From the time we wake up and debate hitting the snooze button we are thinking. Thoughts our constantly flooding our mind. It could be said even during our sleep the mind is active during our dreams states. How do these thoughts affect our living? Is just ok living affected by just ok thinking? By improving our thinking skills can we move beyond ok to abundant living? That is what I would like to challenge our thinking about this week. How critical thinking can improve our living.
What is Critical Thinking? One of my favorite definitions of it comes from Richard Paul, one of the top researchers and writers about critical thinking. He states, “ Critical Thinking is thinking about your thinking while you are thinking, in order to make your thinking better.” That is a lot of thinking! It means to actively reflect over your thinking analyzing and looking at the logic to improve your thought life. I tell my students I work with that the brain is like a computer and our thinking is like the software programs. Critical thinking is studying over our program of thoughts with the motive to improve our truly personal computer in our head.
The important question is what is the quality of our thinking? Have you ever watched a news story and said to your self – “What were they thinking?”. There are examples of bad thinking all over the media. When I want to get a good laugh out of poor quality thinking I check out Chuck Shepherd’s website News of the Weird. I can laugh at the antics of the results of people’s thinking yet the problem is when I catch myself saying, “what was I thinking?” Those moments are when I especially understand the need for critical thinking – analyzing my thinking to improve it.
Two authors that have spoken so well to the issue of critical thinking are Richard Paul and Linda Elder. One of my favorite books on critical thinking is their Critical Thinking: Tools For Taking Charge of Your Professional Life and Personal Life. In their writing they point out that three main functions of the mind are thinking, ( comparing, judging, analyzing and synthesizing); Feeling, ( happy, sad, depressed, calm, and worried); and wanting, (goals, purposes, values, and motives). Each waking moment our minds are thinking through these areas as we relate to life and our environment. Our thoughts are moving either passively or actively. Critical thinking comes to play as we take the active control of our thoughts. Our thoughts either control us passively by emotionally responding, or we control our thoughts by actively rationally, “thinking about our thinking”
Our life is about the choices we make in our decision process. With each choice there is a consequence and then we make another decision based on that consequence and so on. If we are not critically thinking life happens to us -- sometimes with bad consequences. Maybe even to the level of being in a news story where others look at us and say, “what was he thinking?”. Hopefully not to the level that we appear in News of the Weird! By actively using critical thinking we can have more control over our living, make more positive choices that will bring better results in our lives.
Of course we can’t control everything just by our thinking. Using critical thinking won’t stop a storm from destroying our house or from a illness coming into our life. It won’t stop the affects of other people’s poor quality thinking, whether they are family, friends, or politicians from affecting our personal lives. But the habit of building stronger thinking patterns will help us respond positively and constructively to events and actions that come into our life journey.
Think about your thinking. Are you more active or passive in your thinking? How are you controlling life, rather than letting life control you? Take some time to look over the website www.criticalthinking.org and see if you can gain some helpful insights for your life.