My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Growing in Our Critical Thinking Skills

I recently had a question related to Critical Thinking so I thought I would speak again to this important issue as I believe our thought life is important to Living More Than OK. Here is the question:

One of my friends told me she has issues with not having critical thinking. She was wondering whether it has anything to do with her personality or training deficit. Any thoughts ?

It is not a matter of not having critical thinking it is more a matter of developing our critical thinking skills. We are thinking all the time. Even when we are moving on autopilot the brain is processing the observations around us. The questioner mentions personality. There are personality theories that bring up the point that some people are more predisposed to be to be thinkers while others may be more of doers for example. When we look at those around us we do notice differences in people’s thinking. Some people jump right into different activities or relationships while others think through deeply before they make a move. This just shows we are different and unique. Our thinking skills fall on a continuum and on that continuum we can always rise to a higher level. The important point is that we can all improve our critical thinking skills which will help in every aspect of life, personal relationships, money matters, health, work, future plans, and ect.

Remember that critical thinking is not a negative activity of putting things down or having a negative cranky spirit. Vincent Ruggiero in his book Making Your Mind Matter shows that critical thinking is a positive activity of evaluating ideas from others and yourself in order to improve the ideas and choose the best one. This relates well as I previously mentioned Richard Paul and Linda Elder in their writings bring out that questioning is key to critical thinking. Ruggiero in his book, mentions a thinking style which I feel captures important features of critical thinking as it relates to daily challenges we all face. He calls it the WISE approach. This is one way in which to improve critical thinking in our life.

Wonder - Go through each day with a sense of wonder making note and observations of your experience and thoughts during the day. You may want to record key events problems, and thoughts relevant in a journal.
Investigate – With key problems or important issues do thoughtful research for solutions.
Speculate – Use the power of questions in relation to problems and life issues. Brainstorm creative solutions.
Evaluate - Try out the solutions to challenges you face during the day and look for the most effective ways to improve your life.

Another way to improve our thinking is Richard Paul and Linda Elder’s admonition that we should become a critic of our own thinking. Again this is not a negative hitting ourselves on the head , “Oh, I’m so stupid. I just can’t think!” No it is taking the time to “think about your thinking in order to make it better”, (Richard Paul). Take a seat back and ponder over your thinking, how do you think through issues facing you? What have been the circumstances that resulted from your thinking? How can you improve your thinking quality.

The being a critic of our thinking approach reminded me of a verse in the Apostle Paul’s writing 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV) “... and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” He is looking at our thought life from the spiritual standpoint of actively taking charge and control of our thoughts instead of drifting through our mental life on autopilot. The principle relates to all aspects of thought to be in control of our thinking and actively have our thoughts captive so we know why we believe what we believe and understand the thought process behind our actions.

Another important way to improve our thinking is as I mentioned in one of my early blog postings is to be a Bookhead. Read up on how to improve your thinking. We need to be life long learners. Here are a few book recommendations:

Critical Thinking – Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional and Personal Life by Richard Paul & Linda Elder.
Thinking For a Change by John Maxwell. (Love that title!)
Making Your Mind Matter by Vincent Ruggiero
25 Days to Better Thinking & Better Living by Dr. Linda Elder & Dr. Richard Paul (This is a short book where you can devote a day at a time for 25 days on different aspects of improving your thinking.)

Also make use of Internet resources: This website has numerous resource articles to expand your thinking on Critical Thinking. This is a website about Albert Ellis’ Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). His theory helps us see the need for critical thinking as many of our problems are based in our faulty beliefs. There are very helpful ideas on this website to help improve our thinking process.

Take some quiet time alone to think about your thinking. On a scale of 1-10 what is the quality of your thinking? (1 being very weak -- 10 being saintly perfect). I always tell my students never give yourself a 10 rating on a rating scale as in this life we always have room to improve even if we think we are a 9.99!
Brainstorm ways in which you feel you can improve in your critical thinking skills.

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