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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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Last Updated on April 1, 2019

How to Be Happy: Why Pursuing Happiness Will Make You Unhappy

How to Be Happy: Why Pursuing Happiness Will Make You Unhappy

When we talk about happiness, we often think about staying happy all the time – every single day, every single minute with zero negativity. Many try to pursue this constant state of “happiness” as their ultimate goal, and avoid anything that may take it away from them.

But, what is the meaning of this type of “happiness”?

It’s a lot like your favorite food. The more often you have it isn’t always better. On the contrary, when you only have a chance to eat it sparingly, that’s when you really savor every bite. So is it the food itself that makes you happy, or is it how valuable it is to you when you are eating it?

Always remember that only by experiencing sadness do we understand what it is to be happy.

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Video Summary

Don’t Assume Others Are Always Happy

Most people see those who have seemingly perfect lives and assume they are happy all the time. Since childhood, we are conditioned to chase the idea of “happily-ever-after” that we see in fairytales. On social media, everyone tends to share only the best looking aspects of their lives. So, it’s very easy to have a distorted view of what “happiness” is around us.

In reality, there is always something missing, something lacking, or something unpleasant.

No one has a perfect life. Even the most glamorous celebrities or the richest billionaires have their own set of challenges and problems.

When we feel negative, we’re only focusing on a small fluctuating curve. As CEO of Lifehack, I’ve had to deal with countless problems, and some of them felt like real setbacks at the time. During those moments, it really seemed like these problems would be the life or death of my company and my life goals. But, I got through them; and, weeks, months and eventually years passed with many more ups and downs.

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You need to keep your sights on the extended curve.  Looking back now, a lot of those “really big” problems at the time now seem like only small blips in a long line of experiences. Recalling them in my mind now makes me smile!

Stop Trying to Be Happy–Just Be

It’s natural to want to be happy as often as possible.

So what can we do?

First, throw away the belief that a perfect life means happiness. Personally, I would be miserable if everything was perfect. It’s through experiencing the pains of lifelong challenges that drives us to care for others when they are experiencing similar trials. If life was perfect, you wouldn’t be able to empathize. If life was perfect, you wouldn’t grow.

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To be truly happy, stop chasing permanent happiness.

It sounds like a paradox. But, what I mean is to accept that there will be ups and downs throughout life. Gracefully understand that happiness is a fluctuation of positive and negative events.

Understand the importance of gratitude. Instead of focusing on the unpleasant moment, flash back your memory to when you didn’t have something. I like to think about my career, for example. When I didn’t have a career I was passionate about, I felt lost and demotivated. I felt like everyone was figuring out their lives but me. But, when I found my purpose and started Lifehack, I was deeply happy, even before I realized I would be successful! This memory keeps me going when I hit tough spots. It takes the darkness to make us grateful for the light.

Happiness and Sadness Exist Together

What it all comes down to is this: your life will be filled with beautiful, happy and incredible moments–happy tears and joyous shouts and funny stories. But, your life will also be filled with rain and storms that never seem like they will pass while you’re going through them.

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But, whether your face is warmed by the sunshine, or your heart is dampened by the rain, know that it’s all part of the ebb and flow of life.

Treasure the happy moments and power through the sad ones. Don’t try to avoid “sad” or “negative” experiences, and blindly chase being “happy”. In the end you will achieve a true level of contentment in your life, based on meaningful experiences and achievements. Being able to create growth and meaning out of both positive and negative events — that is the true meaning of “happiness”.

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