4 Ways to use critical thinking and make smart decisions

From walking the dog before it rains to figuring out what to do once you leave education, critical thinking is a problem solving skill that Young Professionals will use their entire lives! Here’s how to use critical thinking in ANY situation.

Critical thinking means understanding what is REALLY involved before you make a decision. It means separating facts from opinions and emotions – even when those opinions and emotions are your own! For every decision you ever make, it’s likely to be a better decision based on facts (not hope and fear) when you use critical thinking.

1. Accept nothing at face value

From fake news to celebrity gossip, people are always trying to tell you things. Do you accept those things at face value, just because the person or organisation who told you is one you trust? It’s good to trust people, but you don’t have to believe everything you’re told. Question it. Ask why they think it’s true, so you can get the real facts and decide for yourself.

2. Look at motives

Everyone has a motive in telling you something, from people trying to sell you phone plans to politicians hoping you’ll like their policies and vote for them. Always ask what the motive is behind anything you’re told – even if it’s something you agree with. It will help you get a clearer picture. As an example, the same news story will be covered in very different ways by newspapers that have different ideals. You may get all your news from one place, but you still have to recognise it has personal reasons for portraying the news you’re reading in a certain way.

3. Do your research

Doing your own research is so important, in both work and play! You will find out actual facts instead of opinions. You can also spot the real from the fake. If someone tells you something is ‘an actual fact’, even if you agree with them, online research makes it so much easier. The more information you have, the better prepared you are to make a decision that really works for you.

For example, if you’re deciding between uni, further training or a job, you would want to research university and e.g. apprenticeship courses which would interest you, accept your grades, and be held in venues you could realistically be located at for three years. You would also want to look at job vacancies and see if you had the skills and experience or if there was something you were missing that either a degree or further training like an apprenticeship could supply you with. This kind of research would be much more useful to you than applying for a uni degree just because your parents expected it of you, or applying for a job you weren’t interested purely because you wanted/needed a salary and you didn’t think anyone would accept you on a training or degree course.

4. Don’t assume you’re always right

We all tend to have opinions about something just because of tradition. Maybe we’ve always thought that way, or we trusted someone who helped us think that way in the first place. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness, to question your own opinions. When you get older, do you want younger people to look at you and say “they will never change their minds, they’re too old”? Or do you want to stay flexible and open?

If you stay with a mobile service provider because “they’re better”, question why they are better. If you think a person at study or work is “horrible” or “boring”, question why you think that. If you think uni is the only answer, ask yourself why. If you think you’ll never get a promotion at work because the managers “hate” you, question your assumptions to find what the root of the problem could be and how you could change it. When you question yourself, you are more likely to understand the motives behind things (even your own motives) and do your own research. You can also find a range of solutions you might not have considered before.

Critical thinking isn’t easy, but you can learn it over time, and you don’t need to go on any special course to learn it. Employers value critical thinking because it means you have the curiosity to welcome new ideas and ways of thinking into your life. It means you have the strength to admit you are not always right, and to question what you are told. It means you can let your head rule your heart when making decisions. You always try to separate emotions from facts, and look for more than one possibility to a problem.

The two golden rules of critical thinking:

  1. Ask questions to find out more
  2. Research the issue and weigh up the evidence

The next time you have a problem to chew over or a decision to make, follow the golden rules of critical thinking and you will make a clearer decision based on sound judgment!

See more: Critical thinking and why it is important


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