How to Think Critically
and Problem Solve
The quote by Jean De La Bruyere: "Life
is a tragedy for those who feel, and a comedy for those who think,"
seem a bit radical, however, according to the premise of cognitive
psychology, what you think is what you feel.
While many people believe that your feelings precede, or are
independent of your thoughts, the truth is that your feelings are
products of your thoughts.
This revelation can be both daunting and liberating.
Daunting because it makes us responsible for our attitudes and
liberating because we have the power to choose our perspective, mood and thoughts.
When we are aware that we can choose and direct our thinking,
we realize that we have the ability to better control the circumstances
of our lives, improve our decision-making processes and
generally live more productive lives.
This in no way suggests that we need downplay the many
feelings and emotions we as humans enjoy, it's a simply a way for us to
manage and balance them with our cognitive abilities.
We are thinking critically
and in a problem solving
mindset when we:
- Rely on reason rather than emotion
- Evaluate a broad range of viewpoints and
- Maintain an open
mind to alternative interpretations
- Accept new evidence, explanations and findings
- Are willing to reassess information
- Can put aside personal prejudices and biases
- Consider all reasonable possibilities
- Avoid hasty judgments
Like any other skill, learning to
think critically or problem-solve takes time, perseverance
and practice. Knowing which steps to take and how to apply them helps
us master the process.
Steps to Critical Thinking
As It Relates To Problem Solving:
- Identify the Problem. The
is to determine if a problem exists. Sometimes when you think this
point through, you may come to the conclusion that there really isn't a
problem, just a misunderstanding. If that's the case, fine. If not, and
you determine that there is indeed a problem, you need to identify
exactly what it is. According to Barry Lubetkin, a New York clinical
psychologist, how systematically someone weighs the pros and
cons of a problem and how clearly the person can define and state it,
is also an indication of highly developed intelligence.
- Analyze the problem, look at it from
Once you've determined the problem, analyze it by looking at it from a
variety of perspectives. Is it solvable? Is it real or perceived? Can
you solve it alone or do you need help? Sometimes by looking at it from
many angles you can come up with a resolution right away. You may also
reveal a bias or narrow point of view that needs to be broadened
- Brainstorm and come up with a several possible
Problems can be solved in many ways. Brainstorm a list of several
possible solutions. Put down anything that comes to mind and then go
over the list and narrow it down to the best possibilities. Having
several viable options leads to obtaining the best results.
- Decide which solution fits the situation best.
Go over your list of possible solutions. Different situations call for
different solutions. Quite often what works in one situation, may not
work in a similar one. Take time to determine what will work best for
the problem at hand. One solution usually does not fit all.
- Take action.
Implement your solution. Every problem has a solution; even if it is to
accept the situation and move on. Instead of approaching problems and
challenges as insurmountable obstacles, we can view them as
opportunities to hone our
and problem-solving skills.
Every problem we are able to resolve increases self-confidence
and self-worth. Thinking critically not only helps
us handle future challenges more skillfully, it also broadens our life
experience and helps us gain perspective.
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