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Traits of Critical Thinkers That Make Them Become High Performers

Traits of Critical Thinkers That Make Them Become High Performers

We are living in the age of “fake news” and “alternative facts”, straight up lying seems to be an accepted part of news and politics. Because of this, simply being able to tell exactly what is going on can be difficult. To be able to think critically is now a very important skill.

Though what exactly is critical thinking? Critical thinking is when you are presented with a piece of information and engage with it independently [1] and actively to discern how accurate it is. Too often we are encouraged to be passive with news and information, it can seem sometimes that we are being told how to react, think, and feel by the media or other sources.

This is avoided if you think critically. If you think critically you will be guided through life by your own observations [2], knowledge, and experience, and not be led.

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5 Traits of skilled critical thinkers

But what exactly are the benefits? Surely it can’t just come down to being able to watch the news objectively? Well, that’s true, there are many, many benefits of being a great critical thinker, here are just five.

  • Skilled at finding the subtle links between two different pieces of information to form a larger whole.
  • Good at turning their critical thinking skills inwards, and as such can pick up and judge their own biases [3] or prejudices, which is the key for their ultimate removal.
  • More desirous to remain well informed and knowledgeable as information governs their worldview.
  • More open-minded as critical thinkers by their nature can think for themselves. There is none the less the openness for their minds to change when new information is presented.
  • More creative [4] as whatever you write, draw, film, sculpt, paint, dance, act, or whatever you love to do, has tiny traces of the work of other similar great artists who came before.

A critical mind can take these influences and use them effectively, also, the open mindedness of a critical thinker means that they won’t shoot down any ideas that come to their mind. Something which, you may well know, can stop a creative project in its tracks.

How to boost your critical thinking skills

In this article so far I’ve described those who can think critically as if they were a different breed. This is certainly not the case. Critical thinking is a skill, and like any skill, it can be gained and improved.

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Open up your range of sources

It’s totally natural to listen to those we know we will agree with, we might only watch the same news channel or use the same websites just because they follow our worldview. However, even good sources tend to follow certain biases. These biases will be invisible if that is all we see, so it can be important to reach out and investigate other sources, especially ones we don’t agree with.

It’s like what F Scott Fitzgerald said:

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function

Analyze what you hear by asking the following questions

  • Who/what said it? (EG, who are they to you, what do you know about them)
  • What did they say? (EG, What was the exact content of what they said? Was it fact? Opinion? Or was it opinion disguised as fact?)
  • Why did they say it? (EG, what could they have to gain by relaying this info to you, can it be to just inform you, or do you have to agree with them?)

These questions, and questions like them are the fundamental grounding of critical thinking.

Apply variations of these questions to your own mind

Much like the one providing you might have hidden biases, it’s possible that you might as well. To be aware of them will immediately improve your critical thinking ability.

Don’t take anything at face value

It’s inevitable that people will be guided by their own motives [5] . Because of this anything done or said may be done with these specific motives (possibly self serving motives) in mind. I don’t mean to be suspicious, it is the natural way of things. But assuming that all is not what it seems in regards to what you see enables the process for you to begin to think critically.

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Apply Occam’s Razor

The world, paradoxically, is both infinitely complex and impossibly simple. As such, that old saying “Whatever the simplest solution is, is probably the correct one” is so common, because it is so true. If a piece of information seems needlessly complicated, it may well be, and if you consider why it is being presented this way, this may pave the way for you to find a larger truth in it.

Applying critical thinking to what you are presented with can have a revolutionary, and immediate impact on how you see the world…use with caution!

Reference

[1] SkillsYouNeed: Critical Thinking Skills
[2] TheCriticalThinkingCommunity: Defining Critical Thinking
[3] InsightAssessment: Characteristics of Strong Critical Thinkers
[4] CriticalThinkers: 6 Powerful Characteristics of Great Critical Thinkers
[5] WiseBread: 7 Steps to Improving Your Critical Thinking

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Last Updated on February 19, 2019

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

No one wants to suffer. As a general rule, people like to avoid hurt and pain as much as possible. As a species, humans want a painless existence so much that scientists make a living trying to create it.

People can now choose “pain-free” labor for babies, and remedies to cure back pain, headaches, body-pains and even mental pains are a dime a dozen. Beyond medicine, we also work hard to experience little pain even when it comes to loss; often times we believe a breakup won’t hurt as much if we are the ones to call it off.

But would a world without pain truly be painless? It’s unlikely. In fact, it would probably be painful exactly for that reason.

