We make decisions everyday that affect our lives.
Be it in a personal or a professional context, you can never deny the significance and the necessity of good decision making.
Critical thinking helps us to find any flaw, if it exists, in our decision making process and helps us to reach a better outcome by eliminating those flaws. In short, no matter what you are doing, you need to have that set of decision making skills; and for that, you need to be able to think critically and act quickly.
If you are still in doubt about your critical thinking ability or wondering what you should do in order to improve critical thinking, here is a list of steps that you should follow:
1. Know exactly what you want
Knowing exactly what you want is the first step of critical thinking.
We have to think critically to solve problems so that they meets their objectives. Every decision we make has an objective or purpose attached to it and identifying exactly what that is, what we actually want out of it, gives us a starting point to work with.
So ask yourself: What do I want? What do I expect to get out of this? Until you know the answer to these questions you're not going to know what the right decision is.
2. Deal with your biases
We often think from only our own perspective to deal with problems. However, it helps with critical thinking and decision making if you try thinking from someone else's point of view.
Furthermore, it gives you a clearer picture of the overall situation. Let's say you're looking to solve a problem at work. Think of how your best friend might approach it, or how your partner or a sibling might. Now think of how your boss might approach it.
By allowing yourself to consider different perspectives you might find yourself hitting upon solutions you hadn't previously considered.
3. Consider the consequences of your options
Every option we choose has consequences for ourselves, or maybe others involved in the problem.
You need to weigh up the possible consequences which may arise from each of your options and go for the one that benefits you most whilst limiting the negative effects on others involved.
A good way to do this is by writing a list of pros and cons. By asking yourself to think of every possible positive outcome alongside every possible negative outcome, you can make a much more informed decison.
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4. Do your research
I'm sure you've heard that knowledge is power. However, many of us tend to rely a lot on what we already know and are reluctant to let go of our own beliefs.
Critical thinking requires you to let go of your beliefs sometimes to solve problems. Reluctance to learn, research or acquire new beliefs will only hold you back and certainly won't help you with critical thinking.
By taking time to do your research and focus on learning you'll find that over time you will evolve and adapt to overcome new situations and improve your critical thinking.
5. Accept the fact that you’re not always right
This one can be harder than it sounds.
It's okay to make mistakes and no matter who we are, we all make them.
However, most of us don't accept this fact which holds us back from thinking critically. If you are doing something wrong and repeatedly keep doing it because you have already assumed that you can never go wrong, then this needs to change for your own good.
Always double check solutions to problems, consider new options and view your mistakes as an opportunity to learn.
5. Break it down
Being able to see the big picture is great but it's even better if you can break things down into smaller sections.
The reason being that smaller sections are easier to mentally digest and work with.
Working with numerous small things is an easier task than trying to solve the bigger picture which can become too much to handle.
So try and think about it in terms of steps: what is the first thing I need to do? Make a list and try and put it in terms of priority, or chronology. By taking a big problem and breaking it into several pieces you allow yourself to start looking at the solutions, rather than spending half your time being overwhelmed by the problem.
6. Don't overcomplicate things
Overcomplicating things is something a lot of us have in common. It's a necessity to think things through but it only makes things difficult if you begin overthinking. You have to discover the fine line between positive thinking and overthinking.
There are a number of occasions where simplicity gets the job done.
If you are still in doubt about your critical thinking ability, just know that you are not alone.
Critical thinking is not something that comes easy. It sometimes needs you to let go of what you believe and work with new ideas. It can be challenging at times but if you do it right, it will be all worth it!