Do you consider yourself a critical thinker? Are you able to solve problems rationally, evaluate information objectively, and arrive at conclusions based on factual evidence?
Critical thinking is a skill—one that can be honed and developed with practice and time.
Whether you inherently possess this talent or not, rest assured that you, too, can foster your own critical thinking abilities.
Jim Kwik, brain coach and trainer of Mindvalley’s Superbrain Quest, says, “It’s not about mental intelligence; it’s about mental fitness.”
What Is Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly, logically, and objectively. It’s the ability to analyze and evaluate information in a methodical way.
For example, imagine being handed a jigsaw puzzle. With your critical thinking skills, you’d be able to study each piece, figure out where it goes, and see the bigger picture. And when it comes down to it, it’s not accepting things at face value.
So what’s the big deal about it anyway? Simply put, developing critical thinking skills can help you make better decisions in everyday life. Whether you’re deciding which car to buy or which movie to watch, a little bit of analytical thought can go a long way. Remember: it’s all about weighing up the evidence, considering different perspectives, and drawing conclusions based on that information.
Now, don’t feel pressured to become a master detective overnight. Developing this skill takes time and practice. So every time you’re faced with a question or puzzling topic, take a step back and think critically about it.
Why Is Critical Thinking Important?
Critical thinking skills encourage you to operate without prejudice or bias, to keep the facts straight, and to arrive at logical, fact-based solutions.
As Vishen, the founder of Mindvalley, says, “If you want to be the best you can be, you’ll need to be willing to make a change or two.”
In today’s world, where there’s a ton of information and things are changing superfast, being able to think critically feels like a superpower.
Making smart choices and thinking carefully about stuff becomes easier if you work on these skills. It’s like having a clear map to find your way through all the confusing stuff out there.
Now, in what ways can critical thinking be beneficial to you?
- Versatile Skill: Critical thinking navigates professional diversity.
- Effective Problem-Solving: It tackles multifaceted challenges adeptly.
- Personal Growth: Self-reflection fuels the evolution of beliefs and perceptions.
10 Critical Thinking Skills to Thrive in a Dynamic World
Having sharp critical thinking skills has become more important than ever. By sharpening them, you’ll have the ability to make smart choices using trustworthy information and logical thinking.
Here are ten to highlight:
You use a systematic approach to understand underlying concepts and relationships through the breakdown of information or a situation.
Real-life example: To analyze a piece of literature, you would first break it down into its component parts, such as the plot, characters, setting, and themes. Then, you would look for patterns and relationships between these parts. This would help you understand the underlying meaning of the work.
You make well-informed judgments and sound decisions when you evaluate the credibility, relevance, and reliability of information or arguments.
Real-life example: A triage nurse in an emergency room assesses the severity of patients’ conditions and determines which patients should be seen by a physician first.
You use available evidence and prior knowledge to draw logical conclusions.
Real-life example: Imagine a warm day in July. You see a person with a red face who is sweating profusely. You conclude that they are probably hot—as simple as that!
You have a coherent and meaningful way of understanding and communicating information, data, or ideas.
Real-life example: Think of how a doctor interprets the results of a medical test by considering the patient’s symptoms, medical history, and other test results. This allows the doctor to communicate the meaning of the test results in a way that is understandable to the patient and their family.
You use clarity and logical reasoning and allow others to understand and evaluate your reasoning.
Real-life example: Just like in school, when a teacher explains a complex mathematical concept to their students by breaking it down into smaller, easier-to-understand steps. This allows the students to follow the teacher’s reasoning and understand how the concept works.
You identify and rectify cognitive biases and monitor and adjust your thinking consciously.
Real-life example: A salesperson who is good at self-regulation may be able to identify and correct their own tendency to make assumptions about potential customers. They may also be able to monitor their own thinking during a sales pitch and adjust it accordingly, such as by asking more questions or by being more open-minded.
You use imagination and innovative thinking to generate original solutions, ideas, or approaches to problems and challenges.
