4 Reasons Why Critical Thinking Leads to Better Decisions

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Critical thinking is important for decision making.

What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is logical reasoning. It takes emotion out of a situation and analyzes and evaluates known facts. In problem solving, this is a vital skill used to make informed decisions over impulsive reactions. 

Developing reasoning skills is not difficult. You do it daily without realizing it.

A common situation: You're running late to work, again. While driving, the radio DJ announces a car wreck along your route that has traffic at a standstill. Ugh, not today! You quickly contemplate alternate routes and choose the fastest route to your office. You did it! That's critical thinking.

When my son was in second grade many years ago, his math teacher asked the class to see how many ways they could come up with the number 120. They could add, subtract, multiply and divide any combination of numbers that resulted in the answer 120. The math teacher was developing their critical thinking skills by looking at a problem from different angles. A person is never too young to learn critical thinking.

The internet, family, and friends are also helpful resources when trying to make an important decision but they should not make the decision for you. You are responsible for your life so you need to make your own decisions.

 Why Critical Thinking Improves Decision Making

1. Because critical thinking focuses on the facts not emotion.

When problems arise, it's easy to jump to conclusions like Chicken Little did when he was out walking and yelled "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" instead of realizing that a bird had dropped an acorn on his head. 

Instead of jumping to conclusions, ask yourself "What are the facts in this situation?" Do you know enough facts to make a decision or do you have time to collect more information?

2. Because critical thinking explores different perspectives to the same problem.

Be open minded and look at the situation from all angles like my son's math teacher's exercise. Additional perspectives could uncover pertinent facts that might not be seen from one point of view. 

A good example is looking at eye witness statements from the same car accident. The witnesses accounts will be a little different based on where they were standing when they saw the car accident happen. One account might have the evidence of which driver was actually at fault if the other accounts are not sure.

3. Because critical thinking pursues different types of resources available.

Think outside the box to identify resources needed to make an educated decision. Resources can be people, information, products and services. You don't have to know all the information to make a decision but it certainly helps if you know how to access resources when a timely decision in needed. Sometimes it's not what you know but who you know.

Critical thinking involves asking questions. Similar to a detective, learn to ask questions to understand. I'm a "why" person and I like to ask questions out of curiosity. If I don't feel comfortable asking someone my question then I'll do my own research. If I understand the "why", then I'm more likely to remember the information.  

4. Because critical thinking strengthens resilience.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back after a setback. The more you engage your critical thinking skills to make informed decisions, the more confidence you have to resolve the problem. If you made it through one hardship then you can get through another. Having hope is action oriented, not wishful thinking.

Teaching Critical Thinking To Children

Parents can't protect their children from experiencing problems in life but they can teach their children how to develop reasoning skills to make good decisions and solve problems.

One of the best ways for young children to learn critical thinking is through play. When toddlers get a new toy, refrain from showing them how to play with it and let them learn to figure it out first on their own. When they get frustrated, point to a feature and ask "What happens if you press this button?" Eventually, their curiosity will help them figure things out.

Be creative when their curiosity becomes an issue. One mom got tired of her artistic toddler marking on the kitchen wall so the mom repainted with whiteboard paint and called it The Magic Coloring Wall. Way to use those critical thinking skills, mom!

For older children, strategy games build their critical thinking skills. Instead of computer games, choose an evening for Family Game Night with favorite snacks and drinks. There are all kinds of card games, domino games, and board games that use strategy to win. Other games that focus on critical thinking include scavenger hunts, hide and seek, ring toss, giant dice, etc. 

Critical Thinking Is Not For Everyone

Unfortunately, critical thinking is not for everyone but it can be learned. Some people don't want to be open minded because they think their point of view is the only view. Some people prefer to take the path of least resistance. Others prefer someone else making the decision for them so they don't have to be accountable for their actions. 

Problems will happen in life. They will occur at work, at home, at school, or in a volunteer environment. Some problems will be easy to resolve and some will be difficult or ongoing. 

When problems arise, will you use critical thinking to make your own decisions or will you rely on others to make your decisions for you?

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