Critical thinking strategies help you in day-to-day life for making better decisions.
The implications for developing strong critical thinking skills are infinite.
Consider the millions of decisions you make over your lifetime. Now imagine how much better your life will be if you have strong decision-making that makes it, so you make more good decisions in life than bad ones.
The power of exponents will show you how fast this can add up to your advantage or your determinant.
That's how important critical thinking skills are: they can literally save you time, money, and suffering.
There are few skills that can claim such a broad application.
Here are the top 5 critical thinking skills you can use for better thinking and decision-making.
1. Goal focused reverse engineering
Start with the goal, then work backward.
Imagine you eliminated every possible variable to the thing you are considering. Focus only on the result you want. Now visualize this existing and try to look closely at what you think the possible components of this ideal scenario.
Then visualize one piece at a time. Reverse engineer the ideal scenario and build a model by working backward.
2. The Foresight method
Foresight involves thinking ahead to the many variables that will result from a proposed change.
Moving is an example.
Moving always sounds great because we focus on removing the things we don't like at our current home. Maybe we hate the traffic, and so we assume that our commute will be cut in half. Maybe we don't like our neighbors, and so we assume (hope) that our new home will be different, with better neighbors.
Maybe we think we will save money on our expenses, but then we move and realize that food, electricity, and the overall cost of living in the new city ends up wiping out any savings we thought wed earn.
Whenever we get excited about a new change, we should look closely at the many variables we aren't considering. Make a list. Investigate the cons of the decision. Just being willing to look at the negative is something most people do when they get caught up in making emotional decisions.
3. The RIP IT TO SHREDS formula
This critical thinking strategy is not for the faint of heart.
This strategy is called the "Rip it to shreds" strategy. It involves taking your idea or situation and making a list of every possible con, issue, negative, or possible worst-case scenario.
Be ruthless with this critical thinking strategy: list every possible thing, and leave no stone unturned.
This is especially hard if you are using it for something you are looking forward to or excited about. So use with caution.
4. The PRO formula for critical thinking
This is the opposite of the RIP IT TO SHREDS strategy. You want to think of every possible best-case scenario and positive you can fathom.
You'll probably find it easier to come up with ideas than you did in the RIP IT TO SHREDS formula.
The key is to assimilate this data once you complete the PRO and the CON formula. Once you have both your lists, take a pen or pencil and circle the most apparent and likely outcomes on each list. Then consider rewriting those lists and putting them next to each other.
You could also use a decision tree to list subtopics under each topic you come up with.
5. The Open, yet critical, mind
You must have an open mind for critical thinking.
The more you let your bias seep into your thinking, the more skewed your results will be.
Bias, by definition, keeps you closed off from seeing all angles. This is death for critical thinking.
And this is exactly why MOST people do not have critical thinking skills. They can't see through their bias. Most people aren't even aware of their bias, like fish living in water and not knowing what water is.
So how do you cultivate an open mind for critical thinking?
That is not an easy question to answer. Sometimes just being aware that you are biased and lean towards a closed-minded worldview will help you open up just a little.
Critical thinking with others and using lots and lots of questions can also help pierce through personal bias.
This one is tricky because we all possess varying levels of bias and dogma. I highly recommend you spend time working on leveling up your awareness. This skill, like critical thinking, will help you in every aspect of your life.
Problem-solving based critical thinking
This is the most tangible and scientific form of critical thinking. Instead of spending a ton of time trying to think your way through a problem, problem-solving focuses on getting to some kind of action as fast as possible.
From there, you learn and accumulate more data so you can get closer to objective truth. You repeat this process, iterating each step of the way until you are satisfied, you've reached a comfortable place.
It goes like this:
- Propose a hypothesis to test
- Perform the test in the smallest, cheapest way possible.
- Evaluate data and use that to prepare the next step
- Repeat the process until you uncover objectivity
There are many forms of critical thinking. Each new strategy you adopt will make you that much better of a thinker and decision-maker.
Make sure you are forever leveling up your thinking and finding better ways to make better decisions.
This constant improvement is called "Kaizen" in Japanese and is the core philosophy of Toyota's lean manufacturing method that made them one of the most successful car companies in the world.