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  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.
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.
You must be able to exercise objectivity. That means looking at an issue from two opposing sides and considering all the factors in between.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Do you have all the information? Is it current, relevant, peer reviewed, authentic? What are your personal biases and prejudices?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.