I don’t know what I want, or Critical Thinking

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„Critical thinking is the use of those cognitive skills or strategies that increase the probability of a positive outcome” (from „Critical Thinking” by Diane Halpern). It is characterized by considered decisions, consistency and purposefulness. Attention: it has nothing common neither with criticism, nor with creative thinking, what dreaming and dreams directly are .

This technique has a huge amount of perspectives, but here I’d like to specify one phenomenon, which I was no stranger to, which I сan still face now, and which is a common occurrence among my acquaintances.

1.

Our brain is an amazing thing. It is working tirelessly (at least in terms of physiology), processing countless impulses every second, while we aren’t really aware of it.  Until this very moment, I didn’t even realize my eyes had dried out J (it is generated an insufficient amount of lacrimal fluid, scientifically speaking), thanks to long work in front of a laptop, and my stomach is empty for approximately 3.5 hours…

…Pardon, I’ve left for a few minutes in order to get a mug of milk and some ginger biscuits. While a barista has been preparing my order, I’ve had a quick look outside the window. A quite logical decision, isn’t it? It has taken about 10 seconds to decide what to do. Through biology lessons at school and one doctor’s stories, thanks to advertising of artificial tear drops and other sources I don’t even remember about, my brain has analyzed the situation quickly and offered some tips, what to do.  So tomorrow I won’t have to buy a magnifying glass and clothes 2 sizes smaller.

However, there are questions that tormenting us not just for 10 seconds. What is the saddest, these things could not even worth to focus on them too much. For what could seem easier than choosing a notebook for conducting lectures or products that we want to have for breakfast?

2.

When I was 16 and it was time to choose a university, I realized how important our education is. I am convinced that the place of education plays an important role. That’s why an approach to choosing university was serious enough. Frankly speaking, I’d prefer to make a decision more thoughtfully, according to my current views (it doesn’t mean I regret my choice;  under no circumstances!). Yet, that’s another talk.

After reading some of the online resources about the good universities in Ukraine, taking into account a couple of personal things (Polish roots, a size of wallet) and visiting two exhibitions devoted to studying abroad, it was decided to go to Poland. Without hesitation, I enrolled in a Polish language course, and realized that it is real „my thing”. In the second semester of the 11th grade, I had to make even greater effort. Therefore, preparations for the Polish exam, for an interview, the decision not to apply to Ukrainian universities – this whole was accomplished with ease and confidence. Aaand… six months later I was unpacking my luggage in the dormitory in the Polish city of Katowice.

Regarding the selection of profession, the situation was much more complicated. After going through many options, passing a million tests on vocational guidance by speaking with a couple of people from those areas that interested me, I still wasn’t able to decide.

From the point of view of common sense, the question “Whom to become?” is more difficult. As for the thinking process, situations are identical. It’s extremely exhausted for a person to have an unsolved issue (no matter, what it concerns) in his/her „ToDo”-list. It simply doesn’t allow to move on.

Before going to the brief description of the main idea, I will emphasize one thing. In spite of the fact that time flies and nobody wants to make mistakes, whose consequences should be fixed later, I know from my experience: a person, who combines certainty, while making decisions, and flexible mind to cope with potential problems, gains much more than one, who is very slow about any initiative and has hesitations about his choices.

Yet, what about a proverb „Measure thrice and cut once”? Does it make sense or not in this case?

Well, that’s why I want to tell you a bit about the Critical Thinking as a way to make decisions properly, thoughtfully, but still quickly and effectively.

There is one guy sitting next to me in the cafe. I’ve had to disturb him a little bit. „Hola! Do you speak English? I’m sorry to bother you”. Fortunately, he has immediately got in touch. We’ve started talking. It turns out, he is Greek, having studied in London in Law School. The company, where he works, have sent him to Barcelona for an internship for 7 months. According to his specialization, experience, and lifestyle, I’ve assumed this open-minded guy may have a proper and fresh opinion. Little by little, we’ve got to the point.

