5 Ways To Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills

How to make the right choice.

Life is full of small decisions, like what to eat for breakfast or what shirt to wear on a given day, as well as bigger decisions, like what to study in college or which candidate to vote for. Making these big decisions can be difficult, because having good judgement can easily be clouded by emotions or even — though we all hate to admit it — ignorance. 

Fortunately, thinking critically is a skill anyone can learn. TED-Ed's Samantha Agoos created the above step-by-step guide to ensure that a decision is approached rationally and with strong logic.

Here's the breakdown:

1. Ask yourself what you get out of the decision.

Whether you're buying a car or thinking about switching jobs, immediately get down to brass tacks and figure out what you want to gain from the situation. More room for growing kids? Better safety features? Better working hours? Higher pay? 

Knowing why you're making the decision and figuring out what you want to get out of it is a critically important first step. Make a list of the factors you need to consider that can be looked at objectively.

2. Do your research.

Because you're looking at a problem based on objective facts, not subjective emotions, you can do research on the question and figure out what each option has to offer. Look up the voting record of the candidates running in the election, for example.

When looking up information, it's incredibly important to use reliable, unbiased sources. If the website you're reading has a financial interest in your decision, what you're reading could be a cleverly disguised advertisement, not impartial facts.

As they say, knowledge is power.

3. Weigh the evidence.

Armed with the information you've gathered, think about how it applies to the decision at hand. What was surprising to learn? What were your misconceptions going in? What are some factors you hadn't considered?

4. Think of the outcome of your decision.

Every decision you make will have effects that last. For instance, whatever car you buy will determine the cost of auto insurance, gas consumption, and maintenance. Whoever you vote for will have the authority to change policies and laws where you live. 

Short-term gains could have undesired long-term effects, so slow down and think of how things will play out down the line.

5. Consider the other options.

Where decisions like voting are concerned, it's important to consider other points of view. It's not enough to know why you feel the way you do. You also need to understand why other people think the way they do. Even if you don't agree with them, understanding their viewpoints will help you take a more well-rounded look at an issue.

Once you've slowed down and looked at an issue critically from several angles, you're all set to make a decision that is firmly based in reason and logic!

Cover image: Shutterstock