Stop Accepting Everything as Truth (365 Days of Spirited Living – DAY 104)
(30 Things To Stop Spending Time On If You Want to Be Successful #13)
“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”
— Isaac Asimov
Everyone thinks, but not everyone thinks critically. Critical thinking is defined as the intellectual discipline of actively and skillfully evaluating, analyzing, and processing information before making it a belief or putting it into action. While we attempt to excel in every other aspect of life, excellence often slips our thought processes. Acting excellently must first be preceded by thinking excellently. This is where many of us fall short.
Successful people are critical thinkers who analyze and evaluate new information before accepting it as truth. Mind you, everything you read, hear, or see is not always truth or fact. We know this already by nature, but when it comes to processing things in our brains, we can easily fall prey to believing lies and accepting falsities for the real thing. When we do this, we cease to break rank with the larger part of society.
All of us are, in one way or another, controlled by our prejudices. No matter how legitimate or qualified a source or person is, be certain to weigh it against what you know to be true and right. Questioning information and people before accepting it as the gospel truth is healthy. Take everything with a pinch of salt before eating the whole meal. You need to develop a healthy skepticism distrust before you allow yourself to trust.
False belief and shoddy thinking are very costly, not just in money and time, but in the overall quality and wellbeing of life. We all can think but we rarely think critically. No matter how talented and skilled we are, we can always improve our ability to reason. To be able to reason without being distorted, distracted, or biased is wisdom. When we think in this way, overcoming our egocentrism, we set ourselves to create the life we want and contribute to a more sensible and civilized society.
Critical thinking skills are important because it helps us sift through complex, inaccurate, and incomplete information. It also helps us to ask the right questions, create good solutions, and arrive at good conclusions and outcomes when working on projects. Further, it helps us to recognize when someone is telling the truth and when he or she is being dishonest. It helps us to differentiate between strong arguments and weak justifications. Poor or hasty decision making can be fatal. If not identified beforehand, bad choices can be the difference between success and failure.
Critical thinking is not just for company CEOs, scholars, or government officials. It is for all of us. On every level, the decisions we make affects our productivity and ability to solve problems, even the smallest of them. We avoid rushing into things and jumping to conclusions without dutiful and diligent research and planning. We ask the right questions and get the right answers rather than accepting things at face value. Critical thinkers practice self-examination and are aware of their own bias and prejudices. We must be able to lay aside our egos and accept what is actually true instead of what we hope or wish to be true.
In today’s world, critical thinking is not an option. It is a necessity. College is supposed to teach critical thinking skills but I’m not all that certain that it actually does. Many adults emerge from college having learned a bunch of facts but are not able to synthesize, analyze, research, and accurately process what they hear and believe. Critical thinking can be taught but it is more of a self-directed and self-corrected activity that requires self-discipline.
When you hear something, ask yourself if it is right, true, helpful, useful, accurate, or beneficial. Do not be afraid to filter everything and every person through the lens of truth. Much of the world is content to believe that the instant giving of answers is the sign of a smart, educated, and well-rounded individual. We all can memorize information. But what you’ve got to have is the ability and the patience to thoughtful consider the information presented before you or ask better questions that will get you the answer you need.
Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” We could say the same thing about the mind. The unexamined mind is not worth thinking. We were given a mind to think and it is imperative that we choose to use it for that reason. Intentionally avoid simplistic thinking. Be committed to learning and growing. Life demands that we go beyond simple rehashing of information and be willing to do the hard work of thinking about what we hear, see, and believe. To be successful, you must invest in the greatest tool we all have at our disposal — our minds.
“If I have done the public any service, it is due to my patient thought.”
— Isaac Newton