It is not enough to journey our way through life with just a sound mind – the key is to use it effectively and competently.
Aristotle once said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
Thinking critically involves us forming well-reasoned conclusions that are fair, objective, perceptive, non-emotional and well-thought-out.
Critical thinking is a way of thinking in which we don’t blindly accept all contentions, opinions and judgments we are exposed to, but rather, we possess an attitude which involves questioning every notion or conclusion we’re exposed to.
Utilising our minds to their full potential and becoming more accountable to ourselves means denying other people the chance to do our thinking for us and make our day-to-day choices. Throughout this process, we can learn to develop our minds healthily and gain a better appreciation of our intuition and senses.
It’s important to note here, that thinking critically certainly doesn’t mean that we belittle, disagree with, or undermine anyone else’s perspective – it just means that we are more committed to the process of evaluating the correctness of our perspective.
Here are a few characteristics of influential critical thinkers:
A spirit of inquisitiveness regarding a full range of complex issues.
A natural interest to mature and remain well-informed in truth.
Alert and receptive to opportunities that demand pure objectivity.
Authentic self-confidence in one’s abilities to reason.
Open-mindedness concerning different or conflicting world views.
Flexibility in considering alternative viewpoints and perspectives.
Some people overly appreciate the convenience of having an opinion without experiencing the discomfort of critical thinking or reflective contemplation. The exact nature of the self-governing mind lies not in what it believes, but in how it perceives interactions and experiences.
Mark Twain once proposed, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” It is good to develop our mind and perspectives, as those who don’t will never know whether someone else is manipulating them or not.
Being responsible for ourself means refusing to let other people do our thinking, talking, and labelling for us; it means learning to appreciate and use our minds and senses. In short, we must learn how to think critically.
The word ‘critical’ means various things in differing contexts.
For example, ‘critical’ can relate to the importance of something, or can also mean highlighting the negative aspects of someone, i.e. to criticise a person.
However, critical thinking does not mean just criticising people, things or ideas in a rebellious sense, but rather, is more about not mindlessly accepting what we read or hear at face value, but always questioning our day-to-day experiences to establish what is right for us.
Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective reflection. It’s thinking in this way that prevents us from thoughtlessly surrendering to the ideologies and manipulations of other people.
Many societies in today’s globalised culture do not promote (or even encourage) critical thinking – as this will often come at the cost of company profits and an indoctrinated workforce.
Therefore, as a people, it’s crucial that we each play our part in educating the younger generations how to think for themselves, how to evaluate data objectively and also how to build upon our limited perspectives.
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”– Mark Twain
Next time you are in an environment where everyone is thinking similarly, then it’s highly likely that several people in your midst aren’t thinking at all.
If you were to think about it, in what areas of your life and relationships might you benefit from thinking more critically?