How to Think Critically: Learn to Challenge Your Thoughts

how to think criticallyHave you ever heard the expression, “Think for yourself?”  Although you might associate the words “Critical Thinking” with some complex formulated train of thought — all critical thinking is just that — thinking for yourself, and forming your own opinions and thoughts.  We think all the time, every day, and you are probably thinking right this second.  Unfortunately, another thing that we probably do is take our thinking abilities for granted.  Just think (no pun intended) about it: we can come up with the most amazing thoughts, creations, and ideas.  But do we?  Or, do we spend the day letting our mind wander?  If you are looking to develop your critical thinking skills, or to begin customizing your own opinions and ideas, you may think you have come to the right place — and you have!  Put on your thinking cap, because we are going to give you some tips on how to develop critical thinking skills that you can put right to use!

What a Critical Thinker Does

Before we get into some tips on how to think critically, let’s first go over what a critical-thinker ultimately does.  A critical thinker…

  • Asks questions when faced with problems to be able to analyze them clearly.
  • Interprets conclusions and solutions using their individual abstract ideas.
  • Thinks with an open mind.
  • Holds alternative systems of thought.
  • Communicates effectively.
  • Is self-disciplined with their mind.

how to think criticallyTips for Thinking Critically

Everyone thinks differently, and because of that, there are a plethora of different ways and methods that you can use to help develop and learn critical thinking skills.  We are going to go over with you the ones that we believe to be the most efficient and effective when you are just starting off.

  • Think realistically:  Often times, we have trouble thinking realistically and in the moment.  Instead, we focus our thoughts on dreams, wishes, and expectations that are not yet realities.  To think critically, think based on reality.
  • Be open-minded:  Having an open-mind is essential in helping to develop your own thoughts and opinions.  A closed-minded person only thinks with rigid and undeveloped thoughts that allow for no interpretation or creativity.  Be sure to accept and listen to all different points of view, no matter how much you may or may not agree with them.
  • Do not fall into a grey area:  You may find yourself stuck in a space between two ideas.  Do not stay ambiguous because that shows you are unable to formulate your own opinion.  Choose a side and have a reason for your choice.
  • Step away from the bandwagon:  A lot of younger people get into the habit of jumping onto bandwagons, otherwise known as peer pressure.  To have critical thinking skills, stay away from thoughts and actions that everyone else does, because chances are, you might end up doing them for that same reason.
  • Do not judge:  Before you judge anyone or anything, make sure you have all the resources and information to do so.  You wouldn’t judge a book by its’ cover without reading it first, would you?
  • Find your humor:  Developing a sense of humor will make you see light in certain situations.  People who are overly pessimistic can make rash decisions because they see the world in an extremely negative light.  Be sure to maintain a sense of humor that will help you see clarity and light.
  • Be curious:  Someone who is close-minded is not curious about the world and what it has to offer.  If you continuously want to learn, and are looking to develop new skills and habits, you will have an open sense of knowledge and be able to explore more ways of thinking and doing things.
  • Investigate:  If you believe everything you have heard throughout your life, you might still be waiting in line to see Santa Clause.  Of course, we know you are probably not that susceptible.  We are talking about things that you hear on the television, on the radio, in ads, or from others.  Believing everything you hear will prevent you from investigating yourself and developing your own opinion about subject matters.
  • Control your emotions:  Women especially have this problem once a month, but it is important to remember to not let your emotions do the thinking for you.  If you are feeling overly angry, tired, agitated, or scared – take a few steps back before you create an opinion or thought about something.  And be wary of situations that put your emotions into play to manipulate your thought patterns.
  • Be wary of “authority” figures:  People like cultural figures, Hollywood stars, or sports personalities generally say things and make statements because they are getting paid to do so.  Even if they have millions of dollars and handfuls of endorsements, that does not mean we have to believe what they say.
  • Flattery traps:  If you have heard the saying “Flattery can get you anywhere”, be careful of people who use flattery to get you to follow their way of thinking.  Unfortunately, they could only be flattering you to get you to give them your money or agree with them.
  • Watch your ego:  Some people do things to please others.  If you want to develop critical thinking skills, you need to do things and make decisions with your best interests in mind.  Make sure you are not doing something just to fit in or look “cool”.
  • Practice positive self-talk:  Negative self talk will only work to hinder your critical thinking skills by giving you a negative self image of yourself.  This could lead you to make undesirable decisions.  Weed out any negative self talk you may have, and focus on thinking in ways to enhance your self esteem.
  • Be empathetic:  You will never truly understand or know what someone else may be going through until you put yourself in their position.  If you practice empathy, you will be less likely to judge others or access situations without knowing the full story.
  • Listen:  You develop critical thinking skills by gathering all the facts and information you need to make sound judgment.  However, if you do not listen well or attentively, you will not even be able to hear all that you need to.  Also, be aware of habits such as tuning others out or being the only one doing the talking.
  • Do not stereotype:  If you already have preset ideas of opinions about someone or something, you will not be able to think critically on certain subjects.  For instance, if you have a stereotype about certain careers or jobs, you will always approach that field with a certain way of thinking.  This goes with stereotyping people as well.  Do not label or categorize.
  • Breathe under pressure:  We all deal with pressure on a regular basis.  The problem with pressure is that it is easy to make impulsive and unwise decisions that you might not have if you were not under pressure.  If you feel your shoulders weighing you down, take time to rationalize your thoughts.  Or, better yet, revisit the situation once you have taken time to calm down and breathe.

Control Your Thoughts

We all want to be able to use our brains and thoughts to the best of our ability.  With these helpful tips and suggestions on how to think critically, you will be well on your way to developing your own opinions and waving good bye to the bandwagon.