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Characteristics of Critical Thinkers and How to Be One

Characteristics of Critical Thinkers and How to Be One

Studies show that critical thinking leads to increased creativity, enhanced work performance, and a lowering of negative life experiences.[1]

And these are just some of the benefits of critical thinking.

Aristotle said it well: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

What Exactly Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking covers a wide variety of thought processes.

To help you understand what critical thinking is, take a look at the list below:

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  • Analyzing.
  • Evaluating.
  • Interpreting.
  • Problem solving.
  • Questioning.

These traits are common forms of critical thinking.

As an example, imagine that you were seeking a new job or career, and had just started to look at advertised vacancies. In order to choose the most suitable vacancies, you would spend time looking at where the jobs were based, what skills and experience were required, and how much the roles were paying.

All the above actions would be classed as critical thinking. You used analysis, evaluation and (most likely) questioning.

As a further example of critical thinking, consider the way that attorneys work. Firstly, they examine the evidence. Then, they use critical thinking in order to create a plan to win their case (or to settle out of court).

What Are the Recognizable Signs of Critical Thinkers?

Now that you understand what critical thinking is about, I’m sure you’re curious to know how to recognize the signs of critical thinkers.

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Let’s take a look…

One major giveaway of critical thinkers is the fact that they tend to be highly successful. This success can be academic, personal or professional. But you can be sure, that whenever you see people achieving big results – they’ll definitely be critical thinkers.

Here are some further signs of critical thinkers:

  • They are creative, innovative individuals.
  • They are fascinated by how things work.
  • They get their news and views from a wide variety of sources.
  • They are always asking questions.
  • They have levelheaded conversations with people they disagree with.

Critical thinkers are successful in life because they are able to analyze issues from different perspectives. This allows them to come up with (and decide) on the best solutions.

If you’re failing to reach your goals in life – then you should definitely begin boosting your critical-thinking skills.

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Discover 7 Ways to Help You Master Critical Thinking

Learn how to question things.

To become adept at critical thinking, you must learn to question things. This includes questioning statements from authority figures, general assumptions, and even your own beliefs. Try asking yourself these questions: “Do I believe everything I was taught at school?” “Are my beliefs really my own? “Does my government lie to me?”

Think for yourself.

Stop accepting everything you are told, and begin thinking for yourself. For example, a guitar teacher may have taught you how to play guitar in a certain way, but can you now improve on that way? By thinking for yourself, you’ll unleash your creativity and boost your self-confidence.

Evaluate evidence.

Evidence can be a great way to find answers to issues you may be experiencing. However, don’t just take evidence at face value. Instead, evaluate all evidence by asking: “Who gathered it, how was this done, and why?” These probing questions will enable you to quickly identify evidence that is sound – and evidence that you should steer clear of.

Become aware of your personal biases.

If you’re honest with yourself, most times you probably think you’re right. While this may be the case, when making decisions, you must put aside any personal biases or beliefs. Critical thinking needs to look at different perspectives and points of view before reaching a conclusion. I know it’s hard to think outside of your personal biases, but for the sake of your success in life – you must try to do so.

Consider motive.

Like a great detective, you must become skilled at uncovering motive. For example, think of a time that a company offered you a free product to try. All you needed to do was give some basic personal details to them. Unfortunately, as well as receiving the free product, you rapidly became bombarded with promotional emails, letters and phone calls. In hindsight, you’ll have become aware of the company’s motive. They didn’t care about sending you a freebie – they just wanted to capture and sell on your personal information.

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Break big issues into small pieces.

Big picture thinking is all the rage nowadays, but it’s not always the best way to reach decisions. If you need to deal with a major problem such as losing your job, then you can become quickly overwhelmed by events. This stress and anxiety could lead to inaction on your part. Just what you don’t need at this vital time. Instead, break down the issue into smaller components. These might include: getting the best payout from your employer, ensuring that all your bills are covered, seeking new work opportunities. Big problems seem much less scary when you break them down into small pieces.

Keep it simple.

Are you familiar with a line of reasoning known as Occam’s razor?[2] In case you’re not, I’ll summarize it for you now. Occam’s razor can be described as the simplest answer is most often correct. Frequently, we look for complex answers – when the truth may be staring us right in the face. The following scenario will give you a good example of Occam’s razor in action…. A loud bang is heard inside an office that is close to a busy highway. Some staff think it may be a bomb, others suggest that it’s just a truck backfiring. I’ll let you decide which one of these is the most likely cause of the noise.

