What is Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking is the ability to think in a clear and reasonable manner. It is an “intellectually disciplined process of skillfully conceptualizing, analyzing, and/or evaluating information gathered or generated through experiences or communication” (Elder, 2007). When you think through a problem, your thought process is naturally influenced by biases, which can affect your ability to reason. Biases may include your assumptions of a situation or your point of view. If you “let your biases drive your thought process and overlook blind spots in your logic, you’ll unwittingly make decisions filled with holes” (Goodman, 2013).
So how do you begin to hone your own critical thinking and reduce biases? Here are three things you can do today to get started:
Think ahead. Before you decide on a course of action, you should use all of the available information that you have gathered to plan ahead. You can do this by considering other alternatives and imagining possible outcomes for each action. Determine if there are patterns that you can easily identify and if they can be used as predictors based on the information you gathered.
Organize your thoughts. Are you able to understand what you know? As you gather information, it is important to keep organizing your thoughts. Figuring out the relationships among the information you collected can help you examine what material is of little importance and what is of high value. Identifying these connections may help clarify your thoughts.
Feed your brain quality questions. Tony Robins, a legendary peak performance strategist, says, “the quality of your thoughts is primarily what makes up the quality of your life” (Kurtz, 2013). In other words, if you feed your brain high or low quality questions, you will receive high or low quality answers. For example, if you ask yourself a poor quality question, “Why am I not able to figure this out?” you will get poor answers such as, “you’re lazy” or “you’re not good enough.” A great way to eliminate poor quality questions and implement critical thinking is to ask yourself “How to” questions instead. Asking “How to” questions that you do not know the answer to stimulates critical thought because you are placed in a position to begin analyzing, hypothesizing, and/or evaluating the problem. For example, if you are trying to learn German and don’t know what to do, write down “How to learn German.” You may think of answers such as, “start with learning vowels and consonants” or “learn the basic words.”
Try these strategies and let us know if your critical thinking improved.
Elder, L. (2007). Our conception of critical thinking. Tomales, CA: The Center for Critical Thinking.
Goodman, N. (2013). How to improve your critical thinking skills and make better business decisions. Brooklyn, NY: Entrepreneur Media, Inc.
Krutz, J. (2013). Tony Robbins on happiness: The quality of your life is the quality of where you live emotionally, CNN Cable News Network.
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