Thinking Outside The Box (2015)

Chapter 4: Applying Critical Thinking to Understand your Life Value




Creativity. Out of the box thinking. Lateral thinking.


You may be wondering if there are any more methods of left to approach a problem. As a matter of fact, there is one more way. That’s by applying the concept of critical thinking to you set of problem-solving tools.


No doubt you’ve heard of it. You may also be tired of hearing of it. For most people, they have heard the phrase since they first entered high school and then moved on to college. It could be, though, that somewhere along the line of it being used repeatedly in your academic life or in your business careers, you’ve turn a deaf ear to what it really means.


It could be a quick review of the phrase and how you can apply it to your daily values may be in order. Briefly, it’s the ability to think rationally and clearly so that you can fully comprehend and grasp the logical connection between ideas and concept.


You may think that you should be the norm for your thinking -- or anyone’s way of thinking. You’d be surprised to learn that if you left the mind to wander aimlessly, how “uncritical” your thinking may end up.


You’d probably find -- as many scientists have -- that if you don’t apply critical thinking to your thought patterns, many of your thoughts would end up biased, uninformed and sometimes just plain prejudiced -- not to mention distorted beyond belief.


You can hear this everyday when a group of people gather for their morning coffee or breakfast. It’s in these sessions that the individuals feel free enough to talk openly about their feelings from the state of the world to their spouse’s refusal to see things their own way.


While some individuals use critical speaking when they talk, many simply just spill out their thoughts which have been formed quickly -- and you wonder if they are indelibly shaped forever -- by their emotions. They hear certain “facts” and simply don’t take the time to check them out.


Instead of speaking from the position of knowledge, they very often speak from their gut. This isn’t always an accurate reflection of the problem and even more often than not a less accurate reflection of any solid solutions. 


You can probably see immediately the problem with this. The very quality of our lives and the results of what you do -- and everyone else does -- with their lives depend quite heavily on the quality of your thoughts. Inaccurate or non-critical thinking is not only costly in so many ways, but it can also cause permanent damage in your life. Long-term, non-critical thinking involving inaccurate ideas that make it almost impossible to tear down. Before you know it, you’re living your life based on inaccurate accounts of the world.


That not only means the physical manifestations you bring about with this thinking may not only be skewed, but may also not be what you want to see in the world. Beyond that, you’re putting your happiness, prosperity and everything that goes along with it on the line. If you want to be able to produce something -- anything -- that is positive as a result of your life, you need to be able to think critically about it.


Looking at your weight, for example, and doing nothing but viewing it from a non-critical thought process will do little or nothing if you’re trying to lose several pounds. You may end up talking yourself into the fact that it’s impossible to do anything. Or you could have yourself talked into the fact that you are the only person to blame for that. You may also uncritically follow those thoughts to how “bad” of a person you are because you can’t remedy the problem. As a result, you unwittingly contribute to your problem.


In a nutshell, in order for you to think critically about anything in your life, you must be capable of logical reasoning. Critical thinking, therefore, is all about being an active learner instead of a passive, unquestioning recipient of random bits of information you may have heard.


The Internet and Critical Thinking


Your daily interaction with the internet makes critical thinking all that much more vital in your life. Many people tend to start researching the net only to find inaccurate and downright false facts, but fail to question them -- even though their minds nag them that something isn’t quite right.


That leads many people to pass on these inaccuracies and even hoaxes as serious stories. This, in turn, creates an avalanche of unthinking, unwitting acceptance. People accept these facts at face value and these falsehoods and hoaxes are now spoken as the truth. What’s worse, they’re repeated over and over as being the truth. The ability to treat all data with suspicion until you get the chance to reflect on  them, research the information and think independently about them is the ultimate goal of every critical thinker.


Analyzing Problems without Emotions Involved


At this point, you’re may be wondering about that. After all, it’s not everyday someone comes up to you on the street and asks that question. If you’re at all unsure about whether you currently can think, reason and analyze the problems in your life, read about the characteristics a person who can do this possesses. If you can match your traits up to several of the abilities listed below, you’re already performing some level of this form of thought on your own.

