10 Tactics for Critical Thinking

You’d be surprised how many times I’ve been asked how I apply “critical thinking” to my work during an interview.   Before I read the Webster’s version I had a pretty good understanding of it from my military background.  In this article, I’d like to share the tactics successful critical thinkers employ.

What is critical thinking?  In a nutshell, it’s the ability to think clearly and rationally about what to do and what to believe.  The goal of critical thinking it to learn to critique your own thoughts, establish new habits of the way you think, and develop a confidence in the reasoning behind your thoughts.

Essentially, you want to analyze your thoughts first, then evaluate how you came up with those thoughts or views and improve the way you approach things.  Someone with a weak-sense will use what they grew up to believe to defend their current beliefs making no effort to consider viewpoints contrary to their own. A strong-sense critical thinker evaluates all beliefs, especially their own and consistently pursues a fair thought process.

The mind has three basic functions: thinking, feeling, and wanting.  The mind communicates three kinds of messages to itself which involves incidents happening in your life, feelings about what happening, and things to take action on.  These three are interrelated and continuously influence the others.

The 10 tactics listed below are essential to critical thinking.

  • Use “dead” time
    • While your stuck in traffic or riding the train – you can use that dead time to think about your thoughts.  Go over your day and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your thoughts.
  • Handle one problem per day
    • Everyday, evaluate one problem in your life that you can think through systematically.  Identify elements to figure out exactly what the problem is.  Then formulate a good question that will induce a solution.
  • Every week, incorporate one of the universal intellectual standards into your thought process
    • Clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, significance, and fairness.  For example, you focus on precision, notice when you are imprecise in communicating with others.
  • Keep an intellectual journal
    • Compose a certain number of journal entries and describe situations you care about, your behavior, your analysis, and the implications of your analysis.  What did you learn and what would you do differently?
  • Practice intellectual strategies
    • Write down your observations and what you learned about yourself and how you can use strategies to improve yourself
  • Reshape your character
    • Select an intellectual trait like, courage, empathy, humility to aspire towards every month and cultivate that trait.
  • Deal with your ego
    • Be conscious about how your behavior is driven by egocentric thinking.  Recognize your egocentric thinking and replace it with more rational thinking.
  • Redefine your views
    • Many situations we think of as negative can be redefined as positive.  You can transform a con into a pro, gain rather than lose, see dead-ends as a new direction
  • Get in touch with your emotions
    • Work to identify the cause of negative emotions.  What exactly led me to feel this way and how might this thinking be flawed.
  • Analyze group influences in your life
    • Contemplate on how you act in a social group.  What does the group expect or require you to believe in?  How is this social group influencing your critical thinking?

These are certainly a lot of things to consider but then again, it’s critical thinking and once you get it down it will become natural to you.

 

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