My question was as following: „Could you, please, list 5 sources of information?” Having thought a little, George has said: „news” (probably most obvious), „research” (he works in the field of jurisprudence, which occasionally involves various researches), „social networks” (still, not to mention them in this age of computer technology) … There was a slight pause after which, remembering that he was a foreigner here, in Spain, George has listed two more sources: «Also people, aaannd travellings».

What prompted me to ask this question? Beforehand I’m saying „pardon” because of the tautology, but it is “a question that arose in my mind about the question”. Yaasss. Many people do not attach importance to sentences with a question mark and a particular intonation. Though, in fact, a right question ensures ½ response.

Сritical thinking is the single most natural way of interaction between incoming information and ideas, emerging under its influence. And, one of the sources of information that affects the construction of judgments, is questioning.

Remember: asking someone for advice, you automatically begin to reflect and independently came to the conclusion. Then, you’re just telling your interlocutor „Thank you”, not even giving him an opportunity to answer.

Do you know why is it happening?

Before formulating the question, which will be understandable for your partner, first and foremost, you need to clean up the mess of concepts, assumptions, resources, views, and other determining factors in your head, that relate to an issue.

So… what if you ask a particular set of questions directly to yourself?

Let’s say you went to a restaurant; you sat down at the table; the waiter brought the menu. If you’ve never been in this place and have never heard reviews about the dishes, then brain  „sweats”, beating in hysterics, and there’s a ringing in the ears: “What do I want?”. A little worse is the next situation. You are a regular customer and have tasted million of meals here, but faced with the choice of difficulties over and over again. J The following 4 questions is a useful set of tools for both cases.

  1. What is your goal?

It is the main question here! If you can’t specify the goal of your activity, then you need to delete this thing from your life; it is important not to start inventing the goal intentionally, as it will make the situation more difficult!

  1. What do I know?

Are there any moments that can limit you? Such as an allergy to nuts, while choosing between honey and peanut butter? Is there any attempt to manipulate you, using stereotypes, advertising, prejudices? It is important to approach the situation as adequately as possible.

  1. What do you need to achieve the goal? Will you really get a profit from it?

Hunger is quenched with some food, thirst – with a glass of water. If you have a special diet, do not eat something, which you want to abandon. You find in menu such title as „toast with guacamole”, but 3 small snacks cost 12 euros when you have only 10? Do you really want to eat this very dish right now?

  1. Does it make sense the conclusion which you’ve come up with? Are there contradictions between the answers to the previous questions and your conclusion?

If a person is hungry, has only 10 euros in his pocket and, in addition, allergy to nuts, he will get home in, at least, 5 hours and have to walk a lot around the city, it will be completely illogical to order the macaroons, which can be placed on one palm, and chamomile tea.

! It’s a bad idea to stare at the menu and organize debates in your mind. Thus, instead of the question “What to order?” you’re going to be stuck, for example, on the issue “how does society influence on me?”. Of course, if a philosopher is into you, it is possible to reflect on it, but a little later; be consistent.

5.

Previously, I have thought that the logic and reasonableness – it’s too boring; and asking questions is the burden of psychologists.

However, if you get serious about this now, one day this technique will be “yours”. Many of the problems which previously might frustrate you, will be resolved in a matter of seconds. You could think that this is intuitive action, but in fact, you would just learn to think critically. 😉

***

Next time, when you have to make a decision, ask yourself these 4 questions. Firstly, it may seem to be too tense, but any innovation takes the time to become a part of life.

I wish you to find meaningfulness, have flexible thinking and such an approach to the solution of problems that will make your life even more fully!

P.S. Guys, I’m not a native speaker. Therefore, you may possibly find some mistakes in my writings in English. Also, I have some problems with definite/indefinite articles. So if you whether notice a mistake or know any sources which can help me to feel a little more secure in A/THE-topic, contact me. I’ll be thankful!

P.P.S. There is also Russian-version. 🙂

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