How to Improve Your Critical Thinking
We have more information at our fingertips than at any time in human history, but I swear we are less informed. Some tips for improving your critical thinking:
Be a lifelong learner. Pick several sources of legitimate information on topics that impact your life and read them regularly. For finance, I read the Wall Street Journal. For health, I read newsletters from medical schools. Wikipedia is not much better than Facebook. The theory is that a bunch of people working together generate better entries than one person working alone: the so-called wisdom of the crowd. If you had to have brain surgery, would you rather have one qualified surgeon or forty-three Wikipedia contributors operate on you?
Expertise in one area does not mean expertise in all. Actors know a lot about acting. Their views on public policy? Those are their views, that’s it. They have a platform, but it doesn’t mean they have applicable knowledge.
Look for hidden agendas. Hundreds of websites look like review sites, but if you dig deeper, you’ll see they are disguised sales sites. If you are looking for health or medical information and the site is selling anything or has advertisements, look for another site.
Think for yourself. This seems easy, but when was the last time you deeply thought about something? We don’t think much anymore. We tend to be uncomfortable without distraction. Try these exercises:
- When you are driving, keep the vehicle quiet and consider a challenge in your life. Generate ideas and solutions.
- When you have to wait, don’t immediately grab your phone. Stay present and examine your surroundings, people watch. Engage.
- Next time you hear something you think is baloney, do the work. Research and check if it is true. Then take it another step: consider why this information would be distributed. Money? Clicks? Politics?
- Remove the headphones. Engage with the world around you. I met so many people hiking in Yellowstone. Or use the time to think. Get inside your own head; stop relying on others to fill it up.
Keep it real. Much of what you see online is curated. People post sappy homages to their beloved and three days later break up with them. Filters make people look younger and more attractive than they are. People exaggerate, embellish, and outright lie. Spend less time in this fantasyland and you’ll be happier and smarter. Your brain is a powerful machine – use it.