You’re a critical thinker if you question the ideas and assumptions behind the beliefs.


Before accepting unconfirmed data and the word of others at face value, you need to question the basis of what they’re saying and the source of their information. You, additionally, need to question the assumptions behind these statements as they’re bandied about. Don’t accept them at face value. Instead, see if the statements and the arguments which seem to bolster their credibility actually hold up under scrutiny.


As a critical thinker, you’ll consistently search to ensure that the ideas presented to you and the underlying arguments for accepting them represent the entire picture. Ensure the validity before you accept them. Along with this, you’ll want to keep your mind open and move on if, for some reason, they don’t.

As a critical thinker, you’ll not only be able to identify and analyze problems in a systematic way, you’ll be able to solve them as well.

The alternative to this is to use your intuition or your gut feelings toward problem-solving. Certainly, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this method. Some of the best decisions people ever made have been made from the use of the elusive intuition. Don’t ever discard or diminish your intuition. It’ll serve you well for the rest of your life. But, if your intuition isn’t kicking in and you feel as if it’s leaving you stranded or you just want to confirm it, then critical thinking can do this.


Understands the “link” between ideas, in other words, who can connect the dots, as they say.

Hmm. there are those dots again. Remember those nine dots you drew at the beginning of this book. You approached them no doubt from a critical perspective. And that was the first step. Critical thinking.

Far too many people -- from business executives to stay at home spouses -- can see all the dots, but they don’t bother to find what they have in common. Think of the “dots” we’ve been talking about as facts. Instead of just accepting these facts as independent ideas and concept, begin to align them in such a way that you can form a cogent, logical argument out of them.

If you can do this properly, you’ll be able to “connect the dots” so that you have an airtight solution to the dilemma.


Constantly Search for the Best Possible Conclusion


The bottom line is simple enough once you’ve stripped away everything else. This form of thinking -- very often highly valued in our society -- depends on how we view the variables involved in order to create the best solution possible given the circumstances at the moment.

In other words, you can be assured you’re a critical thinker if your thought process is searching, scanning and possibly discarding ideas in order to develop the best possible conclusion at the moment.

This all sounds great, you say, but you’re still not quite so sure about how to approach this critical thinking tool. Just as with anything else you use in your life -- from mathematics, to reading and writing to riding a bicycle -- you’ll have to use and hone the necessary skills. This sounds much harder than it really is.

You’re about to discover that this skills cover a wide range, most of which you already possess and use in your daily life. They include, among other things, observation, interpretation, evaluation, explanation, problem solving and finally decision making.

That may sound overwhelming at the moment, but it really isn’t. Here is a short, but comprehensive description of how you can approach any concept or idea and apply critical thinking. It could be you’ve just never broken the process into separate steps --  yet.


Steps to Critical Thinking

If you following the steps outlined below, you’ll be certain of applying all of your resources to viewing your circumstances, dilemma or problem with a critical eye.


  1. Choose a topic then view it from an impartial point of view.
  2. Discern what the various arguments are involved in this issue.
  3. Develop a point of view to help you determine the validity and strength of the arguments
  4. As you review this, consider what weaknesses or negative points you can identify in this particular way of thinking.
  5. Determine what the implications are behind the statements or the argument being made.
  6. Finally, provide a structured platform of reasoning and support for the argument you’re planning on professing


Let’s face it, none of us thinks along these lines every day, seven days a week. Sometimes the situation forces us think in this way, sometimes we’re not even sure why we’re driven to question some arguments.

There are times, though, when emotions grip you and your ability to view events or situations through impartial eyes disappear into the thick of the night. We could be angry, suffering from grief or even overwhelmed with joy. Your ability to look at events rationally may dwindle. That’s fine, as long as you know what’s going on.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that your capabilities to think on a critical level depend on your current mindset. If your mindset isn’t laden with unnecessary emotions, you actually improve your ability to think rationally and critically.