The Smart Way To Think
You read a few news articles on your smartphone - information. You sit in class for a couple hours and absorb information. Then maybe you go home and watch TV which is blasting you with even more information.
This isn’t called “the information age” for nothing, our brains are bombarded with more information from more sources than anyone else in history.
So how do we make sense of it all?
Out of the overflow of material being thrown at us, some of it is bound to be inaccurate, deceitful, or just downright pointless.
Critical thinking is the ability to examine and reason through information to arrive at a decision regarding its truthfulness.
Without this skill to discern useful information from the unimportant, anything else you do is pretty much meaningless.
Training your mind on how you think is like training for any sport: if you’re not practicing to get better, you’re getting worse.
It’s just that in this case, getting worse is much more dangerous.
This is an extensive subject that you should definitely look more into, but without getting into a huge lecture, here are the most important things to watch out for:
Black and White Thinking
Also known as a false dichotomy, this is one of the most common ways to throw a person off and limit their thinking. It’s when you only get 2 choices as the possibilities, when in fact more choices exist.
The classic example is: “You’re either with me, or against me!”. Well, no...I can also feel completely neutral to what you do and not agree, but not oppose at all.
Watch out whenever you’re given an either/or option. Not many things can be expressed in simply black and white, there are almost always gray areas.
It’s almost impossible to be absolutely objective about something, there is always a motive behind every piece of information.
Every piece of news, every review, every statement is said with some purpose in mind. Almost always, someone has a position they are trying to prove or are trying to bend the message to support their agenda.
This isn’t always a bad thing, but just keep this in mind when taking in new information.
You should also question the source.
Just because someone is an “expert” or a celebrity does not at all mean they are automatically correct and should not be doubted.
Swallow Your Pride
Just like others are biased to support their perspective, so are you!
We all are, but this can be extremely crippling to accurate thinking. Accept it, you’re not THAT smart. You don’t know it all.
As a matter of fact...there’s so much you don’t know, that you don’t even know what you don’t know (stop and think about that for a second).
Step back from the need to be right. Having a one-sided perspective will blind you to what is really true and useful, and that’s ultimately the most important thing. Always keep an open mind.
Instead of wanting to be right, shift your mindset to have a deeper hunger to understand more.
It’s Okay To Not Know
It’s part of human nature to feel uncomfortable with the unknown. We’re just never truly satisfied until we know the answer or the reason behind something.
Take for example the question EVERYONE feels they need answered: what happens after we die?
People choose to believe all sorts of things...but all religious views and near-death experiences aside, no one can honestly say they KNOW.
We will never know until it’s too late, and yet we all feel like we need to have an opinion instead of just accepting that we really don’t know. It’s unknowable.
Okay, this is an extreme example, but notice how our need to have an answer can lead us to hasty conclusions which are often inaccurate.
Whenever there’s no clear answer in sight, just suspend your judgement and say “I don’t know” or “I need more time to think about that.”
The list of these goes on, and training yourself to think critically will not only make you a smarter person, it will help you make wiser decisions in every area of your life.
Your thinking won’t just change overnight though, practice filtering information through these concepts whenever you read or listen something. When it comes to critical thinking there really are only two options: you’re either practicing to get better, or you’re getting worse through being lazy.