Real-life example: Creative artists may be able to come up with new and innovative ways to express themselves. For example, they can create a new type of painting or a new form of music.
You’re receptive to different perspectives, ideas, and viewpoints and are willing to consider and evaluate alternative possibilities without immediate judgment.
Real-life example: At a team meeting, a colleague suggests a new, unconventional approach to a project. Instead of dismissing it, you listen, ask questions, and consider its potential. Your open-mindedness and critical thinking led you to adopt elements of the idea, resulting in a successful project outcome that benefits from diverse perspectives.
You have the capacity to identify, define, and address challenges or obstacles in a systematic and effective manner.
Real-life example: Consider a software engineer who is good at problem-solving. They may be able to identify and define a bug in a piece of software, develop a systematic approach to fixing the bug, and test the software to ensure that the bug has been fixed.
You’re flexible and responsive to new information, situations, or perspectives.
Real-life example: A student who is adaptable may be able to adjust their study habits if the material becomes more challenging or if the teaching style changes. They could change their major or their career goals if they discover that they are not interested in the original path.
By embracing and refining these critical thinking skills, you’ll become more proficient in your cognitive abilities.
10 Questions That Boost Critical Thinking
Asking thought-provoking questions is one of the most effective ways to encourage critical thinking.
Questions that challenge assumptions, require evidence, or promote deeper thinking can help people see things from different perspectives and come up with their own conclusions.
Let’s look at the top ten:
1. How did you get this information?
By asking someone—or even yourself—this question, you set the stage for the source of the information to be examined. Did the information reach us by word of mouth? Through some random, unsigned article or through a confirmed source?
2. From a different perspective, how would you view the matter?
To correct an opponent’s arguments, you must thoughtfully anticipate their arguments in order to counter them. This question challenges everyone to think from an opposing person’s perspective.
This means that you need to try to understand the other person’s point of view, even if you disagree with it. This can be a difficult task, but it is important to try to do it if you want to understand the larger situation.
3. What would you do to solve this issue?
Creating practical, creative solutions to problems is a significant life skill. This question provides an exceptional opportunity to encourage people to do so.
4. Why do you agree? Why do you disagree?
The process of choosing a side in any debate requires you to consider both perspectives, weigh the arguments, and make an informed decision. So, go on, and ask the question.
5. Why, why, why?
You should relive the experience you had when you were a child by pushing ourselves beyond a simple first, second, and third answer to reach the core of the matter. However, it’s important not to overdo it, as you want your learning experience to be positive.
6. Could this be avoided? How?
Using critical thinking strategies, consider how you can prevent the occurrence of a certain problem from happening again in the future. Repeating a mistake is always a good thing to avoid.
7. Why is this important?
This is an essential concept that needs to be stressed when discussing any topic. It does not matter whether it is about a historical event or a mathematical concept, understanding why the topic is relevant today is crucial.
8. Can you give me an example of this?
When applying critical thinking skills, creating or drawing from examples based on experience is excellent. When you create such cases, you’re forced to think about the issue in a new way.
You have to come up with a hypothetical situation that illustrates the point you are trying to make. And this can help you see the issue from different perspectives and come up with new solutions.
9. What’s the reason for asking this question?
This question invites people to consider whether the question merits any further consideration instead of answering it at face value. It’s also designed to encourage people to be aware of their own biases.
When you answer questions, you often bring your own biases to the table. This can lead you to answer questions in a way that supports your own beliefs, even if the question is not clear or relevant.
By being aware of your biases, you can be more objective in your answers.
10. Why is this troubling you?
If you learn how to analyze difficulties rather than just accept them as they are, you’ll be able to develop strong problem-solving abilities.
How to Improve Critical Thinking Skills: Tips From Mindvalley Trainers
If you’d like to hone your critical thinking abilities, then you’re in luck. You’ve assembled five actionable tips and tricks from Mindvalley experts:
1. Examine your biases
Some of the biggest hindrances to your ability to think critically are your own biases, preferences, and beliefs.