If people never experienced hurt, they wouldn’t know what it was. On the surface level, that seems like a blessing, but think for a moment: if we didn’t know pain, how would we know peace? If you don’t know you’ve hurt or been hurt, how would you know that you need to heal? Imagine someone only knowing they have an incurable cancer at the final stage because no obvious symptoms have appeared at early stages.

Without the feeling of pain, people won’t be aware of dangerous situations—what should or shouldn’t do for survival.

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Pain Is Our Guardian

Pain serves to protect human beings from harmful actions. It’s the same reason parents teach babies that fire equals hot, and that hot equals hurt. Should the baby still place its hand in a fire or on a stove, the intense pain remains so memorable, that the child is certain never to repeat that action.

In the same way, pain within human bodies can serve as a warning that something is not right. Because you know what it is to feel “well,” you know what it is to feel poorly.[1]

Along with serving as a teacher of what not to do, pain also teaches you what you are made of in terms of what you can handle as an individual.

While the cliche, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a tired term, it’s used excessively for a reason: it’s true. Pain helps you learn to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties and sadnesses— to develop the grit it takes to push past hardships and carry on.

Whether it’s a shattering pain, like the loss of a loved one or a debilitating accident, pain affects everyone differently. But it still affects everyone. Take a breakup as an example, anyone who has experienced it knows it can hurt to the point of feeling physical. Especially the first breakup. At a young age, it feels like the loss of the only love you’ll ever know. As you grow and learn, you realize you’re more resilient with every ended relationship.

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No Pain, No Happiness

You only know happiness when you have known pain. While the idea of constant happiness sounds nice, there is little chance it would be. Without the comparison to happiness, there’s no reason to be grateful for it. That is to say, without ever knowing sadness or pain, you would have no reason to be grateful for happiness.

In reality, there is always something missing, or something unpleasant, but it is only through those realizations that you know to be grateful when you feel you have it all. Read more about why happiness and pain have to exist together: Chasing Happiness Won’t Make You Happy

In a somewhat counter-intuitive finding, researchers found one of the things that brings about the most happiness is challenge. When people are tested, they experience a greater sense of accomplishment and happiness when they are successful. It is largely for this reason that low-income individuals can often feel happier than those who have a sense of wealth.[2]

This is a great thing to remember the next time you feel you would be happier if you just had a little more cash.

Avoiding Pain Leads to More Suffering

Pain is inevitable, embrace it positively. Anyone who strives to have a painless life is striving for perfectionism; and perfectionism guarantees sadness because nothing will ever be perfect.

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This isn’t a bleak outlook, but rather a truthful one. The messy moments in life tend to create the best memories and gratitude. Pain often serves as a reminder of lessons learned, much like physical scars on the body.

Pain will always be painful, but it’s the hurt feelings that help wiser decisions be made.

Allow Room for the Inevitable

Learning how to tolerate pain, especially the emotional kind, is a valuable lesson.

Accepting and feeling pain makes you human. There is no weakness in that. Weakness only comes when you try to blame your own pain on someone else, expecting the blame to alleviate your hurting. There’s a saying,

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.”

Think back to the last time you were really angry with someone. Maybe you were hurt because you got laid off from a job. You felt angry and that anger caused so much pain that you could feel it in a physical way. Being angry and blaming your ex boss for that pain didn’t affect him or her in any way; you’re the only one who lost sleep over it.

The healthier thing to do in a situation like that is acknowledge your pain and the anger along with it. Accept it and explore it in an introspective way. How can you learn and grow? What is at the root of that pain? Are you truly hurting and angry about being laid off, or is the pain more a correlation to you feeling like you failed?

While uncomfortable, exploring your pain is a way to raise your self-awareness. By understanding more about yourself, you know how to deal with similar situations in the future. You can never expect to be numb to difficult situations, but you will learn to better prepare financially for the loss of a job and be grateful for an income since you now know nothing is promised (no matter how much you work or how deserving you may feel).

Pain Hurts, but Numbness Would Be Worse

Pain does not feel good, but the bad feeling of it will help you learn and grow. It makes the sweet moments in life even sweeter and the gratitude more sincere.

To have a happier and more successful life, you don’t learn from success or accomplishment, but through pain and failures. For it is in those moments that you learn how to do better in the future or at least cope a little more easily.

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You are the strong person you are today because of the hardships this life has presented to you. While you may have felt out of control when those hard times came, the one thing you will always have control over is how you choose to react to things. The next time you hurt or you’re angry or sad, acknowledge it and allow yourself to ruminate in it. Then take a deep breath and start learning from that pain. You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] University of Calgary: Why is Pain Important?
[2] Greater Good Magazine: The Importance of Pain

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