What are Critical Thinkers? 7 Ways to Think More Like Critical Thinkers
Why is critical thinking so essential in our lives?
The drive to become critical thinkers stems from our innate desire to improve, innovate, and elevate our surroundings.
Whether it’s making processes more efficient, enhancing safety, introducing novelty, increasing accessibility, or simply alleviating challenges, our vision of an ideal world often contrasts with our current reality.
This disparity is not just an observation—it’s a call to action.
Critical thinking bridges the gap between the present and the potential, serving as the cornerstone of effective problem-solving.
But how can one cultivate this invaluable skill?
Let’s investigate seven ways we can harness and nurture the mindset of a critical thinker.
1. Critical thinkers write things down.
Critical thinkers understand that ideas are only perfect when they exist solely in their heads. And that they must write their thoughts and ideas down to see the flaws.
So the first practice that will help you to think more critically is to write down your thoughts and explore them more fully in the physical world.
When you do so, you’ll find that this simple act exposes flaws, discrepancies, and problems that you didn’t notice before.
This invites our problem-solving brains to get to work.
Writing things down requires you to be more clear, logical, and coherent; and it is these characteristics that add value to the things you are thinking about.
2. Critical thinking means exploring ideas.
Critical thinkers are idea-explorers and one way you can think more like them is to suspend your judgment.
Often times our biases, inclinations, and preferences pull us toward certain thought-streams that can lead us astray.
If we’re able to hold back our judgment, we can allow enough room to not get stuck in one perspective.
If we’re not locked on to a certain path, we can shift our perspectives to see around obstacles and identify alternative lines of thought.
3. Thinking critically means making connections.
Seeing connections between ideas—or perhaps noticing the lack of connections between them—will help you to realize that ideas aren’t like islands, existing isolated and alone; all ideas are connected to another idea and the connections that exist between them are like invisible roads.
The critical thinker travels down these roads to see what other ideas and thoughts may be waiting there.
If we think about the connections and analyze what those connections tell us, we may be able to unravel threads that lead to an entirely different idea that we did not previously think was connected.
4. Critical thinkers are patient.
Critical thinking is not an easy practice.
Many thoughts come into our awareness and go again without our realizing.
And thinking about one thing for any prolonged period of time can be exhausting; it’s just not natural for our brains.
But focusing on a singular thought, idea or problem is at the core of what it means to think critically.
Therefore, patience is a quality that you will need to become a better critical thinker.
When you want to think about something more critically, and you must remove your biases and feelings from your thoughts, you need to be patient with yourself and take your time.
With practice, you will find that you can focus longer, and being able to think clearly will come more easily.
5. To think critically, it helps to be aware.
There’s a saying, “Can’t see the forest for the trees.”
This simply points out that sometimes we’re too close to the thing (tree) to behold the greater issue (forest).
Critical thinking is about focusing on a singular idea or thought as much as it is about seeing the bigger picture.
If you feel like you’re going around in circles, you may need to take a step back.
6. Critical thinkers have growth mindsets.
“To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge.”Socrates
What we think we know changes over time as humanity as a whole collectively learns more.
And there is always more to learn.
Critical thinkers understand that they don’t know everything and are constantly seeking to know more.
To think more like them, adopt a growth mindset: always be a student, ask questions, and question the answers.
Your learning should never stop.
The more you learn, the more tools you’ll have in your toolkit to think about ideas more critically.
7. Remember to enjoy the process.
If you want to become an effective critical thinker, you have to put in the time and effort, and you must do it continually.
If you’re only looking for the end result, you may get frustrated when the result you’re looking for doesn’t come right away and quit too soon.
However, if you learn to fall in love with the process instead, you’ll be more likely to stick with it long enough to fully explore an idea to the best of your ability.
In reality, we enjoy the benefits of critical thinking every day.
The roads, the marketplace, the hospitals, the schools, the buildings, and the infrastructure are the results of someone’s energy into thinking critically about things and the things about those things.
We can avoid or deter disaster with critical thinking.
We can go to the moon with critical thinking and make it back home with critical thinking.
That’s why we go through the trouble of thinking critically.
That’s why it’s valuable and therefore important enough to keep on doing.
Critical thinking helps us to move forward.
It’s like using binoculars to see where we’re headed before we get there.
And it’s valuable because it’s a safe way to weigh what we have to work with and employ the available resources before actually committing to real-world change; which is not easily undone.
Critical thinking allows us to enlist our intuition, knowledge, hindsight, and predictions to affect our future, and hopefully for the better.
Thinking critically about the things that concern us has a place in the world and your growing skillset.
That’s why it’s so important.