Why is Critical Thinking important for Success?

Many people talk about critical thinking, it has become one of the modern buzzwords, but what is it really and why is it so important to incorporate critical thinking into your daily life?

I have a saying… ‘Most people think, but very few people think about what they think about, when they think’ and even that idea is not what I consider critical thinking and it is more than just questioning the questions we have.

Before I proceed, I want to state that critical thinking is a complex subject, with many varying definitions. However I would like to share my perspective on what it takes to create a path that could lead to critical thinking.

Looking more carefully at the word critical, it is a conflict word that is designed to provoke an emotional response, to very blatantly suggest your thinking is wrong. Of course conventional thinking (that politically correct wet and limp offend no one outlook) is rendered useless by ideas like constructive criticism (the idea that something can be achieved without the real hard truth). It could be this soft approach to Criticism that has resulted in the need for critical thinking.

The plans we come up with have a certain degree of variation, we normally have a plan A, B or even C. When we have more than one plan we consider ourselves to be very creative and admittedly, you normally are creative as you have come up with other options or outcomes. Yet no matter how creative your plans are, they remain your plans and will work for you to a point. The point is limited to your understanding and the predictability of a situation. The reason is that we make plans using our own knowledge and beliefs, which are generally a by-product of our personal conditioning.

To introduce the idea of critical thinking I will use the following example. If you were to set up a tiger trap, you would put it on a path you know tigers use, and given some time you would probably find a tiger in your trap. It could be argued that the tiger you catch will also not be the biggest in the jungle.

We then need to look at what it would take to catch the biggest, meanest tiger in the jungle. First we would need to consider what characteristics the tiger needed to become this beast. Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that he would not take the general paths that any other tiger would take as he is most likely to get caught on that path. That tiger knows that surviving is about doing the unpredictable and about having a different strategy, a strategy that is only temporary. Survival of the tiger depends on his ability to change his habits and do the unpredictable.

However, this does not make the tiger a critical thinker. We, as the ones wanting to catch him, have to consider all our options before we set the trap. Have we looked at all possible routes he might take? Do we know everything there is to know about tigers? Have we asked other people what they think? Is there a hidden path the tiger might use? We have to predict the tiger’s unpredictability!

Just like the tiger our success depends on our ability to change our approach. Becoming totally predictable is a weakness that will hinder our success. The need for news ideas is mentioned in my post ‘Your greatest ideas of 5 years ago are now your baggage‘.

How then do we develop our critical thinking, so that we can be less predictable and potentially more successful?

Step One – Look at a potential situation or plan. Write down everything you know surrounding this, including the emotions and all thoughts you have about the situation. Try to understand your motivation and your goal. Now identify any possible problem(s). Look for reasons and your understanding of why this problem occurs. Gather facts, and available evidence. Get the input of others, find out what they think, but most importantly don’t look or ask for solutions.

Step Two – Now look at the aftermath of the problem should it occur, what are the negative outcomes you foresee and how will that outcome affect your personal life and that of your family? What would your responsibility be should none of your plans work?

Step Three – Start looking at different solutions by asking as many people as possible a question like ‘what would you do if you were in the following situation?’ Let the person speak freely and don’t interrupt them, rather encourage them to tell you more. Consider their answers and emotional responses, were they the same or different from yours and what were you able to learn from each person you spoke to? Observations, facts, arguments and skepticism are needed to analyse and properly form the picture in your mind.

Step Four – Compare your original outlook to the way you are currently thinking. Have you found that it has changed and that you are thinking more about solutions? Write down your thoughts and speak to more people. Try to identify a person who is a natural problem solver as they are always thinking of ways around or through problems. They could become a good friend, especially if you are honest about your challenges. The friendship could be beneficial both ways.

Step Five – Now that you have started on the road to critical thinking, start asking yourself questions like what will change in the future, and how would I handle this type of problem down the line? Bear in mind it would need to have a different approach and possibly an alternative solution. Broaden your scope of thinking. Make sure you are properly prepared for what lies ahead.

For this whole process to be successful you will need to be honest with yourself, and it will help you gauge the honesty of other peoples’ responses when you ask them. Generally people tell you what you want to hear, so the more honest you are with yourself, the more comfortable people will feel to tell you what you need to hear, rather than what you are wanting to hear. If you are not prepared for the truth, very few people will share it with you.

Do you see why critical thinking becomes important for our success? Notice that most people resist change, but in fact the world is changing quicker than most people even wish to admit. I have noticed they no longer resist change, the idea makes them numb and they wish for things to be at the level at which they can align their thoughts.

Unfortunately the changing circumstances will not wait for our thinking. We need to be pro-active with our thinking, and critical thinking may just give us the unpredictable advantage that could lead to our success. You need to be rational, open-minded and unbiased to truly change your situation and grow into your true potential,

Image: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-conceptual-photo-of-a-young-man-thinking-about-work-7278603/

About RichSimmondsZA

Retired but still Disruptive
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