Coming to a better, more holistic understanding of your biases can help you look past them to become a more objective, critical thinker.
How can you identify them?
The best way to delve into what makes you tick is by becoming aware of your own reactions. If ever you feel yourself becoming irritable, upset, frustrated, angry, anxious, or distressed, you may want to pay attention to which of your values or beliefs have been impinged upon.
2. Question everything
The more questions you ask, the more you’re likely to learn. So if you’d like to work on your critical thinking skills, you’ll need to start asking a lot of questions.
It doesn’t mean you need to bombard the people you meet with a barrage of questions, but you should practice active listening skills.
If you pay attention, you can learn a lot, but more often than not, you’re too caught up in your own daydreams.
Be sure to question yourself as well—your own beliefs and ideals. You change as you grow, and your ideas often change as well. And sometimes, people don’t realize how much their ideals have changed until they examine them.
3. Learn to be an investigator
This skill is of ever-increasing importance in a world overflowing with “fake news.” Learning to research and investigate the things you learn is an integral skill that will facilitate your knowledge and success.
When you hear something of interest, don’t accept it at face value.
Ask questions, and dig deeper. Get to the root of the issue. Learn as much as you can, and then learn some more. Practice vigilant research skills and identify reputable resources you can trust.
Ask questions, and then investigate the answers.
3. Perform critical thinking exercises
As Jim says, “We need to understand how our minds work, so we can work our minds better.“
Critical thinking skills can be developed through exercises like the following: data analysis, problem-solving, and abstraction. All these critical thinking exercises are indeed powerful ways to develop and enhance critical thinking skills.
Let’s elaborate on each one of these:
Reverse the process
A mental block or lack of inspiration can occur after working on a problem for a long time. When this happens, it is crucial to take a fresh look at the situation. When trying to reframe a concern, one of the best ways is to work backward. Try reverse engineering your approach and see if it makes you think more creatively.
People who like to work their minds and investigate issues from different angles have enjoyed competitive debating for years. Debates occur most often in high school or college, but you can hold them at any age with your friends or family.
Choose a new, unknowing topic, think outside the box, perform some research, structure your arguments, and have a mental workout.
The Ladder of Inference
By using the Ladder of Inference, one can gain a deeper understanding of how people make decisions based on their beliefs and experiences.
Take a moment to reflect on a recent decision or opinion you formed and trace your thinking process up a ladder with six rungs representing different phases of thinking: data, observations, selected data, meaning assigned, assumptions made, and conclusions drawn. The exercise encourages self-awareness and helps you identify areas where your critical thinking skills can be improved.
Assess each step to determine if you missed vital information or jumped to conclusions too quickly.
4. Practice empathy
A lot of what critical thinking points to is the notion that being a critical thinker means removing reactivity and subjectivity from the thinking process. That all sounds a tad cold and detached, doesn’t it?
But here’s the thing: critical thinking involves an inherent element of empathy. And that can help you connect with others on more intimate and profound levels.
It’s essentially putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s imagining what life is like from another person’s perspective. This detachment from your ideas, your thoughts, and your ego. And it allows you to relocate into the mental space of another person, helping you see beyond yourself. Critical thinking, in a nutshell.
5. Train your brain
If you’d really like to improve your critical thinking skills, there are plenty of games and apps you can download that help improve your cognitive abilities.
Try any of the following for just 15 minutes a day to enjoy a quick and efficient brainpower boost:
- Brain Café
- Brain Wave
You can also check out this 15-minute mind hack to incredibly boost your brainpower, brought to you by Vishen:
Awaken Your Critical Thinking Power
As Jim said, “Our most precious gift is our brain. You can learn to unlimit and expand your mindset, your motivation, and your methods to create a limitless life.“
So cultivate a world where thoughtful reasoning thrives and navigate life’s complexities with clarity and confidence.
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