The Importance of Critical Thinking For The Curious and Evolving Mind

Topic
how-to-think

Critical thinking is a skill that will serve you for life.

Do you want to make better decisions about your relationships, finances, career, choice of college, and anything else important?

The answer is yes since you're reading this line. You're obviously interested in leveling up your thinking.

In this article, I will give you examples of critical thinking as well as hopefully show you the importance of developing your critical thinking skills.

First things first, the greatest threat to critical thinking is your emotions.

Let's turn this into an equation:

  • If you are thinking emotionally, you are not thinking critically.
  • If you are thinking critically, you are not thinking emotionally.

So before you even consider thinking about a problem, make sure you are as detached as possible from your emotions. If you find your emotions clouding your judgment, take a break. Come back later or revisit it another day.

Time is usually the great stabilizer of emotions.

Let's try to answer this question: Critical thinking is ________?

What would you put in that blank?

  • Problem-solving? Partly.
  • Clear thinking? Yes.
  • Rational thinking? Yes.
  • Objective thinking? Totally.
  • Considering all angles? Yup.

As you can see, critical thinking has many variables and is not so easy to define.

The best definition for critical thinking I have found is this:

Critical thinking is the process of objectively evaluating multiple data points for the purpose of coming to the best decision possible.

The dangers of automatic thoughts

The other danger to critical thinking is something called heuristics.

Heuristics are simple rules of thumb we use in our every day lives. This keeps us from information overload. Heuristics are generally useful but can cloud our judgment when trying to solve complex, nuanced problems.

Start spending time in your day to day life trying to spend more time thinking about the various decisions you make in life.

  • Ask yourself why something is the way it is?
  • Ask yourself why society deems you do it this way?
  • Ask why this thing made you angry?
  • Ask why you feel anxious?

Get in the habit of asking yourself questions about every little thing you can. This will build your critical thinking skills like no other exercise ever could. This is real world, in the field, knowledge, and it is irreplaceable.

It will also help you avoid the many errors of human judgment that come from human bias.

The ignorant certainty trap: Another critical thinking use case

Many young minds fall into the "correct answer" trap. This is understandable considering our school system is designed to punish wrong answers and reward the right answers.

True knowledge is like a fluid, ever-changing river—you can never step in the same river twice.

The idea that there is always a "right" answer to a question is a dangerous world view. This leads to fragile mindsets and political polarization.

Politics is a perfect example of the importance of critical thinking.

Most politicians think about their party first and critically second, if at all.

The same goes for staunch proponents of one side.

“The great majority of men and women, in ordinary times, pass through life without ever contemplating or criticizing, as a whole, either their own conditions or those of the world at large. They find themselves born into a certain place in society, and they accept what each day brings forth, without any effort of thought beyond what the immediate present requires."
-Bertrand Russell

Critical thinking is one of the most important life skills you can develop

I hope you now see the importance of critical thinking in making better life decisions.

Most people make huge decisions about who to marry, what job to take, what school to go to, and barely spend any time thinking objectively and critically about such decisions.

And as a result, the divorce rate is 50%, and college dropouts are high; college debt is at unsustainable levels, and people go into debt each year with little to no savings.

All of these are a result of ignoring critical thinking. These are emotion-based decisions. Emotional decision making is how you can get into real trouble in life.

This is why critical thinking is so important.