Advertising
Advertising

Most of Us Are Similar When We’re Small, but Then Critical Thinking Differentiates Us

Most of Us Are Similar When We’re Small, but Then Critical Thinking Differentiates Us

From the moment we are born, the process of conditioning begins. This is a necessity of course, and is the key to our survival. Our guardians help us to feel the comfort and safety of the world outside the womb. We are guided to feed, sleep and communicate in the first days and weeks of our lives. As our cognitive skills grow and our awareness sharpens, we start to learn the ways of the people responsible for keeping us alive. Our years of learning begin even before we go out into the world to assimilate into society and join the myriad of institutions and social systems that will shape us into hopefully intelligent, independent and functioning adults.

We must learn how to collect information, assess situations and make decisions. This is called Critical Thinking and will enable us to live successful and fulfilling lives.

Critical thinking is the ability to objectively assess information in order to make sound judgement. From the smallest decisions to the most complex, this ability will determine the trajectory of our life.

Knowing how to perfect critical thinking relies on a number of traits that develop over time; by learning from example, trial and error and eventual self-determination. Identifying these traits and allowing them to become like second nature will facilitate critical thinking and studies [1] have shown that critical thinking disposition is not necessarily inherent, it needs to be taught, practiced, developed and perfected.

Here are ten traits of sound critical thinking skills.

Empathy

You need to be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, to be able to think critically. That means imaging yourself experiencing something that someone else is going through.

Impartiality

You must be able to exercise objectivity. That means looking at an issue from two opposing sides and considering all the factors in between.

Evidence

Advertising

You require facts. It is no good merely hypothesizing. You need to look at proven and tested information that support various aspects of an issue or decision.

Creativity

You need to be able to think laterally. Can you come to a decision unconventionally? Sometimes, the answer is not immediately obvious and needs a diverse perspective.

Ethics

You must ask what is the benefit and the cost? Do your decisions have adverse impacts on others? Are you only advantaging yourself? What is the collateral damage if any?

Survival

You must weigh up and take risks. Sometimes you must make a tough decision to preserve something more important. The easiest and safest choice is not always the right one.

Competition

You need to stay relevant without becoming arrogant. Winning at all cost is not the aim, but taking challenges and achieving goals despite the obstacles can be rewarding.

Advertising

Research

Do you have all the information? Is it current, relevant, peer reviewed, authentic? What are your personal biases and prejudices?

Justice

Is it the right thing to do? Not only for yourself, but more broadly. Will there be consequences and are you willing to stand by your decision.

Self-assurance

Where is your confidence coming from? A place of privilege or achievement and hardship? Have you earned it?

Critical thinking is vital in ensuring not only your ability to face life’s challenges but in particular to embrace reality and realize truth. Without critical thinking, it is easy to be mislead, manipulated, undermined and disadvantaged.

Here are 10 ways to improve your critical thinking disposition.

Ask questions

Questioning is one of the most powerful tools for critical thinking. You don’t have to accept anything without thoroughly exploring its intricacies. The more answers you get, the more questions they will raise. This is a good thing.

Advertising

Read

You must be willing to research and get educated. People before you have done some of the work already. Take advantage of this and equip yourself with information from a broad range of sources.

Look at the opposing argument

Don’t simply look for the information that will confirm your point of view. In fact, look for the opposite. The people, information and arguments you disagree with are the best things to help you think critically. You need to understand the other side of the issue, practice empathy and either solidify your viewpoint or be swayed toward a new one.

Listen to the experts

Seek out academics, professionals, elders and those who have traveled your path before. What are you deciding and who has made similar decisions? There’s a good chance they have some practical and sound advice to impart.

Consider your own experiences

Don’t sell yourself short. Acknowledge your own unique point of view and life journey. What have you got to add to the scenario? How does your unique vision and story contribute to the decision making process?

Investigate history

Advertising

Look to the past for answers. Obtain information about the way things have manifested, how they were established and developed to the present day. Is there a timeline for the information you are trying to obtain? How will your decision contribute to this in the future?

Learn from your mistakes

Don’t be afraid to fail and let that prevent you from trying again. Often the times we have faltered are where the best lessons lie. Learning from the failure of others can be valuable also.

Do things differently

If you adhere to the same old patterns and habits, you can’t expect a different result. Sometimes you have to do things that are outside your comfort zone, that seem foreign and unfamiliar, in order to achieve a new outcome.

Have courage to be contrary

Learn to go against the grain. Nobody ever achieved anything significant, simply following the heard. Sometimes the lone voice of reason, in the face of a crowd of loud conflicting voices, is the right one.

Be willing to change your mind

When presented with new information, you may have to let go of everything you have known and change your position. Discard your cognitive dissonance and have the emotional maturity to admit you were wrong and take a new position.

Reference

More by this author

Diane Koopman

Writer, Author, Novelist, Self-Publisher

How Mental Fatigue Eats You Slowly (And Ways to Regain Mental Energy) 10 Scientifically Proven Health Benefits of Taking a Bath 20 Dalai Lama Quotes To Change The Way You Think Small Things Parents Can Do to Effectively Reduce Sibling Jealousy Learning These 10 Tricks Can Help You Overcome Frustration in Communication

Trending in Psychology

1 Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering 2 How to Increase Your Self Awareness to Be Much More Successful 3 How to Do Meditation at Home to Calm Your Anxious Mind 4 How to Handle Rejection and Overcome the Fear of Being Rejected 5 8 Powerful Reasons to Love Your Enemies

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

Read Next