One of the purposes of our brain is thinking, and we do it all the time. But when we are talking about critical thinking, we do not mean spontaneous thoughts; we mean well-considered conclusions. It is the intellectually-disciplined process which includes a lot of other processes and skills, such as analyzing, conceptualizing, evaluating, problem-solving, decision making, and many others.
There isn’t some universal formula for becoming a great critical thinker, because there are a lot of individual factors that determine the quality of your conclusions. Motivation – the purpose you are guided by – is such a factor, for example.
If you want to pass a math test (you work with the topics which are included in the test to get A), or to buy a car (you analyze your current financial situation to get a good bargain), or to run a corporation (you make an important decision after considering all the options and foreseeing the possible difficulties in order not to harm your business and people who work there), you will show different levels of critical thinking quality.
There are a lot of ways to define a term like critical thinking; it isn’t something definitive like the chemical elements in the periodic table or the definition of parts of speech. “Critical thinking is thinking about your thinking while you’re thinking in order to make your thinking better,” describes Richard Paul, Director of Research and Professional Development at the Center for Critical Thinking and Chair of the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking. In short, to clear it up, we can say that the ability to think rationally and understand logical connections between ideas is critical thinking.
Developing the ability for clear and rational thinking depends on self-discipline and self-improvement, because it’s a continuous process that requires constant learning. Critical thinking is a habit which involves activation of your skills, knowledge, beliefs, and views, used for arriving at the best possible solutions in certain circumstances. It shouldn’t be confused with accepting some ideas at face value — simply retaining information alone or just possessing a set of skills — because when thinking critically, an individual always strives for understanding the origin of ideas and concepts, trying to see the entire picture and finding logical connections between them.
Here are some questions you may use to start thinking critically. For example, assume there have been some changes at work, and you need to form an opinion about the situation and decide how to act:
Once you’ve found the answer to the question “Why do I need this,” all of the tips above will become a starting point for achieving your goal.
In the modern world, no one needs the mere possession of information, knowledge or skills. Being an expert in your field means applying this knowledge and skills; not only in the way you know or the way you were taught, but by adjusting them to new needs, requirements or even extending them into other fields. Critical thinking is one of the key steps towards obtaining flexibility in your ways of thinking.
Becoming a critical thinker opens a lot of doors to future jobs, education, and leisure activities. Critical thinkers are able to understand the connections between ideas; understand their importance; analyze arguments; spot weak points in reasoning; provide sound evidence and good reasons; review the results of their actions and decide whether some changes or improvements should be made or not.
It is never too late to start improving yourself, your ways of thinking, or the ways of living your life. Putting your thoughts in order is like taking out an insurance policy against challenges in the future, so don’t hesitate and think critically about this statement.