Nine strategies to help you develop as a thinker
To become a thinker – to think critically and rationally in a systematic way, you need to do things to help you. You will not just become a critical thinker one morning when you wake up, and nor will you become one merely because you want to, although having the desire to think critically is a start. You need to begin to change your life- your behaviour – your way of seeing things – your way of seeing yourself. Here are some things you can do starting now.
1. Use ‘wasted’ time
Ask yourself these questions:
If I had to repeat the things I did today, would I have done anything differently?
Did I do anything to further my long-term goals?
Of course, you can’t relive life, but you can learn from your mistakes – you can use your time more profitably. Start tomorrow!
2. A problem a day
Choose a problem to work on each day – think of the different parts of the problem – the elements and work through them logically until you have solved the whole problem. Monitor your thoughts – recall what you did to succeed or how and why you failed.
3. Internalize intellectual standards
Become more aware of intellectual standards (clarity, precision, accuracy, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, significance) and keep them in the front of your mind from now on.
4. Keep an intellectual journal
Write down things that you did in response to situations, how you analyzed that situation, and how you assessed your success or failure. Write regularly – knowing that you are going to record situations and your response to them will have beneficial effects on how you act.
5. Reshape your character
Choose one intellectual trait to adopt each month – focus on ways you can develop that trait. Here they are:
6. Deal with your ego
Remember not to come to conclusions just because they suit your preferences – reality doesn’t consult you!
7. Redefine the way you see things
Just as there are two sides to every argument, there is more than one way of defining what you react to – stand in a different person’s shoes for a change.
8. Get in touch with your emotions
When you feel negative, ask yourself why – what is making you feel that way, and then deal with it.
9. Analyze group influences on your life.
Look at what sort of behaviour or attitude is encouraged by your peers – think about resisting if you feel the qualities encouraged are not healthy ones or negate what you are trying to be or do.
Remember, becoming a critical thinker doesn’t just happen – you have to alter – you have to change your way of doing things, looking at things (including yourself) and ultimately, of thinking about things – only then can you become more critical in your thinking. Don’t despair. You can do it. It will be worth it.
Robert L. Fielding