Critical Thinking Skills - The Two Most Important
By Steve Gillman
What are the most important critical thinking skills you can
develop? Some might say observation and logical thought. Although
these help, both of these come pretty naturally in humans (even
if we often choose to ignore logic when it doesn't take us where
we want to go). I nominate two less common skills, ones that
lead to more powerful thinking than just about anything else.
The critical thinking skills I am thinking of are habitual
placing of truth above any other considerations, and the derivative
skill of self observation. We can look at something and still
not see what is there, instead seeing what needs to be there
to confirm the beliefs we already have. But of course truth has
to be above even our beliefs if we are to have the most powerful
mind we can have.
We all can use logic to support our conclusions, and although
we are better or worse than others at this, we are generally
satisfied with our own results. But despite being supported by
logical arguments, our conclusions are often arrived at by a
process we are only partially aware of, which has nothing to
do with logic at all. If we want to now where they really come
from, and therefore whether they truly align with the truth,
we have to see into our own thinking, even that which is normally
a bit below consciousness.
Even if we are the humblest people we typically have an ego
so big that we can't see past it. What we think or believe becomes
important because it comes from us. We identify with it as a
part of our "self." But that tendency to create and
defend a "self" gets in the way of developing our critical
thinking skills fully. Why? Because once we identify with our
own thoughts and beliefs anything that challenges them is felt
as an attack we must defend against - even if that "attacking"
idea is closer to the truth than our own.
A simple example will help make this clearer. You may have
noticed that you can predict some people's behavior better than
they can. Mark will be late, though he thinks he'll be on time.
Sally is excited about the new get-rich-quick MLM business she's
in, but her friends all think she'll be out of it in a year -
and they're prediction comes true. A person should know more
about himself or herself than any outsider it seems. They should
therefore have a better ability to predict their own future behaviors,
Ah, but we don't see things as clearly when they involve our
self images and self-referencing beliefs. Some readers of this
will say "that's not true in my case!" Thank you, because
that immediate reactive need to defend yourself makes my point
even clearer. After all, a more rational response would be to
think for a moment, "Hmm, is it true that I distort things
to retain my sense of self?"
Hey, it's possible you actually investigated this previously
and found that you are indeed the rare individual who is truly
and always objective about everything. Of course, if you haven't
done this "self work" and done it well, that reactive
"not me" is premature, and it's a great example of
the forces that distort our view of reality whenever it touches
on our view of ourselves and our beliefs. You see, the reaction
comes first, doesn't it? Then your mind quickly starts to produce
a "logical" defense of it. It's not a very objective
approach, is it?
We may be tempted to think that this is only relevant in areas
directly and obviously related to ones self image. Surely we
can still be objective about things like politics, or science,
or money issues, right? It's not likely, because the "ego
effect" is far more subtle than that. Choose any given political
or philosophical view you have. You naturally think it's right,
or you wouldn't have it - and it might be correct. On the other
hand, consider honesty what happens if evidence to the contrary
is presented. Do you find yourself automatically defending your
belief as a first response?
That's not rational at all of course, nor objective. If the
goal was to learn something, you would explore the new ideas
in case they had something to teach you. If the goal was truth,
you should be happy to find it even if it overturns everything
you believe, right? Unfortunately we identify with our beliefs
in much the same way we identify with our bodies, families, countries,
and even houses and other possessions. All of these become a
part of our "ego self," and so are defended as though
our true self was being assaulted. It isn't a recipe for objective
thought or an open mind, is it?
Suppose a man believes that stocks should sell for 60 times
earning, or that deep fried cheese sticks are healthy. We can
see how these mistaken beliefs can be harmful, but it goes much
beyond these obvious cases. Virtually anytime we think and operate
according to ideas which aren't in line with truth or reality,
there is a risk. Certainly there is a risk that we limit our
For the most powerful mind you can have, then, try to habitually
look for truth rather than confirmation of existing belief. To
do that you need to be aware of what is going on inside your
own mind, in order to "think past" these reactions
and ideas. These are the critical thinking skills that are most
important to a powerful mind, and perhaps a better life.
Eight levels take you from mid-Alpha right through to mid-Delta.
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product. You even get to try them out for up to a year and get
a refund if you don't like them. - Steve
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