How Thinking Critically Changes Your Life for the Better
Critical analysis can be defined as the ability to judge an issue by taking into account all factors that affect the process and outcome of the issue. A person with the ability to think critically will be able to calmly analyze from more than one perspective without letting personal preferences interfere judgment.
So, how does thinking critically make life better? For starters, it can enable you to understand topics more deeply, make you a star performer in your job and allow you to be more open and tolerant of people who hold beliefs which are quite contradictory to your own.
1. Understand, Don’t Just Learn
One of the first things you notice after embracing critical thinking is that you are able to understand subjects much better. A normal learning process involves reading a subject and memorizing it. On occasions, you may also understand the subject logically.
“Critical thinking takes you beyond such basic processes and enables you to understand the subject in a way that you begin seeing its implications across multiple areas.”
For example, if you are learning economics, you may come across a concept which states that the scarcity of a product raises its value, while the easy availability of a product decreases it. Now, a person without any critical thinking ability can only see its applicability in the field of economics, and will probably only be employed in that field.
But someone who can think critically will see the applicability of the theory of demand in other areas, which might at first seem unrelated. For example, they might observe that people who have grown without love from parents may hold love to be very important in their lives.
In this case, love is the commodity, the scarcity of which, increased its value. And such insights are only possible because the person had critical thinking abilities which enabled him or her to apply knowledge gained from one subject to other areas.
This concept was explored in Richard Paul and Linda Elder’s Critical Thinking Development: A Stage Theory, in which they proposed that children who have higher critical thinking abilities are able to understand subjects at a deeper level and connect ideas across multiple disciplines.
2. Perform Better In Your Job
Critical thinking can easily make you a star performer at work. This is because the ability to think critically enables you to see multiple causal relationships. Other employees, including your supervisors, may not be able to think the way you do. As a result, you will essentially become a valuable member of the office think tank.
For example, imagine that your company is thinking of setting up a store in a specific town because of increasing demand from that place. Their logic is pretty straightforward – higher demand means open more stores to get more business. But you go a step ahead and look into why the demand is increasing.
You soon find out that the town is mostly a fishing community, which has been experiencing excellent catch from the seas over the past two years. You also discover that the fishes have been frolicking to the waters of the town because of growth of a unique algae in it.
Then you find out that the algae are growing because a few companies along the coast are dumping certain chemicals which the algae love to consume. And finally, you find out that the state government has passed a resolution banning the companies from dumping the chemicals in the waters.
You realize that once the government law is enacted with full effect, the algae growth will decrease, and the fish will stop flocking into the region’s waters. The townspeople won’t get as many great catches and their direct incomes will be impacted.
You now conclude that investing in a new store will be a terrible investment for the company since you foresee a rapid decline in sales as the community’s income falls. And what happens when the company hears out your line of thought? Impressive, all across the board.
This is the difference between critical thinking and the usual one-way thinking. While the latter only focuses on one causal relationship, critical thinking enables you to see various causes and the relationships between causes.
In the above example, while everyone was hooked onto the cause-effect relationship between demand and sales, you went deeper and dug up multiple scenarios that involved fishes, microbes, and chemical waste!
As an article on why companies must cultivate critical thinking argues, what the business world needs so desperately at the moment are critical thinkers. Companies have begun to realize this and are seemingly moving in this direction. And as a critical thinker, you definitely stand to benefit from this development.
3. Increasing Tolerance
If there is one thing that contributes to a lack of tolerance in the world, it is the absence of critical thinking. Intolerant ideas are the products of narrow viewpoints which are unable to accommodate other perspectives, especially those which run counter to them.
As an article on tolerance and critical thinking notes, when people surround themselves with those who only share their views, critical thinking can suffer and they can end up thinking that only their viewpoint is the absolute reality.
A person of a specific spiritual belief may be against another person’s belief, refusing to believe it as equally valid as their own. A person who identifies with a particular sexual identity may hate those who live with a completely opposite inclination. There are many such examples of intolerance.
Critical thinking expands your ability to observe and accept other people’s views and beliefs. For example, if you are a religiously intolerant person, then critical thinking will make you see that the other person’s way of worship is not so different from yours since both of you are essentially praying to a divine power for the good of people you love.
And when you start accommodating the other viewpoint, any intolerance you feel will begin dissolving and you become more forbearing.
4. Developing Critical Thinking
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” -Aristotle
Developing the ability to think critically is no easy task. It requires you to slowly give up your preconceived notions and start making value-based judgments on events based on merit. For people who have grown with a strong set of prejudices, this can look impossible.
And even if you think you have developed a strong ability to think critically, you will still have to deal with the paradox of critical thinking, where you may not be able to decide whether you have arrived at a conclusion because of careful analysis or whether you have fooled yourself into thinking that you had done a critical analysis.
But whatever paradoxes you may face, one thing is for certain – it is far more beneficial for you to be able to think critically than not being able to. And as such, putting in the effort to be a solid critical thinker is well worth it.
When you start thinking critically and from various perspectives, the range of thoughts increase. More thoughts isn’t necessarily a catalyst for decision making. Hence, have your starting points and intentions in the right place, and decisions will be easier to make.