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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 October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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