Use critical thinking every time that you need to make an important decision. People will notice the difference in your actions. And before long, you’ll be achieving more success than you ever thought was possible.

Featured photo credit: Matt Bottos via flickr.com

Reference

More by this author

Craig J Todd

Freelance Writer helping businesses and people to thrive.

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Published on November 28, 2018

How to Do Meditation at Home to Calm Your Anxious Mind

How to Do Meditation at Home to Calm Your Anxious Mind

The woman in yoga pants sitting in a lotus position atop a rocky cliff, overlooking a valley draped in fog — this is the glamorized version of meditation you’ll come across as you search. Yet if you’re seeking meditation to calm your mind, a fantastic setting with no distractions is rarely available.

So how to do meditation?

The truth about meditation is it’s an everyday practice for anybody. You could be a mountain climber or you could be an accountant — either way, your home is just as good a place for meditation as any.

Are you seeking to corral your racing thoughts and relieve a sense of unease, awkwardness, or uncertainty? Look to home meditation to cultivate a laid-back, creative, confident, and organized frame of mind. According to extensive scientific research, meditation relieves stress and anxiety, decreases blood pressure, improves sleep, and improves your ability to pay attention. [1]

From start to finish, this article will give you quick, easy steps to follow so that you can meditate at home regularly. You’ll begin by assessing, identifying and altering things that need to change in your home environment. You’ll end by understanding the basics of meditation so that you can let yourself do what you already know how to do deep down in the hidden reality of your mind.

You’re ready to let your mind be, and just be, in your own home — let’s begin.

1. Find the Right Space in Your Home

Where is your right space for meditation at home? Is it in your basement, your bedroom, your living room, or your study?

The right space will be one with the least distractions built in to its purpose. In that case, it may be your bedroom. If you’ve set up your bedroom to be a place for sleep and only sleep, it will lend itself well to meditation.

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The right space will also be a reasonably spacious one. Although comfort is not your goal, you need room to sit. Choose a space that is private, spacious, and quiet. If you don’t have a space in your home like this, create one. Free it from clutter and get it ready for you to meditate there any time.

Ultimately, your right space is one you feel comfortable meditating in, the space you can enter with no other expectations.

2. Improve the Feng Shui in Your Home and Meditation Space

Feng shui means “wind and water.” It’s the ancient Chinese art of placement.[2]

Feng shui improves harmony with nature. Adherents to the principles of feng shui believe all things have energy (chi). The focus of feng shui is to send negative chi (sha) out of the space and attract positive chi (yun).

Here’s the truth about feng shui: it’s not complicated or hard. The following will influence feng shui positively in your home and meditation space:

  • Living things, such as plants
  • Beautiful objects, such as sculptures or even a well-polished piece of driftwood
  • Mirrors in symmetrical placement with the lines in a room
  • Mellifluous sounds, such as trickling water or wind chimes
  • Furniture away from walls
  • A centerpiece, such as a small table with books or an ornate lamp on it
  • Incense or something else that smells good
  • A lack of clutter and an attention to organization that emphasizes the usefulness, purpose, and essential being of each item in your house

Given that feng shui is connected to Taoism and Buddhism, it will complement the meditative atmosphere you want to cultivate in your home.

3. Eliminate Pervasive Distractions That Can Harm Your Wellbeing

In part, meditation is about accepting the existence of distractions. When you meditate, you don’t judge and assign a positive or a negative value to distractions — the ticking of a clock, an itch, the barking of a dog — you let them occur and let them dissipate like waves.

However, in the same way that feng shui removes objects that attract negative chi, there are certain types of distractions that don’t belong in your meditative space. You must remove them.

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In a survey of 1,700 people who visited social media sites at least 30 times per week, 30 percent reported high levels of sleep disturbance and 25 percent presented symptoms of depression. [3]

Those individuals who experience sleep disturbances or mental health issues due to social media are not setting boundaries between themselves and their connected devices.

