What is critical thinking?
The power of critical thinking lies in its calculated, intentional examination of facts that aims to facilitate superior decision-making and foster a comprehensive worldview. Despite its importance, the art of critical thinking is a set of skills that many individuals are not equipped with. The essence of critical thinking is to establish relationships between pertinent facts and narratives, enabling us to assess information while minimizing biases, preconceptions, and personal beliefs. Critical thinking is not a destination but a direction toward optimization, as there is no perfect way to do it.
As sentient beings, we innately seek to construct meaning. Our conscious mind consistently endeavors to establish connections and derive meanings, even when they might not exist. Consequently, we often weave stories out of scant facts, leading to the formation of biases and beliefs that impede our ability to make informed decisions that align with our objectives.
Critical thinking necessitates transcending our pre-existing narratives, beliefs, and prejudices in pursuit of fresh truths. This exploratory process of critical thinking paves the way for enhanced understanding, purpose, and lucidity.
Critical thinking stands in stark contrast to routine, everyday thinking. It is a conscious, determined endeavor as opposed to an automatic cognitive process. Automatic thinking is typically driven by biases and personal beliefs. Critical thinking, on the other hand, enables us to question assumptions, delve deeper, and look beyond superficial impressions.
Critical thinking involves the comprehensive analysis of an issue or situation, and the facts, data, or evidence associated with it. Ideally, critical thinking should be devoid of personal emotions, opinions, or biases and should concentrate exclusively on factual information. This is a Herculean task for us as human beings, but continuous improvement in our critical thinking capabilities is always within our reach.
What Makes Critical Thinking Challenging?
Given the intricate workings of our brains, we are naturally predisposed to be meaning-making machines. The left hemisphere of our brain strives to discover and create meanings and connections, even in their absence. This leads us to fabricate narratives based on limited facts and prior experiences, resulting in biases and beliefs that prevent us from making precise, well-informed decisions.
In essence, critical thinking requires us to sift through and move beyond these stories, beliefs, and biases to discover truths. Through this intricate process, we achieve clarity that directs us toward our deepest meanings and purposes.
Unfortunately, critical thinking is not a skill set that is universally taught. However, we aim to be the catalyst for change in this area.
Narratives vs. Facts in the Context of Critical Thinking
A fact is a verifiable piece of information. To simplify, consider a fact as something that can be recorded using a video.
On the other hand, a story is our interpretation of these facts. We interweave facts to derive and convey meaning. Narratives are inherently subjective and hence are influenced by our knowledge, thoughts, and beliefs. A crucial aspect of critical thinking involves identifying the stories we spin for ourselves and deconstructing them into basic facts. This enables us to let go of our narratives, allowing us to engage more deeply in critical thinking.
By differentiating between narratives and facts, we enhance our psychological flexibility in the realm of critical thinking. This entails treating our emotions, stories, and thoughts as malleable facts and stepping back to process these facts instead of reacting to a narrative.
This further necessitates an understanding of our conscious and subconscious minds and the general functioning of our brains, which we will delve into in our subsequent blog post.
Enhancing Your Critical Thinking Skills
Improving your critical thinking skills involves a series of steps:
- Enhance self-awareness.
- Develop the capability to respond rather than simply reacting.
- Understand the workings of your brain, move past biases and become aware of their pitfalls.
- Distinguish between facts and narratives.
- Cultivate the ability to see beyond stories and facts to the bigger picture.
- Practice active listening and ask insightful questions.
- Separate emotions from facts and logic.
- Develop systems to navigate complex situations and employ them whenever possible.