Do you think about how you think? Do you employ critical thinking techniques to examine your biases and beliefs? Do you consciously and deliberately explore all the options, perspectives, and consequences of your decisions?
More than 40% of our daily activities are based on habit and pattern. But what about the other 60%? Even there, we're likely to make snap judgments without applying much critical thought.
And, no, not every decision needs to be turned inside out and upside down before you take action, but understanding the elements of critical thinking can help you make better decisions and make process of deciding less stressful.
That's a worthy goal! So I asked Ginny Price, MS, CVT, VTS (Behavior), to talk to me about critical thinking. Ginny teaches in St. Petersburg College's Veterinary Technology Program and includes the critical thinking exercises in all of our courses.
Ginny is definitely a critical thinker. I suspected that I am not and confessed to that right away.
But over the course of our conversation, I came to see that we all use critical thinking in some facets of our lives.
The real benefit to become more intentional about it, to apply it more broadly, more consistently. And to do that, you've got to monitor your thinking.
Monitoring your thoughts and choosing how to respond to them is a topic that comes up over and over on UNLEASHED (at work & home).
It's one of those simple, but not easy strategies for improving our lives. Awareness is the first step, and followed by deliberate practice of analyzing options and choosing how to respond.
Sounds exhausting, right? In actuality, critical thinking will help ease your stress.
It will show you how your biases and beliefs affect your behavior, which in itself is an eye-opening experience. Many of our assumptions are based on social constructs that we aren't consciously aware of.
(Check the links below for some paradigm-shifting ideas from training goldfish to questioning the relative safety of an oxygen tank. The On Being podcast with Mahzarin Banaji is well worth your time.)
Ready to try some critical thinking? Here's a starter exercise Ginny suggests. Pick a topic (e.g., why is it common to train our dogs and not our cats?) and write down all the assumptions you can think of about it. Ask other people to do the same.
Read over your lists. Where's the overlap? Did you find any biases that may not be true? Things that are worth examining further? I bet you will.
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