Part of learning how to meditate at home is learning how and when to set boundaries between yourself and your connected devices and social media accounts. If you need your phone for a timed meditation practice, but you normally receive social media notifications on your phone, set it on Do Not Disturb or Airplane mode during your meditation time.

4. Flow into Meditation Through Time

Next, set aside a time for meditation each day. It’s right to be structured and disciplined about your meditation time.

Buddhist monks whose lives revolve around meditation are very structured and organized with their tasks each day. Structure provides the balance your being needs. Once you are meditating, your mind has no need for time. Outside of your given meditation time, you are completing tasks essential to the wellbeing of yourself and your home.

Consider meditating as the sun rises. This is a quiet and contemplative time of the day when it is natural to set your day’s balance through meditation.

5. Recognize the Rightness of Doing Nothing

At home, you’re probably used to always doing something. When you do meditation at home, you are being, which is doing something and nothing simultaneously.

Maryville University points out that successful people unplug by doing nothing. [4] Not only this, but they set the right expectations for the time during which they will do nothing.

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We oftentimes look forward to the future by expecting something to happen and by expecting something of ourselves. To meditate from home, look to that time and that space by expecting nothing. You will not do any chores. You will not catch up on work. You will do nothing but meditate for a certain amount of time each day.

This might sound crazy, but in taking on meditation from home, you’re not expecting yourself to improve and become a better person. As Ram Dass put it, you are expecting yourself to be here now.

6. Choose from the Incredible Variety of Meditative Practices

As I outlined in my post on types of meditation, there are many different and not-so-different types of meditation from which to choose.

Many beginners find it right to choose guided meditation, for which there are apps, videos, and audio tapes available.

If you are not necessarily a beginner but are merely moving your meditative practice into the home, you can facilitate a practice such as Nada Yoga — sound meditation — by placing a fountain in your space or listening to ambient alpha wave music.

If you’re used to meditating outside of your home — perhaps you are drawn to the outdoors because of the sounds of nature — a practice like Nada Yoga can help you transition into your home space.

7. Understand You Can Meditate Any Time at Home

What if I told you to throw out all of the tips that came before this? Sounds crazy but that is how radical mindfulness meditation really is. We don’t think of it as radical because it is now ingrained in our popular discourse.

Mindfulness meditation does start as a sitting meditation practice. It goes like this:

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  1. Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
  2. Focus on breathing. Inhale through your nose slowly and exhale slowly.
  3. As distracting thoughts arise, don’t judge them and don’t hang onto them. Let each thought go as you focus on breathing.
  4. Treat all physical sensations and feelings in the same way you do thoughts: register them, then let them go, returning to breathing.
  5. Extend this practice to everyday activity, remaining “in the moment” of the body’s activity with each new breath.

As you practice mindfulness around your home, note the physical characteristics of the things in themselves. Note physical sensations: sounds, smells, textures, appearances, tastes. Stop now and then and do a body scan from head to toe, noting what each section is doing and how it’s feeling.

Note thoughts that come and the emotions attached to them: let them go. Concentrate on the breath and the physical activities — including the details of the objects with which you’re interacting.

You’ll notice that your home will lend itself to a meditative state when things are in order. This is where true feng shui originates. You will naturally sense how the arrangement of things affects the energy in a room.

Clutter will disappear because mindfulness tells you to dispose of unnecessary things. Plants will bloom. Birds will make their nests in your backyard. Your home will smell pleasing and people will naturally be attracted to it and your presence.

You’ve Reached the Beginning and the End

Once you are able to do mindfulness meditation even as you are attending to the normal and abnormal requirements of your home, the mundane and the unusual, you are at both the beginning and the end.

You are at the beginning because meditation never ends. Continue setting aside time each day to do sitting meditation in the space you’ve set aside. Continue practicing mindfulness as you attend to the energy of your house, your own energy, and the energy of those around you.

You are at the end because you grasped what it means to do meditation at home: it means letting go of cares and concerns and being in your home as you attend to the right tasks. The right tasks are those necessary for being in your home.

As you sit in your home, rise, open the door and you leave, you are calm in your mind because you are home.

Featured photo credit: Simon Rae via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Healthline: 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation
[2]Marquette University: Feng Shui: The Wind and Water
[3]Rutgers University: Social Media and Well-Being
[4]Maryville University: How Successful People Unplug

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