by authority figures. Do they hold up to examination? Remember how conventional wisdom sometimes changes. Few people believe the world is flat anymore.
5. Remain relevant. Ensure that your evidence is relevant to the issue you’re considering. Set aside distractions.
6. Search for alternatives. Appreciate the complexity of the world. Be open to different interpretations of the same evidence. Are you flexible about changing your position when new facts come to light?
7. Apply effort. As you can probably tell by now, critical thinking is hard work. You’ll be rewarded by feeling more confident and making smarter decisions in your personal and professional life.
Practicing Critical Thinking
1. Watch the news. Compare how different networks and websites cover the same event. Listen to Democrats and Republicans describe a controversial piece of legislation.
2. Analyze entertainment. Ask yourself why certain movies and TV shows appeal to you or leave you feeling unsettled. Maybe you care about the characters or find their actions disturbing. Pay attention to how the commercials try to stir up emotions about automobiles or diet soda.
3. Propose solutions at work. A study by Indeed.com found that twice as many want ads ask for critical thinking skills today compared to 2009. Impress your boss by presenting a logical solution to finding a new paper vendor or covering the phones during lunch.
4. Create a decision matrix. Tackle challenging decisions with a matrix that lists the major factors and their importance to you. Maybe a job close to home will satisfy you more than bringing home a bigger paycheck each week.
5. Resolve conflicts. Work on your powers of persuasion. Show your spouse the pros and cons of renovating the whole kitchen or just buying new cabinets. You may impress them with your research and reach an agreement faster.
6. Have a profound discussion. Go beyond small talk. Share your philosophy of life. Explain the reasoning behind your core beliefs and invite feedback. Listen to others with compassion and respect. Ask questions that help you to understand their position. Forget about your preconceptions for a while and strive to be impartial.
7. Meditate daily. Meditation sessions provide an excellent opportunity to train yourself in critical thinking. Identify your priorities instead of allowing external obligations to fill up your time.
Find deeper meaning and fulfillment through developing your critical thinking skills. Like Socrates suggested, an examined life is worth living.